by Carla Sridevi Cohen
Over 5,000 years ago the Rishis utilized essential oils in conjunction with their yogic practice to access and balance energy centers in the body known as Chakras. There are over 200 references to aromatics in the Bible.
For centuries, ancient people have used the aromatic and therapeutic benefits of essential oils to support wellness, prevent and heal themselves of a variety of conditions, relieve emotional discomfort and improve spiritual practices.
Aromatherapy uses fragrant concentrated plant oils to positively affect mood or health. This natural treatment may help balance emotions and through interaction with the limbic system, if properly distilled, can support all of the body’s systems with maintaining overall wellness.
When combined with spiritual practices, oils can help quiet the mind faster, deepen our ability to be present, improve our ability to focus and amplify our relaxation response. Some oils may make physical exercise easier.
A word of caution, there is a lot of clever marketing with essential oils. It is estimated that 98% of the oils on the market are adulterated. For example, there is way more lavender on the market than what is actually grown and mislabeling is common. The most common “extender” is Propelene glycol, also known as antifreeze. Lavandin is frequently mis-labeled as Lavender. Many oils that claim to be “therapeutic-grade” are not. There is no external verification process to verify “therapeutic-grade” and GCMS only tests for “known” substances. That means that synthetics that are used to “extend” an oil may go undetected if GCMS is the only test used. Ask if you can visit the farm to verify whatever claims are being made and see the labs for yourself.
For improving your practice, there are some wonderful oils. I like to start with Frankincense for opening up the mind. I rub a tiny bit of Frankincense over my forehead before my daily meditation and inhale it. Frankincense can also decrease mental fatigue and can help improve respiration. It is also high in limonene, a naturally occurring chemical constituent that has received a lot of attention in Cancer research. If you are looking to establish a little equilibrium, Petitgrain may be your oil of choice.
I like to apply this oil on my brainstem prior to my yoga practice. Petitgrain has been used to balance the nerves, but can also promote physical balance. This oil may help decrease excessive perspiration. Petitgrain is also uplifting and can help refresh the senses. This is a citrus oil and for safety should not be worn on skin that will be exposed to direct sunlight. For people who need to calm down, inhaling Patchouli can be an excellent choice. Authentic, pure patchouli does not smell like that junk they wore in the 60’s. It is sedating, relaxing, calming and soft. Lastly, no practice would be complete without some good Sandalwood. Historically, it is believed that Sandalwood awakens the latent life force energy during meditation and frees souls of the deceased.