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.

Yoga Detox for your liver

Physically, there are many symptoms of liver imbalance from the obvious to the very subtle, such as feeling a lump in the throat, or problems with tendons or eyes. One of the first signs is related to your emotions, specifically your temper: are you suffering from anger, stubbornness, aggression or irritation? When you’re thinking about a detox for your liver, you need to consider your general constitution. Some people are still physically strong, despite needing a liver detox, while some show signs of physical weakness. Another effect can show in your digestion – are you constipated, or the opposite? Do you suffer from colitis or IBS?

With an appropriate diet and a sensitive yoga routine you can have a massive effect on your physical and emotional state, especially after a period of excess like Christmas and New Year! So make a note of your emotional and physical states, however unconnected they might seem, before you start and check how you feel as they days progress.

Some general rules for your Diet:

  1. Eat primarily vegetarian food, including raw foods and sprouted grains, seeds and beans every day.
  2. Take the biggest meal of the day at lunchtime, eat early and sparingly in the evening. Avoid late meals to allow the liver and gall bladder time to prepare for their regeneration cycle during the night.
  3. For signs of weakness: drink organic apple cider vinegar and honey with warm water – useful for liver imbalance resulting in depression & irritability.
  4. For signs of heat/strength: choose bitter foods such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, rye, asparagus, Milk Thistle Tincture – all these help when anger, aggression, shouting, or splitting headaches are the symptoms.
  5. Once you have spent a few days on this regime, add in some foods for liver regeneration. The chlorophyll-rich foods such as wheat/barley grass, and the micro-algae spirulina or chlorella – all these are useful taken regularly to support balanced liver function. (New post about micro-algae coming soon.)

Yoga for the Liver:
How to access the liver? First and foremost, use your arms. Couple this with standing forward bends, abdominal work and some gentle twists and you’ll have a routine of benefit to the liver.

01 Prasarita chair

 

1. Half Uttanasana (wide feet) with hands on a ledge/windowsill.

 

 

 

 

2. Uttanasana – feet hip width, hands to the floor or legs, keep the legs strong and release the spine down.

01 AMS chair

 

3. Padangusthasana – really pull on your toes to look up, then bend the elbows wide to draw yourself towards your legs. (Have a read of this first:  https://iyengarhomepractice.wordpress.com/tag/padangusthasana/

01 AMS heels

 

 

4. Adho Mukha Svanasana into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, first using a chair and then from the floor if you are able.

 

 

 

01 AMV forward

 

5. Finish this section with Adho Mukha Virasana. (As you are in this pose, do you notice the feeling of ‘freshness’ coming through?)

 

 

6 & 7. Tadasana and Urdhva Hastasana X 2, then maintaining Tadasana: Extend your arms behind – lift your chest and open those armpits! X 2

01 Ghomukhasana

 

8. Ghomukhasana X2

 

 

 

 

01 Navasana

 

 

9. Navasana – use support if needed, and LIFT your sacrum and chest.

 

 

 

01 Bvajasana Chair

 

10. Bharadvajasana

 

 

 

 

 

01 Jatt Parvatasana

 

11. Jatthara Parivatanasana – bent legs, draw knees close to opposite elbow.

 

 

 

01 Passive Backbend

12. Passive backbend – get the support right under your shoulderblades, not your waist, so your arms must be high. Breathe into the rib cage/diaphragm area, especially areas where you feel tightness. Let the breath open and extend those areas.

 

 

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13. Supta Baddakonasana.

 

 

01 Savasana knees supported

14. Savasana.

 

 

 

 

After a few days, if you’re feeling better and suddenly find you have bundles of energy, Surya Namaskar is the best way to start your day. You can slow it down and step rather than jump if you prefer. http://bobbyclennell.com/MYoga.html (Please observe the restrictions at the bottom of the page.)

 

5 things to make your New Year’s resolutions easier to keep… Pre-solutions!

Pre-solutions? Things you do before Christmas to make your New Year resolutions easier to keep.

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GET A GRIP – Everywhere you turn, piles of pointless calories: tubs of sweets, mini
chocolate bars, bowls of crisps and peanuts, mince pies, and (my favourite) cheese footballs. You’re going to need a steely resolve to avoid these so rather than feeling sorry for yourself, recognise that the instant gratification you get for saying, ‘No thanks’, is worth ten times the long-term misery of succumbing.

 

lowres-0178TONE UP YOUR LIVER – Use your exercise routine to stimulate liver circulation by adding some deep stretches and working your arms more. We tend to think that twists will help, and they do, but using the strength of your arms, and stretching them over your head allows access to the liver. (Look out for the New Year Yoga Routine coming soon!) Foods to eat include sprouted grains/seeds/legumes, micro-algae, spices and herbs – cumin and turmeric – and lightly cooked brassicas like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and (guess what?) brussel sprouts! Avoid sugar, and carbs generally – you really only need 130g per day, a few small potatoes and the odd slice of bread, but more about that in the New Year blog.

 

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3:2:2 – Alcohol, and managing your intake needs careful planning. Divide your weekdaysinto blocks of days 3:2:2. Look at your diary and map out the points during the festive season when drink will be the theme. Then, depending on your natural habits, order your blocks of days into non-alcohol, low-alcohol and party time. This is a much better system than all or nothing. You can use one of the goal setting apps to keep track – I like HabitHub.

 

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PLAN AHEAD – Forewarned is forearmed: if you’re going to make a success of this, and above all enjoy yourself, you need to plan ahead so you can have the kind of Christmas season you won’t regret afterwards. Take each day as it comes and think through how you’ll avoid the trip wires: exercise first thing, don’t skip proper meals, carry healthy snacks with you, and if you’re eating out, make sure there’s water on your table, not just wine!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! We’re all human and we won’t get it right every day of the holiday season. So put yesterday behind you and concentrate on getting today right and you will be moving in the right direction. Give your body and mind a merry Christmas and a happy New Year too!

new-year-menu

Morning & evening yoga stretches for people in a hurry.

In the Morning:

If you have a busy day, you know it pays to get organized, and that includes looking after your body. Think about your normal morning routine and find a slot for this quick yoga sequence, perhaps as you wait for the kettle to boil. It takes less than five minutes and is easily done in your dressing-gown.

What you might notice about the effects of this short sequence is that the backs of your legs are stretched, your spine and rib cage extended and the front of your body opened, reversing the effects of the sleeping position and the downward pull of gravity.

Put a timer where you can see it and set it running for 5 minutes, using the second counter to time your holds. Check you’re not holding your breath. Bear in mind this is about extension, not tension, so don’t grip your muscles. Work gently into, holding, and out of the postures, keeping your breathing smooth and natural. This has a calming, energizing effect on the body and mind.

1) Tadasana to a wall:01 Tadasana to wall_preview

Face a wall or a door, with your feet about 8 inches away. Without leaning your body on the wall, stretch your arms up and press your hands into the wall. Working from your feet, feel your body stretch and your skeleton become more aligned. Press your heels down and your thighs back, ease your tailbone forwards and tuck your shoulder blades in. Lift and broaden your upper chest.  Squeeze your outer elbows towards each other, and stretch your palms and fingers up. Keep your breathing soft and your jaw relaxed. (Working slowly and carefully, this should take about 30 seconds.) Release slowly from the pose and pause for a few seconds to feel the effects. Then repeat once more.

 

01 UHP1 Strap_preview2) Uttitha hasta padangusthasana:

Stand facing a chair or a low stool. Put your left heel on the chair seat and catch roundthe foot with a tie or yoga belt. Straighten your right leg, (the standing leg) by pressing the thigh back. Let the left leg (the lifted leg) stretch from hip to heel as you gently pull on the strap. Hold for 15 seconds and swap. Do each side twice.

 

 

3) Half uttanasana:01 AMS chair_preview

Press your hands flat onto a work top, shoulder width apart, or grip the sides of your chair. Walk slowly back, allowing your body to become straight from hips to hands, and horizontal to the floor if you are using a worktop. Your feet should be hip-width apart, toes turned in. Let your arms straighten, and feel the sides of your body begin to stretch.

When your back is flat and your legs are vertical, your head will be between your arms. You will feel your spine begin to stretch and re-align itself, and you can assist this process by pressing your heels down and your thighs back, tucking your shoulder blades in, and opening your armpits. Squeeze your elbows towards each other and press your hands firmly down. Keep your breathing soft and your neck and jaw relaxed. Walk towards your hands to come up.

In the evening:

Think about your normal routine later in the day, and pinpoint a time when you could set aside 5 or 6 minutes for these evening stretches. You will need a mat, or do them with your heels close to a wall for support. Set your timer for 6 minutes and when you’reready, set it to countdown. (Be sure to put it somewhere you can see easily without straining your neck!) Once you’re familiar with the flow of the routine you won’t need the timer.

The focus is on extension of the body, not tension – it’s important that you learn to feel the difference. The downward facing postures help to relieve your mind and nervous system of the stress and emotion of the day. You will need to wear something loose, stretchy and comfortable.

01 AMV forward_preview

1) Adho mukha virasana:

Sit on your heels, keeping your feet and knees close together. This will stretch the tops of
your feet, so if it feels painful, put a folded blanket on your mat, under your ankles. Keep your big toes together and take your knees wide apart. Keeping your hips on your heels, walk your hands forward on the mat until your chest meets your thighs and your arms are straight. Your forehead may easily reach the floor. If your hips come up or your forehead won’t meet the floor, use a couple of thick books on which to rest your forehead. Hold for 20 seconds, tuck your toes under and come onto your hands and knees.

2) Adho mukha svanasana:

Pressing down with your hands, lift your hips off your heels, feet hip width. Push your 01 AMS heels_previewhips up high, straightening your arms and legs, keeping your neck relaxed. Hold for 20 seconds. If your calves feel tight, put a block under your heels for support. Come back down onto your knees, bring your big toes back together again and sit back down on your heels, forehead on the floor or books as before for 20 seconds.

Repeat the sequence of lifting your hips, stretching your arms and legs, and coming down twice more. Keep the movements slow and deepen the stretch each time.

Finally, come back to sitting on your heels, with your feet and knees together. Stay sitting on your heels if you are comfortable or change to cross-legged for the next section – you can sit on your block if that is more comfortable.

 

01 UHast bent elbows crop_preview3) Parvsatasana:

Link your fingers closely and put the backs of your hands on your head. Tuck your shoulder blades in and draw your navel back towards your spine. Take your elbows slightly back and feel your chest open and lift.

01 Urdhva hast crop no border_preview

 

Now slowly raise your arms straight up with your palms facing the ceiling, allowing your side ribs to stretch and open further. Pause. Now bring your hands back down close to your head and take your elbows back again. Repeat once more, stretching your arms up again, pausing, andfinally bring your hands back down onto your knees. Allow your arms and hands to rest.

 

01 Parsva Swastik_preview4) Parsva sukhasana:

Place your right hand outside your left knee and your left hand round the back of your waist. Turn your trunk to the left, inhale and as you exhale, lift your spine and turn a little more, turning your neck and head last of all. Come back to the centre and repeat to the right. Repeat to the left and right once more.

01 Resting position_preview

 

5) Resting position:

To finish, lie on the floor (with a block under your sacrum if you have low back problems), knees bent and feet apart, allowing your knees to rest against each other. Stay for 2 minutes, and notice your sense of well-being.

 

Christmas Restorative Yoga sequence.

Christmas Restorative Yoga sequence.

When you’re feeling tired or stressed, it can be hard to tell what you need most: is it exercise or rest? Restorative yoga practice gives your body the best of both. By using stronger extensions and the time to rest, the nervous system becomes calm and the brain feels soothed. You’ll feel relaxed, refreshed and rejuvenated.

The body also needs a different kind of practice in the morning to that at the end of the day. But in both cases, you need to reconnect brain and body first, so there are supine poses at the beginning of both these sequences.

Morning version: pose number 2 (hold for 4 minutes), then poses 4, 6, 5, 6, 5 at your own pace. (Repeat if you have time and energy!) Finish with Tadasana standing against a wall: lift your chest, roll your shoulders back, head UP and breathe in! Maintain that posture for the day – diaphragm UP – when you feel your energy or enthusiasm dips.

Evening version: (practice slowly) 2, 4, 6, 9, 11. Lying down poses – set alarm for 3-4 minutes. Hold the others long as you can and come out slowly.

 

Hannah Lovegrove Yoga Sequence

Bobby Clennel is coming from the USA as our guest teacher in April 2018.