Ayurveda & Aromatherapy for Women

Ayurveda & Aromatherapy for Women

Ayurveda & Aromatherapy for Women

Up until the early 1900s, essential oils were the strongest medicine available. There is so much captivating history about the use and development of herbal medicine. Through various scientific studies over the years, the result is that  Aromatherapy is now being incorporated into the mainstream medical systems and hopefully into your daily life.

Essential oils are originally formed in plant cells by the action of the sun thus the oil becoming reservoirs of solar healing power.  It is the source of all fragrances in nature. The essence is the life blood of the plant which provides its own immunity, having natural antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal, and preservative properties for healing. By extracting the ‘essence’ we use these properties, as a gift from the plant, for healing.

Pure essences, which are extracted by distillation, are not only the most potent plant extraction, but also the most costly to produce. Therefore, a useful gauge, though not an absolute one, is the price of the essential oil. The more pure essence the manufacturer puts in the dilution, the more you are likely to pay.  In this case, you really do get what you pay for. Keep in mind too, that with essential oils, a little goes a long way.

What I hope to impress on you today is the importance of self-care, especially in these current times, and simple ways to enhance your daily life by implementing Ayurveda & Aromatherapy. Ayurveda teaches us that if what is taken in to the body is harmonious with one’s nature, the result is health and well-being. We assimilate all our experiences through our sense organs of scent, touch, taste, sight, and sound. There are two principal pathways for applying Aromatherapy. Through the skin, and via the sense of smell. Aromatherapy is an effective healing practice that can easily be added to your daily life. The most common applications include steam inhalation, diffusers, incense, smoke, baths and adding drops to massage oil.  

Smell
The Olfactory system is the pathway in the body which allows smell to be interpreted by the mind.  Here is my quick blurb from geeking out on the physiology:
Our aromatic environment is chemically based, and therefore phytochemicals fill the air we breathe. While these are absorbed into the bloodstream, they also stimulate various nerve receptors within the nasal cavity and our sinuses send signals directly to different parts of the brain, including the Limbic system, the part of the brain that processes memory and emotion.

Impulses are then transmitted to the Hypothalamus which regulates such bodily functions as temperature, thirst, hunger, blood sugar level, growth, sleep and wake patterns, sexual arousal, and the emotions.  From here the Pituitary is stimulated next, which activates the Endocrine system which in turn controls digestion, emotional and sexual behavior, stress response, and all metabolic processes. Aromatherapy applied through the sense of smell has almost an immediate effect, making it on option for a quick go-to throughout the day, to stay in balance. 

As you start practicing Aromatherapy, it is a wonderful way to come to know yourself.  Seeing yourself where you’re at, and what you need in the moment, and applying the remedy, therefore caring for and loving yourself more.  Self love and care has really transformed my life for the better and I hope to inspire you to do the same because we deserve it!

Skin
When using essential oil drops in sprays, oils, or baths, they easily permeate the skin because their molecular structure is very small. They use the fine capillaries of the blood and lymph system to be carried throughout the entire body to all cells, and even able to cross the blood-brain barrier to act on the outer portions of the brain. Based on research in the Journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, the understanding of essential oil chemistry and their penetrative abilities through biological membranes have made them proficient treatment implements for managing various neurological disorders.
To understand how to use Aromatherapy for you as an individual, it is important to know what your unique constitution is, your Dosha, according to Ayurveda. Dosha simply means “that which goes out of balance”.  The whole essence of Ayurveda, is creating balance for your unique constitution of doshas. When we are in balance, we are free from dis-ease. If you do not know your Dosha, please take the quiz here, at your leisure.

Vata needs sweet and sour aromas to increase stability and calmness in the mind and nervous system. Following recommendations are based on specific Vata disorders:

  • Fear/Anxiety – Angelica, cypress, jatamansi, Himalayan cedar wood, clary sage, Cyprus, benzoin, rosewood, bergamot, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, lavender, lemongrass, orange, sandalwood, vanilla, vetiver, and ylang ylang.
  • Scattered/Ungrounded – Angelica, eucalyptus, sandalwood, vetiver, spikenard, chamomile,
  • Unfocused – Basil, cypress, lemon, lemongrass, rose, and rosemary.
  • Insomnia – Basil, chamomile, lavender, orange, neroli, rose, rosemary, and thyme.

Pitta needs bitter and astringent aromas which pacify feelings of anger or intensity. The following recommendations are for specific Pitta disorders:

  • Anger – Borage, cardamom, champa, coriander, blue chamomile, lotus, musk, rose, and saffron.
  • Stubbornness – Lavender and peppermint.
  • Hurtful – Hina, oud musk, geranium and yarrow.
  • Domineering – Amber and geranium.
  • Frustrated – Brahmi and gold chamomile
  • Irritable – Benzoin, frankincense, lavender, Roman Chamomile, rose, ylang ylang.

Kapha needs aromas that pertain to pungent and bitter qualities that will influence emotions of enthusiasm towards their tasks.  The following recommendations are for specific Kapha disorders:

  • Depressed – Bergamot, lemongrass, geranium, clary sage, grapefruit, and orange.
  • Disinterested – Lavender, champa, orange, bergamot, and patchouli.
  • Greedy – Basil, rosemary, cardamom
  • Attached – Mint, ginger, and myrtle.
  • Uncertainty – Ylang ylang, immortelle, and jasmine.
  • Resistant – Grapefruit, lime, bergamot, and chamomile.
  • Sad – Benzoin, jasmine, rose, rosewood, clary sage, Melissa, and neroli.


Whether you are interested in gathering a collection of single bottles or prefer to get pre-blended oils for each Dosha, I recommend Floracopeia as it was judged as second highest quality essential oils and affordable. 

Mature Years
With use of Aromatherapy, specifically essential oils of lavender, rose, geranium, lemon, and jasmine – aging women can benefit from a reduction in symptoms pertaining to perimenopause and menopause. Sweet Orange, Marjoram, Lavender, Rose and Bergamot, are sweet and uplifting aromas that respectively aide insomnia, anxiety and depression, and tonify the nervous system. Our hero Lavender standing out as the greatest reliever of Hot Flashes.  Living an Ayurvedic lifestyle gains us ground in preventative health and if implementing it begins early enough in life, hot flashes can be prevented. However if you find that hot flashes are a part of your menopause, Lavender essential oil is commonly used to soothe the discomfort of them. For example, Lavender is a natural diuretic wherein diuretics help to regulate body temperature.

Personal Note
I love using a diffuser, but I have also appreciated my salt lamp that has a little glass dish on top.  As the light of the lamp heats the water, it releases the aromas. A dual purpose where I’m getting aromatherapy and adding the negative ions into my space from the salt lamp. There are many ways to incorporate Aromatherapy into your daily life like placing diffusers in the different rooms of your house, your office, and even your car.  When I’m studying (and if I remember) I put a few drops of Rosemary on a cotton pad to sniff on it as it helps with cognitive function. I also love making different blends into a spritzer to aromatize my bed pillows, car, bathroom, or myself before a social situation. Making an aromatherapy bath is very therapeutic as you are getting the oils into your skin, and the olfactory system. The most traditional way to use Aromatherapy for meditation or your spiritual practice is Incense. Auromere incense is made with Ayurvedic principles and being someone very sensitive to perfumey scents, I have tried each one and they are all subtle and pleasant. They have scents such as ‘Coconut/Comforting’, ‘Elevating/Indian Cedar’, ‘Rose/Spiritual Love, and many more.  I purchased the sampler kit and use a different one every day depending on the intention.

Personally being Vata, I need extra warmth.  Adding a few drops of ginger to oil that I massage myself with everyday is a perfect solution.  It smells amazing and feels wonderful on my joints which can easily get inflamed. Also putting drops of Lavender, Jatamansi (An Ayurvedic Valerian), or an essential oil of your choice, into a carrier oil (I usually use Sesame or Coconut) and massaging my feet at night, really helps with grounding my energy and winding down for a more restful sleep. The palms of the hands and the soles of the feet are covered in nerve endings (that’s why massage on them feels so good!) So they are extremely important areas not to neglect.

Aromatherapy really is for everyone.  I’ve never met anyone who didn’t appreciate the aromas of nature and that is what essential oils are.  I consider it a gift and a blessing that we have been able to capture the essence and fragrance of nature in a little bottle.  Making it really easy to use with quick and therapeutic benefits, which is what we need in these times. It is important to note that Aromatherapy is an adjunct to dosha balancing, with diet & lifestyle being the cause of dosha imbalance.  Fortunately it is never too late to improve our health with the right tools.

Lastly I would like to mention that although I have provided links to the different oils and products to support your Aromatherapy practice, everything I have wriiten in this article is based on my belief in the therapeutic benefit.  I have witnessed the effects personally and on my clients.

In all of my research I drew most of my information with permission from the following book:
Ayurveda & Aromatherapy
The author I know and trust in the profession and highly recommend them if you would like to dive deeper into Ayurveda and alternative therapies.  

Namaste
Seva Yogini

 

Shirodhara

Shirodhara

Shirodhara

Shirodhara is a, unique body therapy from the ancient natural medical system Ayurveda. Shirodhara has a profound impact on the nervous system. That means, the treatment directly and immediately calms, relaxes and has a cleansing effect on the mind and nerves.  It can help relieve symptoms of anxiety, stress, fatigue and hypertension. It also relieves worry, fear and headache as well as depression. It regulates mood and gives feelings of pleasure and relaxation.

The term shirodhara is a union of two words: ‘shir‘ meaning head and ‘dhara‘ meaning pouring in a stream or sprinkling. Thus, shirodhara means the pouring of a liquid medicine in a stream over the head of a client for a stipulated amount of time. Shirodhara is a very potent therapy on the subtle, energetic levels.

This pressure and vibration created over the forehead is amplified by the hollow sinus present in the frontal lobe, which may activate the functions of the brain and bring the amount of serotonin and catecholamine to the normal stage. This makes Shirodhara an effective go to treatment for insomnia and jet lag. 

Shirodhara increases immunity by relieving stress and an over active mind by balancing the Ayurveda mind-body types or doshas so that your constitution remains strong. It renews energy and produces a youthful countenance. Shirodhara also gives the hair and scalp a hot oil treatment which is cleansing and nourishing and adds strength to the hair follicles. Generally the therapist will massage the warm oil into the scalp once the Shirodhara oil has run its course.

Shirodhara can also assist with the following conditions:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Insomnia and Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD), Hypertension, and a preventative for healthy individuals.

Who Should NOT Have Shirodhara

Shirodhara is suitable for any dosha or constitution however there are some contraindications.

Contra-indications

  • Obesity
  • Brain Tumor
  • Recent Neck injury
  • Abrasions or cuts or rash on the head
  • Sunburn
  • Fever/chills
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Fainting or spontaneous sweating
  • Indigestion
  • Ascitis
  • Edema
  • Generalized toxic conditions like septicemia
  • Any acute illness
  • Dehydration or person suffering from thirst
  • Non cooperative individuals like children and those with Alzheimer’s. In these people shiro-pichu or the placing of cotton dipped in a suitable oil and placed on the bregma is more suitable or practical.

Duration Of Shirodhara

Shirodhara can be done for a period of 30 minutes to 45 minutes depending on the nature and severity of the dosha imbalance or depending on the constitution (Prakruti) of the patient. Shirodhara is usually done for a period of 7 to 14 days or as recommended by the practitioner. The relief or complaints is taken as a parameter for the number of days of treatment to be done in one stretch.

How To Prepare For A Shirodhara Appointment

When scheduling an appointment for Shirodhara, keep in mind that you may need additional rest following the treatment. Shirodhara cleanses the mind and senses. Make use of this time and avoid unnecessary stimulation after your treatment. Avoid large crowds (concerts, restaurants/bars, large gatherings) and make the remainder of your day peaceful. This is your time for mental rest.

Eat lightly before your appointment. Shirodhara has an effect on the digestive system and a full stomach is not advised. Your hair will be saturated with oil. Dress appropriately and comfortably. Wear an old shirt, something you don’t mind getting oil on. It is advised to leave the oil in your hair for at least a few hours following the treatment. It’s best to leave the oil in your hair overnight.

Prepare to cover your head following the treatment. If the weather is cool, windy or cold, bring an old warm hat, again something you don’t mind getting oil on. An old scarf or a  plastic shower cap also works well.

 

Abhyanga “The Love Massage”

Abhyanga “The Love Massage”

 

Abhyanga is also known as Ayurvedic Massage. The word ‘abhyanga’ is composed of two Sanskrit words, Abhi and Anga. Abhi means ‘towards’ and anga, in one of its meanings, refers to ‘movement’.  It also means ‘oil massage’ or in sanskrit, ‘snehana’. Snehana means oil, but it also means love. So by receiving Abhyanga, we are oiling our bodies with love, comfort, and nourishment.

The sensation of Abhyanga is deeply nourishing to your brain, nervous system, mind, soul, skin and joints. The abundant coating of warm oil arouses a feeling of being wrapped in loving arms. It emulates warmth and makes a powerful difference in your feelings about yourself along with your how you feel about everything and everyone around you. It lovingly replaces your anxieties with a sense of calmness and contentment because the oils are warm, stable, and grounding.

Because of the abundant use of herbalized oil, Abhyanga can becomes a more clinical therapeutic procedure.  The purpose of this oil is to be massaged into the skin in such a way that it can penetrate the deep tissue layers and bind to the toxins for elimination, as well as providing joint lubrication, nourishment, and moisture. The medicated oil also acts as a fat burner and if you make receiving regular Abhyanga a part of your wellness and/or weight loss program, you will definitely begin to experience surprising results without any side effects.

Abhyanga is a specific sequence of massaging the body in sections, part by part, to facilitate the proper flow of blood and lymph encouraging quick removal of metabolic wastes. Therefore massage is given with varying pressures. The Lymphatic system is the system the body uses to accumulate and expel toxins.  It is lacking its own pump and therefore requires manual, hands on application to increase lymph flow towards the major lymph nodes, and then eliminated from the body. It is also an option to have two therapists giving a choreographed 4 handed tandem massage, where both sides of your body are being massaged at the same time.  This is a highly recommended experience and very unique to Ayurvedic Massage.

Another important  benefit of Abhyanga is its ability to stimulate and nourish internal organs. The massage helps in tuning up the functioning of the organs and optimizes the body’s ability to flush out toxins. It also revitalizes and energizes the self healing quality of cells in the body.  Abhyanga stimulates the para-sympathetic nervous system and has physical, emotional and psychological effects towards well being.

One can notice elevated resistance to dryness, cracking, and even bruising, all thanks to the hydration and lubrication that the skin receives from Abhyanga.  It also strengthens fragility and increases the skin’s natural vibrant beauty, helping the skin adapt to the aging process more gracefully.  

 

Ayurvedic Massage Contraindications

Ayurvedic massage should not be done in the following conditions according to Ayurveda.

  • Fever
  • In any acute illness (unless permitted by your doctor)
  • Blood clots (like deep vein thrombosis) or bleeding disorders
  • Hangover
  • Dehydration
  • During chemotherapy
  • During Menstruation