Using Essential Oils For Muscles, Tendons And Ligaments For The Yoga Practitioner
Practitioners of yoga asana, of any style, are likely to be tuned into the world of alternative medicine. While many may have heard of aromatherapy and essential oils however, few are aware of what a fantastic healing synergy the oils have for the yogi’s body and mind. From relieving superficial soreness and healing deeper injuries, to boosting immune system function and warding off illness, to more esoteric actions of releasing emotional blocks and even stimulating the “third eye” — essential oils truly have much to offer the yogi of the West. In this first of a two part series, we’ll look at effectively managing pain and injuries to the soft tissues of the body.
Whether one has just started a practice of yoga asana, or has been practicing for twenty years, injuries can occur. Of course, the longer one has been practicing, the less likely this injury will occur “on the mat”. Either way, we’d really like to get back into the swing of our practice, and our lives, as quickly as possible. Essential oils actually have proven therapeutic effects (see, for example, pubmed.gov and search for “essential oil inflammation”) for the healing of muscles, tendons and ligaments. Effective blends will combine inflammation reduction, pain relief, and regenerative actions all in one formula.
When healing physical injuries, be they chronic or acute, the process must begin with reducing inflammation. This allows the exchange of damaged material out, and healing nutrients in, to the injured area. Reducing inflammation also reduces the potential for further inflammation, as well as reducing pain. Proven anti-inflammatory agents are found in the oils of ginger, German “blue” chamomile, frankincense and plai — a root oil from Thailand, similar to ginger. (Note that the “CO2 extract” oils are likely the more potent oils for this action, and are available from specialty online retailers).
Next we’ll include an oil or two to stimulate tissue regeneration. Lavender is a very well known oil, which actually began the modern aroma-medicine movement because of its inflammation-reducing, regeneration-stimulating actions. (A quick digression: a chemist burned his hand and submersed it in the first liquid he could find, which was a container of lavender essential oil. His hand healed so fast that he wrote a book about it, in French, called “Aromatherapie”). Helichrysum essential oil is even more potent than lavender, yet some may find its high cost prohibitive (it’s distilled from tiny yellow flowers from plants growing only in certain climates in Europe).
A fantastic, highly effective, formula would include the CO2 distilled oils of ginger, German chamomile, and frankincense and the steam distilled oil of Helichrysum. To make one ounce of the blend, add these oils to an empty one ounce bottle, then top it off with any seed or nut massage oil “base” (such as sweet almond or grapeseed — or any unscented body cream or lotion). Use 5 milliliters of helichrysum, 2 ml lavender, 1/2 ml each of ginger and frankincense. (You can reduce the helichrysum to 3 ml to reduce the cost of the blend, or instead use plai essential oil).
While helichrysum is considered the finest essential oil for healing of our connective tissues, muscles and even skin, its cost can be prohibitive. Plai essential oil, distilled from a root similar to ginger native to Thailand has recently been researched for similar effects. And if its even more pain relief you’re looking for, wintergreen can be an excellent choice (wintergreen should be used with caution — it is chemically equivalent to aspirin; it should only be used as needed and kept away from children). Marjoram, too, is known for its analgesic, anti-inflammatory action. If you need to forgo the helichrysum, try this recipe — for one ounce, use: 3ml plai, 2ml wintergreen, and 1ml each lavender and sweet marjoram.
The yoga practitioner will find at least one, and perhaps both of these blends very effective at complementing their physical practice. It will also open the door to a whole world of aroma medicine, which ranges from purely medical applications to purely esoteric ones — a feature that is likely to deeply interest those who’s yoga is an integral part of their lifestyle.