How To Begin Using Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy as a healing art attempts to distinguish itself from simple scent therapy with the use of the term ‘therapeutic grade.’  If your essential oils are not therapeutic grade essential oils, then they are probably synthetic or have been harshly extracted with excess heat or chemicals and have lost many of the healing plant compounds that make Aromatherapy such a robust healing art.  If it’s not therapeutic grade, then its just a smell.

Once you get on board with the idea that Aromatherapy might be helpful, the most frequent questions revolve around how to get started?  There are two ways I recommend to do this.

1)  Use essential oils to fix an existing issue in your life.

2)  Start with three to five broadly applicable essential oils.

Both ways allow you to begin with a small sampling of essential oils.  The following essential oils are where I recommend people to begin.

1) Lavender – Lavender is very safe and can be applied directly to the skin right on household burns and sun burns.  Its scent stimulates calm, reduces anxiety, and soothes anger.  Great to use in a diffuser to calm children before bedtime and on test days.

2) Lemon – Why are all of our cleaners scented with lemon or pine?  Not just because we like the smells, but because of their very potent anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties.  Use Lemon Essential Oil to boost the lemon flavor in drinks and cooking.  It also enhances circulation and cellular cleansing when diluted and massaged into the skin near cellulite or lymph nodes.

3) Peppermint – Has an interesting property of both calming and awakening the mind.  This bolsters mental focus for studying and at the office.  Dilute peppermint into some oil and massaging onto sore and painful muscles greatly increases blood flow and acts as a natural icy-hot.  Peppermint has long been regarded as a great stomach soother; it increases general digestion but also calms nausea.

4) Tea Tree – This oil has a very broad range of uses.  You can think of it as a supreme anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral oil.  It can be applied on areas of redness, bruises, and other areas to reduce the spread of infection in the body.  Used as a general sickness fighter, it is a great cleaning agent as well.

5 ) Eucalyptus – Most noted for its ability to increase blood flow in our respiratory system, this oil has great uses around cold and flu time when we need to breathe through all that mucus.  Eucalyptus has spot cleaning and several other beauty benefits as well as being a nice hand cleaner when combined with salts and oils for after tinkering around in the garage.

CAUTION: While some Essential Oils can be used internally, this practice has many more potential side effects and should be undertaken with caution, if at all.

REMEMBER: Aromatherapy can be a valuable healing modality.  There are, like everything, specific cautions and details that make it safe and effective.  Committing to a small investment of time and money can pay off handsomely in increased health.

A Bit About Stress

If you look through the top diseases that kill us in America, you will find one risk factor that most of them share.  You guessed it, stress.  I thought we might want to take a closer look at stress to get a handle on this risk factor that all of us have.

A very basic definition of stress is: Any change to homeostasis.   Homeostasis is our body’s ability to stay in equilibrium amidst a dynamic and complex set of conditions.  Stress is something that pulls us out of that equilibrium, a.k.a. our happy place.  When we get pushed out of our happy place, we need to spend resources and energy to pull ourselves back.  The greater the stress, the greater the cost in resources needed to pull us back.  The expense of maintaining our equilibrium builds up over time.  Large amounts of stress over large amounts of time deplete us in significant ways.

Caution:  If we define stress as any change to our equilibrium, we need to remove any prejudice from our use of the word.  Some stresses are very bad for us.  Some stresses are good for us.  That’s the whole point of going to the gym, to stress our muscles into growing bigger.   A wise person learns how to tell the difference between good and bad stress and how to use stress to grow in positive directions.

Remember: EVERY change to our homeostasis can be called stress.   Stress forces us to adapt, react, mobilize, or pull against its push.  It forces us to spend energy to get back to our happy place.

Experiment: This is a great 18 hour experiment you can undertake any Saturday night.  Get a bunch of friends together.  Eat lots.  Drink Lots.  Play late.  Sleep little.  When you wake up the next morning, witness the state of your body; pushed out of equilibrium by a variety of stressors.  Take notes all day as your body pulls you back into equilibrium.  Watch as it processes all the excess food and beverage chemicals in your body.  You can feel the bloating and lethargy pass over time.  As time passes you also gather energy and recover from little sleep and wild partying.  Eventually you can take off the sunglasses and feel decent when moving about the house.   After many hours you can function like a normal person again.

This is an experiment in stress and homeostasis.  Enjoy.

Crimes Against Wisdom

There is a pearl of wisdom that says, “Well over 90% of all our dis-ease comes from performing crimes against wisdom.”  What could a crime against wisdom be?  The answer is quite simple.  A crime against wisdom happens when you know you should not do something, but you do it anyway.  In other words it is not heeding our inner voice of wisdom, also called heart knowing or our gut reaction.

We say, “Gosh, I’m tired.  I should go to bed.”  We stay up anyway.

We say, “I’m full.  I should stop eating.”  We clean our plate anyway.

All of us fail to listen to our inner voice of wisdom at times.  Often, this is because our mind and our gut have different opinions about what to do.  Our mind wants to get its own way, so it argues like crazy.  Our mind creates excuses, talks us in circles, and often manipulates us with our own desires.  It does this in order to convince you to go ahead with what it, the mind, wants.  Our gut comes to conclusions a different way.  Our gut can’t argue the way our minds can.  Our gut’s voice doesn’t explain itself with rational thought or wordy explanations.  Our gut just knows.

The difference between the voice of the gut and the voice of the mind can be explained in short by saying that knowledge isn’t wisdom.  Our mind is a complicated thing.  It has great power, but its knowledge is limited.  Wisdom is deeper.  It is intuited.  Wisdom from the gut isn’t clouded by the opinions of the mind and is therefore very honest.  This is important when it comes to wellness.  Your gut says, “I’m full.”  Your mind says, “I must keep eating until everyone else is done, too.  I don’t want them to think I don’t like the food.”

Wellness Practice:  By making a conscious effort to listen to what your gut is saying, you will strengthen your connection to that level of internal wisdom.  Start simply with two food based practices.  The first opportunity to connect occurs when you choose to make a meal.  Stop, close your eyes and ask yourself what you want to eat.  Start listening to your responses and try to make the meal your gut is telling you it wants to eat.  The second opportunity happens as you end your meal.  Listen and watch.  When your body tells you it is full, do you stop eating?  What stories do you tell yourself that complicate the simple impulse of, “I’m full?”  What are the parts of the conversation that conflict with the voice telling you to stop?  Are you conscious about your end of meal habits?  Do you nibble and don’t know it?  Is the fork back in your hand?  Stay with these two awareness building practices.  Eventually you will learn more about yourself and hopefully be able to perform a few less crimes against wisdom each week.

Caution:  By continuously suppressing our internal voice of wisdom we end up constantly pushing the boundaries of our health.  By eating too much, we stress our system.  By neglecting rest and sleep, we stress our system.  We stress ourselves by little bits again, and again, and again.  What happens to a body after 30 years of extra little stresses again, and again, and again?

Remember:  All stress caused by crimes against wisdom is avoidable.   Train yourself to heed your internal voice of wisdom.

The Power Of Scent

Scents are used as wellness therapy all over the world.  Why is it that they are so universally acknowledged to have healing properties?  One of the answers lies in our anatomy.

First, we need to know that a synapse, or a juncture between two nerve cells, is where information can be exchanged.  In simple terms, the more synapses you have, the larger the opportunity for assessment, analysis, adjustments, and change.  There is a synapse between every nerve cell in the chain of nerves that takes input from our nose to our brain.  Normally we think of this opportunity for analysis as being a good thing; we are the mighty champions of the cerebral cortex, you know.  The reason that scent is so powerful is because there are very few synapses between the smell receptors in our nose and the end point in our brain.  Scent doesn’t have as many opportunities to get diluted, adjusted, and changed.  Thus, we can’t diminish its strength or dilute the associations the scent makes with excuses or rationality.  Scent goes straight in like a laser.

The second reason why our anatomy helps us understand the power of scent comes from understanding what part of the brain the signals are sent to.  This area is called the Limbic System.  And while it is quite complex, we often think about this area as our emotional brain.  Further, the neighborhood where scent signals are processed is also  responsible for memory.  This physical neighborhood matters because proximity makes opportunity for connections to be made.  Our anatomy sets up the opportunity for scent, emotion, and memory to all become closely associated.

Everyone has had the experience where they smell something and go, “Wow, that takes me back.  Reminds me of…”  Those memories and their emotional tones are all tied to the scent.  Science is even suggesting that our very ability to smell requires those associative memories.  That’s how profound the connections are.  We can use scents to trigger specific emotions and to balance them.  But, because of scent’s association to specific memories, we can also bring out happy associations to brighten our day or pull up negative memories for processing.

The science of using scent for wellness is called Aromatherapy.  There are a tremendous number of different Aromatherapy Essential Oils to choose from.  The individual scents each have different balancing effects on our emotions.  I highly recommend doing a little research on this wonderful healing modality.  Hopefully this article helps you appreciate why scent can be so helpful. Next week we will give examples of specific Essential Oils and their healing properties.

Caution: Aromatherapy Essential Oils are not just used for their scent.  This can be confusing when looking at the uses of essential oils.  The extractions pull more than just the aromatic plant compounds out.  This gives the entire modality of Aromatherapy a broader spectrum of use than just smelling them.

Remember: Scents go straight into the brain and thus we can’t dilute their effects before they trigger emotional responses.  This, combined with the memories associated with them, make them wonderful tools for attaining emotional wellness.

 

Skin Fact Quiz – The truth may surprise you!

As part of my apprenticeship I get quizzed all the time.  I read facts, myths, and theories all day.  Today, I thought I would put together one of my own for you!  Here are several facts and myths that I found interesting.  One of the four statements below is true; the others are false.  Take a guess, which one is true?

  1. Shaving makes hair grow back thicker.
  2. Eating chocolate causes acne.
  3. The higher the SPF, the better the protection.
  4. Your skin makes up 16% of your body weight, up to 20 pounds.

 

ANSWERS:

If you guessed that shaving makes hair grow back thicker, you are…incorrect. After shaving the blunt hair growing back looks thicker, but it’s the same size as it was before. If you decide to try waxing, the entire follicle is removed. The hair coming back grows in different cycles, making it appear thinner. Your hair will also take longer to grow back than shaving.

Now, if you guessed that chocolate causes acne you are, wrong again. Sebum getting clogged in the pores of your skin is what actually causes acne, not chocolate so you don’t have to give up chocolate completely for clear skin. Eating dark chocolate is actually beneficial for your skin because it contains antioxidants.

The higher the SPF the better the protection, that’s gotta be it right? Nope sorry! The SPF refers to the amount of protection the product offers from only UVB rays. An SPF of 15 screens out 93% of UVB light. An SPF of 30 screens out 97%. Anything higher than that doesn’t really do anything more. You need protection from both UVA and UVB rays; you should look for a broad spectrum sunscreen which protects from both UVA and UVB rays.

Hard to believe that skin weighs 20 pounds isn’t it? But that is the correct answer! Skin makes up about 16% of your total body weight and is about 22 square feet, which is about the size of a standard doorway. Skin is the largest organ in your body which is why we need to take care of it.

 

Were you just as surprised as I was?  There are so many interesting things about skin, which is why I decided to become an esthetician. It’s always good to do your research so you can decide what to believe and what not to!

Jessica M.
~Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. –Henry David Thoreau~

What Is Qigong?

What is qigong?  Qi-(pronounced chee) means energy, air, or breath, vitality, or universal life force of life.  Gong – means to work, use, practice, transform, cultivate or refine.  Qigong is the study of energy, and since everything is a form of energy, qigong is a study of the whole universe including physics, chemistry, psychology, biology, astrology, electricity, and medicine.  Put it simply, qigong means using vital life energy to create a healthy mind and body.

Master Chunyi Lin, founder of Spring Forest Qiqong.  He established the program in 1994 before arriving in the United States from China.  He teaches the accredited program at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota, where he serves as program director and lead instructor.  He earned his master’s degree in Human Development-Holistic Health and Wellness from St. Mary’s University, Minneapolis.  Skilled as an acupuncturist, he also works with Chinese herbs and Tai Chi.

Qigong teaches you to use your mind, body and spirit together to unblock energy and balance yin and yang energy in the body.

We are formed by two kinds of energy (Qi)-yin and yang.  Yin represents something female, passive, and spiritual; yang represents something male, active, and physical.  Two examples are men and women.  Woman is yin-water, earth, and spiritual life.  Man is yang- fire, sky, and physical body.

Qi must be in a good balance, otherwise a imbalance will take place, causing an energy blockage.  When there is a blockage, we feel symptoms in the physical body.  That is called sickness.  Colds, arthritis, and tumors are imbalance symptoms of the physical body, of too much yin or yang.

Energy blockages prevent the flow of energy from running freely in our channels.  These channels help keep the body functioning.  We have twelve main channels and eight reservoir channels.  Each channel has its own purpose.  The main channels carry energy to where the body needs it.  Extra energy in the main channel then goes to the reservoir channel.  So when the main channel runs low the body taps into the reservoir channel.

When we feel sick, that is a blockage in the main or reservoir channels.  Energy blockage prevents the body from functioning to full potential.  So you have to remove blockages and open channels, to balance the yin and yang energy.

Taking medicine can help remove blockages and open channels.  Medicine is considered a passive way to heal the body.  But with medicine there are possible side effects.  There is a active way to heal the body, which is exercise.  It is also a good preventive method to help the body. Qigong teaches you to use your mind, body and spirit together to unblock energy and balance yin and yang energy in the body.

In China, Qigong healing techniques have been very complex and difficult to learn, but Master Chunyi Lin has simplified and revised Qigong principles and movements to they are easy to learn and fit into our lives.  Spring Forest Qigong is a simple but powerful form of Qigong.

There are four elements to Spring Forest Qigong:

  1. Mind/visualization
  2. Breathing
  3. Posture & body movements
  4. Sound

There are three principles to practice Spring Forest Qigong:

  1. Go into the emptiness
  2. Keep it simple
  3. Use your consciousness

Learning specific Spring Forest Qigong exercises and meditations will help you have abundant energy, heal your body, and feel better.

Carrie trained at Northwestern Health Science University in Bloomington Minnesota, with Master Chunyi Lin.  Level one & two were covered in the weekend program.  Check out our online class schedule for upcoming Qigong classes.

Written by Team Blogger and Spring Forest Qi Gong Instructor – Carrie Schug

Time For Chai

A Yogi’s Drink

Chai is the chosen drink of yogi’s because of several reasons:

1: Caffeine helps to keep the mind awake when you are practicing deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation; these practices bring your body to a state on the verge of sleep.  The extra stimulating boost that chai gives you can mean the difference between falling asleep or not in the middle of your practice.

2:  Milk fat nourishes the nerves and buffers the highly available energy from the sugar and caffeine so that it doesn’t ravage your nervous system. Yoga practices that direct prana also create lots of heat and movement throughout the nervous system.  Milk fat is a great way to keep our body insulated.

3:  Ginger and black pepper provide digestibility and help you to digest the milk, while the other spices create a sattvic quality of mind.

4:  Sugar helps pull all of these things deeper into the body.  Your body considers sugar a friend and readily welcomes it in.  Thus when your friend sugar arrives, the doors open and all of the spices – along with their benefits, are taken deeply into the body.  Many people find that coffee doesn’t keep them awake at night, but when they drink coffee with sugars and syrups, it affects them more strongly.  This is a reflection of the fact that our body opens the doors wide to sugar.

 

Here is a PDF of our chai recipe as written below.  We hope you enjoy.

 Chai Tea

 Combine in a large sauce pan – Make sure this pan is big enough to hold the contents from both pans when you combine them.

  1. 1 cup water – turn to high heat, bringing to boil
  2. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of loose black tea or 1-2 tea bags (rooibos tea works for a non-caffeinated option)
  3. Sugar to taste (usually 1-3 tablespoons)
  4. ¼-1/2 inch of a ginger root –peeled & grated or chopped
  5. 3 shakes of ground black pepper
  • Combine in a small sauce pan
    1. 2 cups milk – turn to high heat, bringing to simmer but not to a boil!
    2. 3 strands of saffron
  • Combine pan contents after the water pan has boiled for 30 seconds. The main purpose here is to assure the diffusion of the tea.  Sometimes I take the pan off the heat for 30 seconds or so until my water turns nice and dark.
    1. Bring the combined pan to a boil. The mixture will froth up and if not pulled off the heat fast enough, it will boil over.  So pull the pan from the heat, stir and let the froth go down.  Repeat this 3 times so that you have fully mixed the ingredients and have denatured the milk proteins properly for easy digestion.
  • Add aromatic spices – Add ground cardamom to the mixture, stir, and cover to cool.
    1. The milk will form a scum on the surface from oxidation if you do not cover the pot.
  • Strain and serve. Enjoy!
    1. Your chai will increase in flavor if you refrain from straining out the whole pan until serving each cup individually. Some people like to strain the whole pot and serve in a separate decanter.  This works best when serving family style.

Why 2 pots?

Using two pots speeds up the process of chai preparation; this is very important for true chai addicts!  Typically it takes me 12 minutes to make chai in a single pot – yes I have timed it! This recipe is given for preparation in two pots, but the milk pot can easily be added to the water pot after the water pot boils for 30 seconds.  Speed is often an important factor in our busy day and

A liquid recipe

Water: Milk ratio changes based on digestive capacity.  The general rules are that the ratio starts at 1:2 and moves towards 2:1.  Young or vigorous or Pitta should start with more milk while older, congested or convalescing people should start with more water.

The spicing of chai changes according to the season and your dosha.  People find a variety of extra spices wonderful in their chai.  Experiment and see what works for you.

Bacteria as Guide

The whole drink, when prepared with boiled milk is very bio-available, it means that it is all easily used by the body and doesn’t take too much energy to digest it.  If you have any doubts about this, drink chai in the morning before you brush your teeth.  You will find that after 30 minutes or so you have a heavily coated tongue.  The extra bacteria have grown on that highly available chai energy.

I have tasted cooked milk products that have sat out for four or five hours.  Chai tastes markedly more spoiled than most products after a mere three hours sitting out.  Use bacteria as your guides to know what foods are more bio-available.  The faster it rots – has small organisms eating it – the more bio- available the food will be.