Be Guided by the Scent

Posted on November 20th, 2021 by

aromatherapy in yoga

 

CLOSE YOUR EYES

Something you may not have considered before is how our 5 senses are stimulated or curtailed by modern life.

Our built up urban environment with excessive time spent indoors and on screens generally places a heavy reliance on our sense of Sight in order to navigate daily life (see Hutmacher, 2019, for a review).

Of the 5 senses, the sense that receives the least attention is our sense of smell. Yet there is an emerging realization that actually despite being underrated, our sense of smell is powerful (McGann, 2017).

From an evolutionary psychological perspective (Wilson, 1984) smell could be considered our most primal sense. Our smell was integral to our survival instincts. From smelling out food, to danger or to a mate in our natural environment.

Remarkably,  the sense of smell is the only fully developed sense that a foetus has in the womb according to expert fragrance designer Dawn Goldworm.

 

SMELL, EMOTIONS & MEMORY

Have you ever wondered why a sudden smell can transcend and propel you into nostalgia?

Or how a waft can suddenly incite a whole host of emotions and memories?

It’s because the olfactory bulb in your brain processes the smell of odours and sends the information directly to the limbic system which include the amygdala and hippocampus, the regions related to emotion and memory.

Smell is the most developed sense for children up to the age of 10 (when sight takes over). Therefore your childhood is pivotal in setting up the foundations of your smell preferences for your lifetime.

I was first introduced to aromatherapy as a teenager in the 1990’s when my mother trained as an aromatherapist.

This meant that I grew up in a house where there was always an essential oil blend to work with for any condition or ailment whether physical, mental or emotional. Smelling and knowing the healing properties of each oil became second nature in our household. Here’s my article on home-made self care products using essential oils

I think this is the reason as to why I’ve never been able to tolerate the smell of designer perfumes, fragrances or body sprays.  I’ve felt like this ever since my teens when the boys drenched themselves in cologne and emptied cans of lynx over themselves and the girls wafted around in a heavy mist of ‘Impulse’.

 

ARTIFICIAL VS NATURAL

Still to this day I have always found the smell of branded designer fragrances and perfumes noxious, sickly and quite repellent.

As it turns out, so rightly so! I’ve since learned that synthetic fragrances (a.k.a parfums) used within mainstream perfumes (which people spend a fortune on btw…) are created in a lab usually from petroleum and natural gas byproducts.

They and are loaded with nasty chemical compounds such as parabens, phthalates, benzene, methanol, toluene or xylene which are found to accumulate in the body and disrupt the fine balance of the endocrine system, meaning, they’ve been shown to affect hormone levels.

(How can this be allowed to happen you wonder? Because proprietary law mean that brands can keep their unique special recipes undisclosed to prevent imitation but inadvertently allows them to also hide the nasties….So If you see the words ‘parfum’ or ‘fragrance’ in the ingredients list, I’d say put the bottle down and walk away!)

 

NATURE SMELLS NICE

Hopefully it goes without saying that being a human being means that we are part of nature and so being in nature is optimal for our wellbeing!

This is why we like the smell of natural things! Research has found that scents associated with natural flowers, plants, herbs, spices and plants can be used to help us relax and sleep better at night, and make us more alert and productive during the day (see Spence, 2021, for a review).

Thankfully nowadays the wellbeing industry has cottoned onto this fact and there are  so many more natural based options available on the market.

 

STOP INHALE RESET

I’ve recently come across a 100% natural aromatherapy company called Scentered who recognise the powerful therapeutic effects of scents from nature in restoring balance in our hectic lives.

Scentered’s essential oil blends are crafted to remedy ailments such as stress, insomnia, lack of clarity or low moods.

Their blends are cultivated as body oils, bath products, natural balms or candles. The blends stimulate the sense of smell to affect how you feel in any given moment. Their 6 main blends include Stress Less, Sleep Well, Focus, Love, Escape & Be Happy.

 

yoga and essential oils

 

I had some amazing results using ‘STRESS LESS’ therapy balm during a facial massage I gave to a client of mine who had suffered with COVID a few weeks ago. COVID had left her with with an impaired sense of smell. She was really disturbed by how her sense of taste and smell had been awol or non-existent for weeks. Stress Less therapy balm contains chamomile, neroli & mandarin and I gently applied it whilst massaging the cranial pressure points around her upper jaw and forehead. She was so delighted to report that she could actually smell the beautiful scents of the therapy balm!

 

yoga massage essential oil

I’ve loved burning the Scentered’s ‘SLEEP WELL’ blend Candle during yoga classes. It contains palmarosa, lavender & ylang ylang and creates a really relaxing restorative ambience.

It’s been my pleasure to use and endorse Scentered’s beautiful products because I respect their company ethos. Not only do they ensure that all of their ingredients are fully natural and sustainably sourced, but their packaging is completely recyclable and they give 10% of their net profit to ‘Women for Women International’ charity (no 1115109). Win Win! You can gift yourself and your loved one these products over at their website here

 

FOLLOW YOUR NOSE

The expressions ‘follow your nose’ or ‘I smell a rat’ suggests to us that our sense of smell can be our inner guide. Animals that rely on their instincts for survival tend to have an excellent sense of smell. Could it be that if we develop and improve our sense of smell, we sharpen our instincts and intuition?

 

YOGA & THE SENSES

Yoga teaches us that if we want to attain peace and balance in our lives, it’s important to regularly take control of our senses to improve focus and mental stability. This prevents us from being mentally pulled around, overwhelmed or overburdened from the external world.

The yoga practice of drawing our senses away from external stimulation and inwards towards ourselves is known as the Pratyahara.

Pratayhara forms the precursor to focused concentration which is required for meditation. We can use mindful regulation of our breath (pranayama) as a focal point to actually guiding our senses inward.

I would suggest that given that our sense of smell is so underused and undervalued nowadays, it’s actually hugely beneficial to incorporate a subtle awareness of scent into the breath-work for improved meditation.

Through the subtle use of essential oils we can enhance our focus and help with centring our attention to facilitate a state of meditation.

Adding a scent to the context of meditation also creates a positively reinforcing association to help build a regular meditation practice.

 

Here’s a 5 minute even breath-work practice that you can try whilst using some aromatherapy

 

Sama Vritti means even breath. Equalising the inhale to exhale ratio creates balance, harmony and a sense of stability. Here I’ve added the Scentered SLEEP WELL therapy balm to my pressure points to help steer my senses inward.