Aromatherapy – Medicines From the Earth.

Aromatherapy – Medicines From the Earth.

The medicinal properties of essential oils have been understood and accepted since the dawn of time. Many ancient spiritual texts refer to the uses of herbs and oils for bodily protection and healing. Essential oils were also highly prized for their spiritual properties and used for anointing, for healing wounds, and when applied with the laying on of hands, as acts of love and compassion for healing the human psyche too.

‘The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth, and the sensible will not despise them.’ Ecclesiaticus 38:4 (Book of Sirach)

In the 17th century, scientists began to identify the chemical constituents and the medicinal properties of essential oils, and by the 20th century Medical Aromatherapy had become a new specialty. Nine hundred years after St Hildegard of Bingen talked about collaborating with Nature in the work of healing, French pioneer Dr. Jean Valnet brought aromatic plants and their essences to the forefront of preventative medicine.

His attitude was very interesting: while he acknowledged the existence of bacteria and viruses, he did not consider micro-organisms to be the primary cause of disease. Instead, he saw microbes as, “opportunistic invaders taking advantage of the human body that may be malfunctioning. Infection does not automatically follow once a microbe enters the body. There are many other factors. A naturally healthy resistance or immunity prevents a microbe from finding a good breeding ground.” *

Recent experiments have shown that our faith in the properties of essential oils is not misplaced. Some of the properties of common essential oils include:
• Antispetic, Antiviral, Antibacterial
• Stimulate the adrenal cortex
• Strengthen sexual faculties
• Promote sweating, detoxify
• Support hormonal and menstrual cycles
• Lower blood pressure
• Support healthy gut bacteria

They can help us to breathe, ease headaches, relax muscles, and relieve infections – the list is endless, and some oils can affect more than one system in the body. Through their smell, they can affect our memory, stress levels, emotions and behaviour. We can access their help through the skin, through our breath and, much less effectively, by eating them. They are truly holistic.

More recently, the influence of science and medicine have overwhelmed the spiritual and esoteric beliefs around the oils. People are confused and afraid of using them. So the ethos behind Lovegrove Essentials is to provide simple, natural products, lovingly made, using high quality active ingredients for positive and stimulating effects on multiple systems in the body,

The amount of essential oil we are permitted to use in our products is heavily regulated, so to get the maximum potency we use the best quality oils we can find. Preventive health and beauty care is about empowerment of the individual. When we each take responsibility for our health and well-being we cease to be at the mercy of the vested interests of drugs and cosmetic companies, and we can make choices based on what works for us, what we like, what feels good and what makes us happy.

Hannah Lovegrove MIFA (Member of the International Federation of Aromatherapists)

* Linda L Smith: ‘Healing Oils, Healing Hands’

 

Lovegrove Essentials' Clean & Natural Kit
Photo courtesy of www.TheBeautyType.com

Put your back into it!

Put your back into it!

Over the past 6 weeks, I have been seeing lots of arm and shoulder problems in yoga classes and in my massage treatment room. I was blaming the long, cold winter, which has seeped into everyone’s bones – hunched up, shoulders rolling forward in an effort to keep out the weather – not surprising really.

I recently had two cases, both fit active people – one a life-long tennis player, the other a competitive rower – both tall and therefore a tendency to stoop, and the arm problems had got so bad that one couldn’t serve a ball, the other couldn’t take her t-shirt off! So it’s not just about building strength; something else was going on and the common thread was posture.

pexels-photo-88654Whenever someone comes to me with frozen shoulder, it’s often preceded by an activity like moving house, lifting heavy things up or down, or spring gardening, holding tools above shoulder height for long periods cutting hedges. The sort of strenuous activities one doesn’t do very often. It’s not just that we need to be stronger – as I said, these people were already strong, in both cases. What we need is much better postural awareness when we’re doing these activities so that we don’t hunch up, roll the shoulders forward, and end up trying to do them with our delicate neck muscles instead of using our much stronger backs.

Try this: stand up. Imagine your posture is slightly stooped. Notice how your shoulders roll forward, your chest drops, and your shoulder blades lift up. Now, exaggerate the slouch a bit and SLOWLY try to lift your arms upwards and outwards. (Don’t go quickly – you will hurt yourself.) Notice how your chest drops further, shoulder blades lift more, and your neck and shoulder muscles become ‘bunched up’.  It’s painful and your arms feel incredibly heavy – they won’t lift very far.

So, when lifting our arms up, especially above shoulder height ,we must learn how to change which muscles are involved by moving the shoulder blades DOWN
and lifting the chest UP first.

How do we learn that action? 

Clasp your hands lightly behind the back. Focus on the upper arm bones and roll them very slightly back. Observe how your shoulder blades move down and become firm into your back ribs. Notice how your chest lifts and your shoulders roll back. Do this a few times to really understand – it’s only a small movement.

Do it again and HOLD IT. Notice how your lower back muscles are also activated by this action – you need these to provide stability when taking your arms above shoulder height, otherwise your neck has to do all the work.

Clasp hands behind again for a few moments, stretch your pectorals, take your shoulder blades down, and engage your lower back muscles. Now release your hands and try again to slowly lift your arms out and up whilst MAINTAINING this action. See how the arms feel lighter and move much more easily?

As we say in Iyengar Yoga – Alignment before Extension, if you want to avoid A&E!

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Breathing for a better immune system

Breathing for a better immune system

Over many years as a Yoga teacher, I’m often surprised by how little we know about our breathing and how closely connected it is to the way our brains and bodies function.

When our bodies respond to danger and stress through the ‘fight or flight response’, the release of adrenaline triggers changes in our bodies which speed up the heart rate and breathing. This sudden burst of adrenaline gives our bodies increased abilities and heightens sensory perception. However, it’s not a pleasant state to be in – we feel stressed, frightened and anxious – some people can ‘freeze’ under these circumstances, like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Deep breathing is also vital to the correct functioning of our lymphatic system, which in turn has a powerful effect on our immunity. As your body moves from the inhalation to the exhalation, the diaphragm acts like a pump to move fluid in the lymph system back into the blood through the heart. Stress tightens all our muscles, including the diaphragm, and so it inhibits the natural flow of lymph around the body.

Studies have shown that we humans can encourage our bodies to release chemicals and brain signals that make our muscles and organs slow down, relax our muscles and increase blood flow to the brain, the opposite of ‘fight or flight’.  And we know that meditation and breathing can bring down our stress levels, release tension and so help all kinds of health problems that are caused or exacerbated by chronic stress.

What’s so marvelous about this, apart from the fact that it’s incredibly simple, is that it has the effect of changing the way we look at our problems and at the situations causing us the stress in the first place.

In order to learn this, you need to find a quiet place and time to focus on your breathing. The best time to practice is first thing in the morning for ten to twenty minutes. By practicing just once or twice a day you can learn to access relaxation and a more peaceful state of mind, which in turn reduces the heart rate so you will feel more relaxed and comfortable in potentially stressful situations.

  1. Sit quietly in a comfortable position. Close your eyes.
  2. Allow your body to relax, soften your muscles, starting with your feet and progressing up to your head.
  3. Relax your tongue. Take it away from the roof of your mouth. Your thoughts become quieter and you are more aware of your breathing. Breathe through your nose: mouth closed, jaw relaxed.
  4. Let the breathing become slow, soft and steady. Each time you breathe out, say the word “one”* silently to yourself.
  5. Continue for 5 minutes, eventually building up to 15 with practice**. When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened. Do not stand up for a few minutes.
  6. Try to ignore your thoughts – they will come and go – you can see them as clouds across a sky, not attaching to them, just letting them drift away. Return to repeating “one”* with each exhalation.
  7. Practice the technique once or twice daily, on an empty stomach. (Digestion interferes with the process.) Soon, the response will come with little effort and you won’t feel quite so sleepy!

*Choose any soothing, mellifluous sounding word, preferably with no meaning or association, in order to avoid stimulation of unnecessary thoughts. I often use “Soooo” for the inhalation and “Haaaa” for the exhalation.

** If you use a phone alarm, choose a soothing sound to ‘wake up’ to.