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Aromatherapy Products

The use of essential oils for therapeutic and cosmetic use has become popular, in recent times. Many different Aromatherapy products are readily available to the consumer, some that are detrimental to the environment.

So do any aromatherapy products stand out from the ‘crowd‘?

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

How are Essential Oils Created?

Essential oils are extracted from plant material using steam or water distillation. Selected plant materials are heated with steam, water or both until the essential oil vaporises. The oil then condenses as it cools.

Being a concentrated plant oil, they should be used sparingly and always diluted in some other medium, such as plain massage oil (cold-pressed vegetable oil) or unscented base cream (but not a mineral oil cream, such as most brands of sorbolene or baby oil)…Aromatic plant oils, including essential oils, should never be ingested (taken in by mouth), as they can be toxic.

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Aromatherapy Product Review

About Utama Spice Products

The farming communities in Bali, Indonesia, produce the raw materials for Utama Spice’s natural skincare products and in so doing, support local farmers in organic farming, bee farming and seaweed farming. The company believe: “if you wouldn’t cook with it, you shouldn’t put it on your body.”

Photo: Utama Spice

Being a graduate of the Environmental Sciences, I like to discover businesses, such as Utama Spice Natural Aromatherapy Products, that can maintain sustainability and a low environmental impact, all whilst working harmoniously and respectfully with humanity and nature, to produce a quality product.

Thus, I was delighted to trial a gift basket of just a few of the many Aromatherapy products, from Utama Spice, based in Bali, Indonesia and found their products to be a beneficial and therapeutic asset in, and around, the home.

Liquid Soaps and Lip Balm

Being someone with sensitive skin, it was refreshing to find the Utama Spice Aromatherapy lip balms and liquid soaps were highly moisturizing, with no hint of dryness or irritation. Based on natural products like coconut oil and beeswax and infused with essential oils to lock in moisture, the aptly named WellKiss Lip Balm was a standout favourite.

The Tangerine and Peppermint Lip Balms were very much appreciated by my daughter, in the windy Spring weather that we frequently experience, living here, by the coast. I can imagine we will be thankful for that level of protectiveness for the lip areas, come wintertime.

Utama Spice’s range of Liquid Soaps

The Man of the House found Lemongrass Liquid Soap was excellent for showering and bathing and that the fresh scent lingered pleasantly in our bathroom, after use.

Or, if you are looking for something a little stronger to use on tougher cleaning jobs, Utama Spice also has an Antiseptic liquid soap, with the benefit of Neem Oil, as an active ingredient to knock down germs.

Body Butter Moisturizers

For those needing a more intensive moisturizer for ultra-dry skin, you will find an application of the Tropical Flower Body Butter, after showering is excellent on cracked heels, as well as those rough spots on the knees and elbows.

therapy products

Moisturizing Soaps and Lotions

As we have been recently planting lots of lavender at the Home by the Sea, I suppose it is no surprise that the family’s overall favourite Utama Spice Aromatherapy product, was the Lavender Liquid soap and Coconut Moisturizing Lotion with Pure Lavender Oil.

Lavender Liquid soap and Coconut Moisturizing Lotion with Pure Lavender Oil.

Yoga Mat Energizing and Sanitizing Spray

Yoga mats can become notoriously grotty if you’re using them outdoors, so the compact size of the Yoga Mat Energizing Spray, was brilliant, meaning I could keep it in my handbag, for regular use after Yoga and exercise sessions.

The added bonus of knowing the essential Oil of Lemon, Bergamot, and Mint were helpful in sanitizing the mat was most reassuring, especially given the current Covid pandemic.

Three varieties of Yoga Mat Spray
Photo Credit: Utama Spice.com

All the products at Utama Spice are based on traditional Balinese herbal knowledge and comprise 100% natural ingredients.

I was really pleased to read that the company maintain strict procedures to ensure the products and the raw materials are checked at every stage, guaranteeing the highest standard of quality control.

Customer Service

The company maintains a friendly relationship with its customers and conducts prompt shipping, with tracking options for orders, at no extra charge. With a flat rate of $10 shipping, (free for orders over $100-AUD), the location is no barrier to customers worldwide.

Please note that I received no monetary incentive for this review.

It is the unbiased and honest opinion of StPA.

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sandy beach
Community, Mental Health, Motivational

Exercise – I hate it, so I found a solution.

When you live in a hot climate, exercising is hard. The will to jog or pump iron in the blistering heat of a steamy summer’s day, is almost impossible to find.

Stradbroke Island
Adder Rock

Entering my fifth decade, I discovered that if I didn’t exercise regularly and followed my ever increasing sedentary lifestyle, my body and its joints quickly became stiff. The flexibility and mobility of my youth was lost. As we age, many of us find this loss might even become permanent, if we don’t find a way to move.

black and white sepia beach

Balance

Balance is also the first of our senses to deteriorate with the passing years, so it is vitally important to find a way to preserve that sense of balance, for as long as you can. How many older folks pass away or deteriorate after a fall and the consequential broken hip?

Gentle Exercise with Benefits

If you find the prospect of jogging or hard aerobic exercise unbearable, as I do, Yoga is the perfect way to begin an exercise routine and achieve some gentle movement, in your body. If you are able to devote a few minutes each morning or even three times a week, you will find that before too long, your body will begin yearning to stretch.

jump happy

Hatha Yoga

The best thing about Yoga is that it is designed for people of all ages and levels of fitness. The beautiful thing about Hatha or most styles of yoga, as opposed to the punishing regime of Bikram or hot yoga, is that it is not competitive. You work at your own pace, listening to your body, gradually encouraging it to stretch and strengthen when it’s ready.

Hatha Yoga practices are designed to align and calm your body, mind, and spirit.

https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/types-of-yoga/hatha

But don’t think you won’t get any sort of workout in Yoga if you like something more challenging. You can choose to push your limits, if you are able, but you will do it gently and safely and calmly. No stress, no over reaching your body. Just gentle stretching.

Digestive Benefits

Practising Yoga not only keeps you fit and toned, but provides innumerable benefits to the internal systems of the body as well. The many forward bending asanas, or positions, stimulate digestion and elimination.

Calming the Nervous System

Twisting poses and backbends stimulate spinal nerves, benefiting the entire nervous system but please start out small, very small, if you haven’t exercised for some time.

Yogic stretches and accompanying breathing techniqes are one of the best way to calm an over-stimulated nervous system, and with regular practice, you’re find that you are able to relax and face life’s difficulties more easily. Inversions – even as simple as forward bending and touching you toes, pump up your blood circulation and can even counteract depressive feelings.

The ancient Yogis believed that holding a ‘downward facing dog’ posture for up to 30 minutes could cure depression! Perhaps that is a stretch, (no pun intended), but I think holding a pose like this, would certainly distract anyone from feeling bad about themselves, albeit temporarily!

What is the Secret?

The breathing exercises incorporated in yoga, bring increased oxygen to the blood, which then washes through the body’s cells, rejuvenating them from the inside out. It is the squeezing and releasing of muscles within the many physical poses that then creates many of the bodily benefits.

Immunity

Yoga asanas may also affect the glands and regulate the production of hormones, something modern medicine finds difficult to control without nasty side effects. In fact, hatha yoga does wonders for all systems of the body and for your general immunity.


Even a small effort at this form of exercise is repaid almost instantly with increased feelings of well being.

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With regular yoga practice, you will quickly notice how your body feels lighter, livelier and more limber.

Depending on the Yoga exercises you choose to do, you can focus on improving your balance, strength and/or flexibility and general mobility.

handstand on sandy beach

More subtle forms of yoga aid and prepare for a meditation that may relieve stress and benefit the body, mind and you, the soul.

Here is how to reduce stress via some simple meditation you can do at home.

For more specific poses for knee and back pain click here at this blog

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Namaste

vigeland
Community

Booted Out of Bikram

A while back I attended two classes in Bikram Yoga. This is yoga performed in a hot room.

You see, I love a good sauna, and I like yoga…. perfect combination? Right?

WRONG!

Classically trained on and off for the past 30 or so years in Iyengar/ Hatha yoga as a recreational pursuit for fun, flexibility and fitness, I decided to give Bikram a go. Despite several warnings from my work colleagues, about the challenging nature of the class, I was ready, or so I thought.

What I wasn’t ready for, however, was the No pain, No gain, six-pack built teacher, complete with “Madonna-style” mic, on raised pedestal, who quickly began barking orders and clicking fingers at the class, like we were some kind of performing seals! 

I was instantly on my guard. This, for me, contradicted all that is appealing about Yoga. Yoga is usually all about relaxing, finding peace and zen, tranquility, and being at one with mind and body. I suddenly felt apprehensive. Let me tell you, the rest of the class didn’t go well.

meditation
Meditation and mantras

Am I a little strange, I thought, at one point? Looking around, I noticed the 17 other people seemed okay with being spoken at like caged circus animals, and relished enduring poses where the objective, according to the instructor, was “pain.” Clearly, this is hard core yoga and the participants enjoyed communing with other overly sweaty bodies in a smelly room, heated to 105 degrees celsius.

When booking in for the class, I was advised to drink at least 3 litres of water, beforehand and here is a tip: do not even think to touch your water bottle, during class, unless instructed to do so by the six pack girl.

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One student was reprimanded for attempting to drink. I say attempting, because he didn’t get to the point of taking a sip. Poor guy had rivers of sweat pouring off his head and body, no exaggeration. This has to mean he was dehydrated and I hate to think of the headache he must have had afterwards.

Then – it is apparently a BIG problem if a student tries to vary a pose, due, let’s say, to a muscle cramp, in a way that is deemed contrary to the Bikram technique. I was told I had to complete the pose, as instructed, and when I explained that I was unable to do so, I was told that unless I did it as instructed I should leave the class.

vigeland

For the record, I stayed and told the instructor I would sit out, if there was pose I couldn’t do the ‘correct’ way the teacher instructed. Unfortunately, the teacher did not provide any alternative poses for those who are hmm, a little more advanced in years, something I was quite used to. It is certainly not an older person’s yoga.

No wonder they ask you to sign a disclaimer that includes the phrase,” that you have in the last 6 months seen a medical practitioner that states that you are safe and fit to do Bikram Yoga and that you are aware …..that there may be….injury, even  paralysis and death.

Are you surprised that I deleted this condition before signing?

When I attended the second class – Yes I did go back, but I was careful to select a class with a different teacher than the one who had asked me to leave midway through. This lady was, I have to say, a little more in tune with Yogic philosophy of, “Listen to your body” etc. I could make it through her class without being reprimanded for being disobedient.

However, this was a morning class, very early, and there was no way I had time to prepare by drinking the 3 litres of water. Thus, when the class was over, I suffered the classic symptoms of heat stroke, and only recovered 6 hours later. I’d suggest it might be dangerous to drive a car in this condition? Do you think so?

So that was was it for me. I forfeited the rest of my class fees and went back to gentle poses with a Hatha Yoga teacher. In my opinion, and it is only my opinion, I think Bikram as it is practised by the first teacher, is an abomination of the concepts of Yoga as I know it.

Feeling ticked off that it is even called Yoga, I began to research this style, and it seems that there are some issues that question the very integrity of Bikram, and these are evident in a basic internet search. Wiki tells us competition is a fundamental tenet of Bikram, something that is anathema to Yoga.

{http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bikram_Yoga] Another controversial component of Bikram yoga pertains to the prevalence of Yoga Asana Championships, regionally and nationally. While practitioners of other forms of yoga maintain that competition contradicts the idea of peace and unity, Bikram contends, “Competition is the foundation for all democratic societies. For without ‘Competition’, there is no democracy.”[

Legal issues

In the United States, {Bikram} Choudhury has claimed and been aggressive in enforcing broad copyrights in most aspects of the practice, teaching, and business of the system. While these claims are not definitively resolved (i.e., by any judicial ruling on the merits), Choudhury has extracted legal settlements from a number of yoga teachers and studios. However, in a recently issued, official statement, US Copyright Office concluded, that the copyright for Bikram’s sequence of 26 postures had been issued in error. Note: {These postures have been done for thousands of years and are not his to copyright at all}

In Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (First Edition), Choudhury claims he conducted “medical” studies at the Tokyo University Medical School validating the medical benefits of his 26 postures. During one of the lawsuits, defendants demanded copies of the “medical” studies and Choudhury claimed he could not find them. In Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (Second Edition), Choudhury removed all references to “medical” studies.[

Competition is necessary in democracy?  Copyright and legal issues? Fraudulent science?

Our six pack advised us that the techniques are “scientifically proven.”

No thanks, I thought. Gentle Yoga and Meditation is the only Yoga I will be doing. Bugger the Bikram.

This is me inwardly cringing

Have you tried Bikram Yoga? What was your experience like?

Something to ponder about in a more relaxing moment.

xanthostemon chrysanthus
Community

Ways to Reduce Stress

Tell a friend you have taken up bead meditation and said ‘friend’ may suddenly look askance, thinking you have gone ‘weird. ‘ But being in touch with your inner ‘flower child,’ can have untold benefits in combating  stress and potentially improving daily life, memory, concentration and overall well-being.

I was introduced to bead meditation some years via after my yoga class, and have to say that I experienced many benefits of a daily five-minute practice. But lately, I have been too busy, too rushed to continue my practice. And now, as I face a stressful time in my life, I have once again turned to Bead meditation.

The practice can be done anyway and or anytime, as long as you can do it uninterrupted. Carry the beads in your bag and you can practise in those few minutes of down time, where you might be ordinarily checking social media on your phone, or whilst waiting in the car for someone, waiting for a bus/train, last thing before bed, even in the loo! For me, it seems to work best first thing in the morning, when I know that I should get up soon, but don’t want to, just yet.

meditation

 

Benefits I have enjoyed from Bead Meditation

  • Sense of Calm
  • Less anxiety
  • More control in crisis or stressful situations
  • Lower Blood pressure
  • More sustained attention span and improvement in effortless single focus concentration
  • Relaxed start to the day
  • Distractions from run-away thoughts or self-destructive negative thinking
  • Increased sense of compassion and empathy
  • Increased energy levels
  • Improved sense of well-being & self-esteem

The secret seems to be in keeping the mind busy on a single activity, and in doing so, worry and stress can not seep into your consciousness.  The mind will try to wander and intrusive thoughts will tug at you, and  if this happens, gently bring it back to the task at hand (sorry no pun intended there) Do this as often as you need.

“The mind is harder to control than the wind”, it was said. So now, not only can the mind be quieted by having something to do, the movement of your fingers on the beads, gives the body something to do and allows the body to feel more content and relaxed.

Prayer beads have a similar purpose, however this is more to do with religious devotion and counting prayers, which is not within my realm to recommend or discuss here. Rather than focusing on spiritual growth, secular meditation techniques such as this, emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation and self-improvement.

flowers

Wiki tells us, “Most of the ancient religions of the world have a tradition of using some type of prayer beads as tools in devotional meditation.[125][126][127] Most prayer beads and Christian rosaries consist of pearls or beads linked together by a thread.[125][126] The Roman Catholic rosary is a string of beads containing five sets with ten small beads. Each set of ten is separated by another bead. The Hindu japa mala has 108 beads, as well as those used in Jainism and Buddhist prayer beads.[128] Each bead is counted once as a person recites a mantra until the person has gone all the way around the mala, which is counted as 100, with an extra 8 there to compensate for missed beads.[128] The Muslim mishbaha has 99 beads. Specific meditations of each religion may be different.”

Method

Start with the head bead ( the one that is large and different) and start chanting a mantra of choice ( samples shown below), and with each repetition, move your fingers along to the next bead, and repeat, until you are completely round the circle. If you have time, reverse and do the same back to the head bead again. This depends on how quickly or how slowly you chant the mantra. Choose a mantra that speaks to you.

You only have to say the mantra loud enough for you to hear. It is not necessary to sing it, or say it loudly. Don’t worry so much about your breathing technique; it is not so important in this form of meditation.

Mantras

The eternal wisdom contained in the yoga texts explains that a ‘mantra’ is a spiritual sound vibration that purifies one’s consciousness and brings about ever-increasing spiritual insight and happiness. When performed as a group, you can really feel that vibration!!

 

  • Gauranga
  • Nityananda
  • Om Hari Om
  • Gopala
  • Govinda
  • Chaitanya Nityananda Gaurhari
  • Gopala Govinda Rama Madana Mohana
  • Haribol Nitagaur Nitaigaur Haribol
  • Madana Mohana Murari
  • Haribol Haribol Haribol

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The following passage, from Wiki illuminates the scientific basis for claiming health benefits of meditation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

Scientific Evidence to Support Benefits

 A study of college students by Oman et al. (2008) found that meditation may produce physiological benefits by changing neurological processes. This finding was supported by an expert panel at the National Institutes of Health. The practice of meditation has also been linked with various favourable outcomes that include: “effective functioning, including academic performance, concentration, perceptual sensitivity, reaction time, memory, self-control, empathy, and self-esteem.”(Oman et al., 2008, pg. 570) In their evaluation of the effects of two meditation-based programs they were able to conclude that meditating had stress reducing effects and cogitation, and also increased forgiveness. (Oman et al., 2008)

Li Chuan Chu (2009), found that meditation enhances overall psychological health and preserves a positive attitude towards stress. (Chu, 2009)

Mindfulness Meditation has now entered the health care domain because of evidence suggesting a positive correlation between the practice and emotional and physical health.

Examples of such benefits include: reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, headaches, pain, elevated blood pressure, etc. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that those who meditated approximately half an hour per day during an eight week period reported that at the end of the period, they were better able to act in a state of awareness and observation. Respondents also said they felt non-judgmental. (Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch, 2011)

“Meditation as Medicine” (American Academy of Neurology) [150] cites scientific evidence from various studies which claim that meditation can increase attention span, sharpen focus, improve memory, and dull the perception of pain.

A review of scientific studies identified relaxation, concentration, an altered state of awareness, a suspension of logical thought and the maintenance of a self-observing attitude as the behavioral components of meditation;[67] it is accompanied by a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body that alter metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain activation.[46][152]

Meditation has been used in clinical settings as a method of stress and pain reduction. Meditation has also been studied specifically for its effects on stress.

 

Some people feel meditation is an alien concept and take it like they would a bitter pill, while others embrace it wholeheartedly. Are they the less stressed?

It will be something I shall ponder about what you make of it.

schnauzer at beach

 

Community

Be a Warrior Every Morning – Fight the Aging Process

I find as I we get older, our bodies begin to show signs of wear and tear. We can easily pull a muscle bending down to pick up something, especially first thing in the morning.

One way to combat the aging process is to maintain a regular stretching regime.  Our bodies LOVE to stretch and it is the best and most natural activity to do when we first get up in the mornings.

Stretching warms up and activates our muscles getting us ready for the day.  A muscle that is regularly stretched will be less likely to strain or “pull.”

A sun salutation practice is a group of Yoga exercises that incorporates a stretch of every  muscle in the body.

https://i2.wp.com/www.yogaoutlet.com/userfiles/image/Yoga_WarriorII_02_300x350.jpg

One of the exercises I do in my “sun salutation,’ or morning ritual, is the Warrior Pose. It not only strengthens the arms and hips, but also stretches the groin and legs and can help reduce backache.

  1. From a standing position, inhale and exhale as you step your feet 3 feet apart or further if comfortable. You know your body best and what is comfortable for you. Do not overstretch!!!
  2. Inhale and float your arms out to the side at shoulder height. Turn your right foot out to point ahead and your back foot in at a 45 degree angle. Turn your head to look out over your fingertips and front foot.

3.Exhale and bend your right knee until your thigh runs horizontal to the floor (or as near to horizontal as it can get and don’t be too ambitious at first). Turn your head to look out over your fingertips and front foot. Extend out through your arms and slide your shoulders down to create space between your head and neck area.

Alignment is important. (See photo) Shoulders over hips, front knee over second toe and ankle, arms at shoulder height, heels in line.

N.B. If you find it hard to balance, practise against a wall, This will also assist you in maintaining the correct alignment.

4.  Lift your torso up to open your chest and improve respiratory capacity. Inhale and exhale slowly for 5 breaths.

  1. Exhale completely before inhaling and straightening the bent leg. Keeping your knees soft, turn both feet back to centre.
  • Repeat on the other side.

  • A great way to start the day. I have been starting my day this way for 30 years now!

    Something to Ponder About.

     

     

    Community

    Therapeutic Hunger – when it is good not to finish all on your plate!

    Interesting concept we can all adopt.

    Abridged from:

    http://bhardwazbhardwaz.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/therapeutic-hunger-necessary-for-good-health/comment-page-2/#comment-382

    Therapeutic Hunger: Habitual Mindless eating to Mindful eatingDSC00905

    Therapeutic Hunger: Necessary for good health

    I want to coin this term “Therapeutic Hunger” (TH), to differentiate it from the hunger that is associated with problem issues like famine, poverty and eating disorders.

    “Therapeutic Hunger” (TH) is residual hunger that is still left when we don’t eat stomach full.  When we finish meals, and have eaten just the right quantity of food, that we don’t feel full. This sweet hunger is very therapeutic, as it helps optimise digestion, proper absorption of nutrients, and enough space for elimination of waste.

    TH is a signal for body organs to more efficiently. Our body parts have evolved to work in such a way, so as to conserve energy. They will not perform any unnecessary work. So when there is plenty of food supply, they don’t need to extract nutrients most efficiently or digest fully. Also abdomen is like a food processor, when filled over the limit it can’t process food very well. It needs space to digest the food.

    Thus if we make it a habit to always eat just the amount of food, so as to leave some “Therapeutic Hunger” (TH). It will improve health by controlling weight, digesting food, absorbing nutrients. It seems hard in the beginning, but later it feels good like sweet hunger. That remaining hunger is a very good feeling, and one can enjoy various tastes of the foods, digestion and good health.

    Now a days, when we are used to eating on fixed time and fixed amounts. We have time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The serving sizes are also more or less fixed, as suggested by food recipes. Even the most weight loss programs suggest the size of meals. Instead of habit of eating at fixed times, and fixed quantities, we should build or senses to eat when we are hungry and the right amount for individual need. Dependence on stimulating agents like coffee, team, alcohol, tobacco etc. also doesn’t help. These substances mask our senses and we slowly lose control.

    • Always leave some space for food to process, and digest. No over eating.
    • Enhance your senses, move from habitual Mindless eating to Mindful eating.
    • Food is just one channel of life force, there are others. Don’t ignore other forces that sustain life – breathing, sun, and other cosmic energies. When you eat less, body will automatically draw more from other life forces.