Aromatherapy and Holism
by Jayne Elizabeth Wood
When we first set up practice we may have many pre-conceived ideas of how our practice will run and the clients that we will see. We may set down the basics on how we describe not only the Therapies offered but a little about ourselves. Such as if we offer Holistic practice, are we complimentary or alternative and of course areas of special interest.
My experience and research has led me on an interesting journey, relating to Holistic practice and the influence of the “ parts ” and others perception. Especially “ MIND, BODY, SOUL”
During this dissertation I will describe my understanding of holism, the application of Aromatherapy with a holistic approach, the separate components within and the effects on both the spiritual, and subtle energies to each individual.
I was looking for a phrase that would sum up my own feelings towards holistic complimentary therapies and the following was the outcome:
“Feed the Mind,
Nurture the Body,
Satisfy the Soul”
From the Greek Holos meaning entire, whole. Given that the parts can only be evaluated and understood when placed with the whole “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. The statement may seem contradictory, by explanation if we were to give 10 people an orange 9/10 would peel the fruit discarding everything bar the flesh. However if we now look at the fruit as the sum of it’s parts:
Seed: Sustaining growth
Flesh: Squeezed for juice, eaten
Peel: Extraction of oils, flavourings, recipes
We could then look at whether it was grown organically, was the land fertilised to continue and sustain future crops, the pickers of the fruit, did they receive fair treatment and were farmers given a fair price. We could then ask how all of these factors affected the taste and the quality of any extracts. Though this is a summary of Holism it gives an insight as to the many different layers and parts to a fruit we often take for granted. The word holistic can be applied to any given system.
Applying to Practice
Can we as Aromatherapists say we are Holistic Therapists by the very properties and nature of the oils or do we as individuals have certain responsibilities to understand and to apply the principles of Holism to define ourselves as Holistic Practitioners? Each person is a complex and unique individual. Within therapy the terms Mind, Body & Spirit or Mind, Body & Soul are used or employed with many connotations to the words (Logia) Spirit or Soul.
The human physical Body is a complex system comprising of:
Skin, tissue, muscles, skeleton, internal organs, nervous system, and blood, and is organic matter.
When part of the body is damaged physically such as cuts, abrasions and breaks these are readily seen, when internal organs are affected this may take a while longer but there are many tests Doctors can perform to aid their diagnosis. We have to conclude though the Human Body is a fascinating and miraculous construction it is not without fault. As it is organic it is prone to genetic defect, wear and tear and also affected by external influences and eventually will deteriorate and expire
The Brain and the Nervous system are very complicated structures. Many disorders and diseases of these structures can be diagnosed, but there are still many grey areas. The brain apart from giving and receiving neurological transmissions and communications including hormonal releases, it is also the centre of our conscious, Sub-conscious thoughts, reasoning, logical thought processes and our emotions.
There are many connotations to the words spirit and soul how it is perceived is down to every individual. Some may refer to this simply as the Essence of themselves. Some describe it as the personality. Others believe that their Spirit or soul has walked the earth many times before, and that during these lifetimes Karma will be served. Other terms which maybe used are the higher self, the true self and the real self.
During consultation there are other factors we should take into consideration such as social and environmental contributories, nature and nurture.
The care, if any, they are receiving from others. Most importantly the clients own views do they have a realistic view of expected outcome, what do they hope to achieve. We also have to look at and evaluate if a different field of expertise could best meet their needs, and if so to make the necessary recommendations.
We can also look at the way we run our own practice; do we use Oils from sustainable resources, it is important that we source good quality pure essential oils from reputable suppliers who are able to sustain the growth of plants for future crops and generations to come. The amount of plants required to produce small amounts of oil produces a heavy burden especially on rare oils so we should also use them appropriately within practice. We should endeavour to use packaging that is recyclable, and to be aware of other environmental issues that can be taken into account within practice.
Summary of Holism in Complimentary Practice
At first it does seem a complex system but the key points are:
- Treating and respecting the client as a Whole looking at all contributing factors
- Respecting and acknowledging fellow professionals
- Acknowledging and respecting the world as a whole
- Respect and acknowledgement of your self
We understand that physical disease, disability and pain even in the short term can cause mental and emotional distress, and long-term pain and coming to terms with what may be a long affliction can be very tiring. Combined with frustration and fear of losing control of ones life, and a diminishing of ones own self worth it is a time of adjustment. Not only for the individual but also their loved ones who even on a short term basis may find themselves as a carer, there may be other factors such as housing needs and employment issues. All of these compounded can cause immense stress and pressure at all levels of an individual.
We also understand that mental and emotional disease can manifest as physical pain, such as stress related headaches and migraines. It is hard for individuals, to whom the pain is extremely real, to accept that a physical cause cannot be found, this confuses the brain further and other symptoms manifest. Depression sets in and a cycle begins.
The nervous system and the brain can be very complicated. Due to chemical changes and the break down in communication along the nervous system messages can be miss-translated or missing completely. Though we will perceive something is wrong, we may not be able to logically explain nor understand.
The phantom limb is a good example of this; Amputees have reported that they can still feel the missing limb with all normal sensation including pain and coldness. The eyes shows that the limb is not there and the brain perceives this, and yet the sensations are still felt and pain very real, this can cause the individual great stress and confusion and can be very emotionally upsetting.
A case I heard of was a man who suffered the cold in his right leg, and would have to stop work to put on an extra sock. This would make him feel better and he was able to continue working. You may think this is not unusual until you hear that the leg was a prosthesis having had his own limb amputated many years before.
What is not so commonly understood is the impact this has on the spirit or soul in whatever connotation it is perceived, nor the effect upon the subtle energies of the individual.
Those who have studied Aromatherapy or other healing methods will be aware of the Charka’s and the auric field; we will explore these in more detail later. At this point I feel it important to mention by the term healing we are not necessarily effecting a cure, and indeed this should never in any circumstances be promised for this is beyond ourselves. Many individuals do have a lessening of their symptoms, others report symptoms never reoccur, whilst some feel more at peace and better able to cope with their situation and that self healing has occurred.
During my own research it has become more apparent that not only peoples own beliefs and spiritual paths can impact their own perception of disease and events that have happened in their lives. Also the beliefs of those who have nurtured or taught them have a significant impact. I have found that some clients who may wish to differ from the latter suffer from feelings of guilt, disloyalty, and low self-esteem.
Dr Edward Bach an eminent Harley street physician gave up his profitable practice to concentrate and develop his renowned flower remedies based on his interpretation of the 38 negative soul states.
He clearly defines the soul who relates to the higher self who in turn relates to the personality, the personality may perceive the higher self, but due to external influences or battles within their selves do not act upon the souls desire thus preventing the individual from reaching their true potential.
In some civilizations great store is placed on spiritual harmony, what we are seeing in practice now are a great number of people who accept and acknowledge the spiritual aspect of themselves and will often give being down of spirit as the primary reason for their visit.
During the course of my work with aromatherapy it has become very clear that it does have a positive impact on negative states of mind and spirit along, with physical ailments. Research shows that if we are happy and contented and at peace with ourselves this will bolster our immune system making us less prone to illness and disease.
It is important in practice to remember however special and important our own spiritual journey and beliefs are to us, we cannot let these interfere with the client’s belief. Nor is it for us to try and change their core beliefs, as this is a very private and individual matter. However, by learning about and observing different aspects of these beliefs, and having a non judgemental understanding we are better able to serve the needs and progression of the client if we can understand how they impact on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of the individual.
Aromatherapy could be described as the oldest Holistic Therapy with roots around 5000 –6000 years ago.
Gattefosse and his peers are acknowledged for the way Aromatherapy is used today. Though the ancients used oils and aromatics for beauty and bathing rituals and indeed to help with ailments, they also used them for religious ceremonies and spiritual advancement. Specifically many Ancient civilizations placed great precedence on preparing for the after life. We can still see the use of oils and aromatics in respect to religious and spiritual ceremonies in today’s word.
Aromatherapy is ever growing in popularity, with most people having heard of it in some form. We do have to acknowledge that many large commercial manufacturers are promoting the benefits of aromatherapy, in everything from bath and beauty products, to household cleaners and air fresheners. Though we may not approve of their methods of manufacture, nor indeed the chemicals that may also be used, we can acknowledge that they are definitely promoting the positive benefits of aromatherapy along with raising people’s awareness that they are enquiring to the personal benefits.
Essential oils have their own properties and can be utilised in various ways. After consultation the Aromatherapist will discuss the various methods of application with the client, oils are then selected for the individual.
Methods of application:
- Topical Application
- Hygiene & beauty products
I decided over the course of a week to conduct a very small survey of 20 random people, asking only two questions of each.
1) What does the word aromatherapy mean to you?
I received two answers only 75% said massage with 25% saying nice smell.
2) I then asked what they thought it did for you to which I received only one answer “relaxation”.
This is obviously just a small survey and did confirm that people are more aware of Aromatherapy, however one cannot help thinking how much commercial advertising has affected their perception with relaxation being the primary association.
I did take the opportunity to relay the other many benefits and applications to aromatherapy, many were surprised how many over the counter preparations from pharmacies and shops contain essential oils, including those for congestion, arthritic and rheumatic pain and also the amount of beauty and hygiene products that have them incorporated.
Aromatherapy is also widely used within other complimentary therapies, such as Indian Head Massage and Reflexology. Many also use oils for meditation and relaxation techniques, whilst there are plenty of excellent books that indicate aromatherapy for home use, to blend oils for practice then a qualification in aromatherapy is required, so even if your main interest lies in other fields it is useful to obtain the aromatherapy qualification so that you can blend for individuals as opposed to relying on pre-blended products which may not always have the full therapeutic value you are looking for.
When we talk of Aromatherapy massage most think of the back, neck, and shoulders where in fact every part of the body is included. From head to toe you can also include massage strokes from within other therapies, pressure point massage, Lymphatic drainage and reflex point using the vita flex aromatherapy charts using the Raindrop technique.
Subtle Massage – Chakra’s
Those of you who have completed advanced training in aromatherapy or other subtle healing subjects will have covered Chakric massage. There are seven major chakra’s situated close to major organs and in a line with the spinal column they are connected to the spinal cord via the nervous system.
The word Chakra is Sanskrit for wheel and they are seen as whirling pools of energy. These are used very much as the meridians, by keeping them clear and flowing to allow the free flow of Chi, prana, qi or life force flowing through the body maintaining equilibrium and promoting self healing. It is believed that blocked or impeded energy within these points can result in Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dis-ease.
The 7 majors are Root or Base, Sacral, Solar plexus, Heart, Throat, Brow and Crown.
There are also the Hara Chakra’s:
- Transpersonal, devoted to higher self development (the spirit within)
- Causal, manifestation
- Thymus, immunity and protection
- Diaphragm, old emotions and toxins
- Hara life force centre of the individual, it is also said this is where we store the will to live
- Earth is below the feet, and provides grounding
And is the earth energy pathway via the Hara as the transpersonal provides the heavenly energy pathway to the Hara.
The Aura is the electro-magnetic energy field that surrounds all of us.
- The Etheric (indicator of physical and emotional health)
- Astral (vehicle of our emotions and desires)
- Mental (vehicle of thought)
- Causal (relating to spirit or soul)
A healthy aura is clear and bright, vibrant and iridescent colouring and is oval in shape.
When there are physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually disturbances this will be reflected in the colouring, vibrancy and shape.
Massage of the subtle layers is intuitive, those who are sensitive able to feel or see these energies and able to detect blocks or distortion, and will use these gifts to bring these subtle layers back into equilibrium.
For those who do not class themselves as intuitive or sensitive may feel that working with subtle energies would elude them. However by studying the Chakra’s and their locations and connections it is possible to detect blockages through careful consultation, with the use of aromatics and essential oils known to work on these levels, applied at a physical level such as massage, to encourage the free flow of the life force.
As with all consultation we should not only listen with our ears but also with our eyes and heart, pay as much attention to what is left unsaid as to that we hear. For example a person who has a blocked base/root Chakra, may complain of lower back or leg pain, they may complain of being unsure of what they want (loss of direction). They have eyes cast down and arms folded showing signs of loss of confidence and insecurity.
You may ask about the aura but if we work with all the levels of each individual, without doubt this will reflect and repair the aura.
How Oils Work
By whichever method of application the aroma will be perceived via the nostrils by the olfactory bulb, which relays the information to the Limbic system, which is situated in the brain.
Comprising of structures responsible memories, emotions, influencing the endocrine, autonomic nervous systems. There is some evidence believing it to be involved with the conscious state of mind.
The limbic system developed to manage our flight or fight chemicals and would have been an evolutionary necessity for our ancestors, so by definition of all of the above can we define very complex survival system.
As oils are volatile, minute drops will be air born, as we inhale the aroma, some will be absorbed into the blood stream via the delicate mucous membranes. During massage oils will be absorbed by the skin and nasal passages, into the blood stream.
We have a dual action regardless of the method of application, oils in miniscule amounts will enter the blood stream therefore reaching every area of the body and secondly the accents and chemical constituents received by the olfactory bulb and its transmissions to the brain.
Every essential oil is made up of naturally occurring chemicals, acting either individually or as a compound.
It is these chemicals that give oil their distinctive aroma and properties.
Originally perfumes were made from essential oils but did not offer the stability of fragrance required by the perfumist. Leading to scientist synthetically reconstructing the natural chemicals found. However as it was only the aroma they wanted any chemicals in disputable amounts would be excluded and thus was born fine fragrance.
We know that fine fragrance can lift the mind in the short term but are not able to offer the holistic effect of essential oils because no matter how small the content of any one chemical it is the compound and the holistic action of them all that gives the healing properties to each oil.
Blending – a Friend or Foe?
Some aromatherapists blend selecting oils not only for the desired actions but if they are top middle or base note to create a pleasing aroma.
Others will blend purely by the desired actions and properties required, whilst some will blend purely by intuition.
How each individual blend is a personal thing any of these methods are acceptable, we could say they are all natural and all in nature is harmonious.
Effective results have equally been reported by the use of single oil.
If we think of them, as flowers in an arrangement, there are many arrangements made by combining several varieties, however a display made from one variety can look and smell equally pleasing, as can a display made entirely of foliage and barks.