Sunday, August 5, 2012

Aromatherapy Massage - Its Many Benefits

Aromatherapy massage actually does have a therapeutic effect on those being massaged. The reason behind these effects stems from the relationship of the brain's limbic system to the olfactory system. Smells can influence the human's hormone production, their emotions and the responses of the nervous system. When the essential oils used in aroma therapy are inhaled, the limbic system is stimulated. From there the heart rate, breathing, stress levels, digestion, memory and the immune system are affected.

Massage causes essential oils to be absorbed through the skin. The many therapeutic claims that are made are due to the actual results people receive from aromatherapy massage. Aromatherapy has been known to relieve conditions aggravated by your emotional responses. Conditions that are stress related, such as headaches, premenstrual syndrome, back pain and digestive disorders are often relieved with aromatherapy massage. Studies have even been conducted that showed patients having improved attachment to their newborns and a lack of post-partum depression among first-time mothers who received aromatherapy massage. Cancer patients are also benefitting from aromatherapy massage when they are in palliative care settings.

Aromatherapy uses essential oils to create a calming effect when oils from chamomile, geranium or lavender are used. Ylang ylang, rose, neroli or clary sage provide an uplifting effect, while rosemary energizes and cleanses. Pine, tea tree and eucalyptus are all considered decongesting oils. Essential oils can be used quite effectively for pain relief. Because the brain's limbic region controls the body's survival functions, the sense of smell has a great influence on the whole body. Black pepper, ginger, peppermint and thyme produce heat and increase circulation, thus reducing pain. Lavender and lemongrass reduce pain by making the pain receptors less acutely aware of sharp pain. Chamomile, juniper, and tea tree oil reduce pain caused by inflammation with their anti-inflammatory properties.

All essential oils are harvested from plants through the use of steam distillation from the leaves, stems, bark or root of a plant. They are highly concentrated, so you rarely need to apply more than a few drops of the oil to each application. When the oils molecules are inhaled they enter the body through the nostrils or they may be absorbed by the skin through massage. When used in massage they are often diluted by carrier oils such as grape seed oil, sweet almond oil or apricot kernel oil.

Is Yoga More Beneficial To Your Mind or Body?

Is Yoga secular or spiritual? Is it an exercise routine or a spiritual path? The answers are indisputable, depending on who you ask. The student who has practiced Yoga for exercise will take issue with the answer given by the spiritual seeker who practices Yoga to be free from suffering.

We must look to the origins of this tradition for insights into the purpose of Yoga. The ancient Yoga authority, Patanjali, outlines a clear path for Yoga, a path that leads to liberation. In his Yoga Sutras of 196 succinct verses, he proposes 8 limbs sometimes called steps on the path (2.29). The physical exercises called Asanas is Limb number 3. Other Limbs include behaviour, character, breath, and mind. One could argue looking at the 8 limbs that only one limb relates to the physical body.

Today in our world where what is visible is King it is easy to believe Yoga is nothing more than an exercise routine practised by women and men to become healthy or keep fit. In days gone by Yoga was known for its power to transform. In fact the very first verse of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras defines Yoga as the restriction of the fluctuations of consciousness, sometimes translated mind.

Many of us practise Yoga unaware of its origins and aims. We practice because our bodies relish the stretches and challenges. Our muscles are toned; we breathe better; our digestion and elimination improve; we manage pain better; we feel stronger. Our physical health improves. It is also true that we feel less stressed when we practise. Anxiety decreases, we don't get as angry, and mental clarity improves. Yoga fosters mind-body wellness.

Yoga students who practice Yoga as an exercise may proclaim only its physical benefits only. In time they will come to realize the positive impact on the mind; and to notice a shift in behaviour and improved relationships. At some point they realize the connection between the mind and body. They come to know that thoughts and feelings affect the body and to they gain some insight into mind-body wellness.

There was a time when I would have argued forcefully that Yoga was more beneficial to the mind. For then I practiced Raja Yoga meditation only. Some years later I would have insisted that one must definitely practice Hatha Yoga to heal and nurture the body. Fortunately I discovered it is really not an either or situation.