Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Combating Holiday Stress with Healing Exercises and Essential Oils

The holiday season is approaching, and, unfortunately, many of us tend to get bogged down with stress instead of enjoying the small pleasures of the season. It is far too easy to feel dragged down and drawn out while rushing to get last-minute, year-end items at work completed, or in our quest to create the perfect holiday experience for ourselves and our loved ones. In the coming months, if you feel stress and anxiety creeping up, we suggest you turn to short, simple healing exercises based in Chinese medicine, and add in an essential oil blend to center, ground, and rejuvenate your mind and body.

Steven Cardoza's new book, Chinese Healing Exercises, is filled with 88 simple exercises— that can be performed by anyone, regardless of age or health—that are based on acupressure, Taiji, Qi Gong, Daoist yoga, and other traditional Chinese health practices. Separated into chapters by parts of the body, and with a multitude of illustrations and an index of which exercises to use for common ailments ranging from arthritis to weight loss, Chinese Healing Exercises is perfect both for everyday use and for those moments when you need a little pick-me-up. Below we have included two exercises, the Temple Massage and the Face Wash and Wipe Down, that combat stress and that can be easily performed anywhere.

Temple Massage
Massage can serve many purposes. This one addresses two common ones, that of relaxing tight or tense muscles, and of encouraging qi flow. Together, that can improve local blood circulation as a bonus. Many people don’t consider that the scalp is covered in muscle. The muscles at the temples are aptly named the temporalis muscles. The main acupuncture meridian at that location is the Gall Bladder meridian. In addition to the benefits common to all these exercises, this one is useful in relieving both tension and migraine headaches.

Place the tips of two or three fingers, whichever is most comfortable, at both temples, slightly above and in front of your ears. If you press directly towards your skull, you may feel indentations in the bones there. While those are the most advantageous spots for your fingertips, don't worry if you can't find them, anything in that area will be of benefit.

Start gently at first, but gradually apply more pressure as you make small circles with your fingertips.
Use "attractive force," that is, don't let your fingers slide over the surface of your skin, but engage the muscles below. Circle your fingertips 10-12 times forward, and then the same number of times backwards. If you're prone to headaches or stress, you may feel the muscles ache under the pressure. That's not dangerous, and is in fact beneficial and necessary to relive the tension there. Don't use so much pressure that it actually hurts, though. That's never a good idea. You can repeat the cycle of 10-12 circles in each direction two or three times if you'd like.

Face Wash and Wipe Down
This is a necessary concluding step to be done after the preceding face, head, and sense organ exercises. The daily lives of most people bring excessive amounts of qi to the head, because of the overuse of the eyes in particular, reading, working at a computer, and watching television. Listening to music or lectures throughout the day, and being involved in any sort of mental work similarly brings a lot of qi to the head, and care must be taken to remove that qi, or it can, and often does, get stuck and create a variety of problems. Some of those problems may include headache, eye strain, diminished vision, ringing in the ears, cloudy thinking, memory problems, or any number of other sensory, emotional or cognitive changes. The Temple Massage exercise is designed in part to disperse any such excess, but it's not an absolute guarantee especially in someone conditioned to bring qi upwards out of daily habit, so this Wipe Down is an important final step.

Begin by rubbing your hands together until they are comfortably warm. Then rub your hands over your face as though you were washing it, using just enough pressure to move the muscles under your skin. This activates the qi and moves the blood, in no particular direction, just stirring and breaking up any pockets of stagnation that might be present. Do this for just a few minutes, being sure to wash over every area of your face, neck and head. Then place your hands at the top of your head, keep them in physical contact with your body, and wipe down the front of your face, neck, chest and belly, to just below your belly button. Bring them to the top of your head once more, and wipe down the sides of your head, over your ears, the sides of your neck, and then again down the front of your chest and belly, to just below your belly button. Bring your hands to the top of your head one last time, and wipe down the back of your head and neck, and then again down the front of your chest and belly, to just below your belly button. You can do this sequence one to three times, more or less to taste. On the last time, leave your hands just below your belly button for a minute or so, and allow your mind to gently focus and settle there. The wiping down motion will bring the qi out of your head and into your body, which is the most important part of this ending practice. Even if you can't sense qi at all, placing your hands just below your belly button and focusing your mind there will direct your qi to your dantian. To whatever extent you may be able to store qi even unconsciously, this will facilitate that process.

Add a Magical Essential Oil Blend
Scents can stimulate, inspire, and enchant us; they can also be powerful aids in creating magical change. Sandra Kynes's new Mixing Essential Oils for Magic is a straightforward guide that helps you understand how to choose the best oils for your own creative and magical mixing. Not only will you find step-by-step instructions on how to measure, mix, and assess blends, but you will also gain a full understanding of essential and carrier oils and how they work together. The book is divided into three sections: the historical background of oils and their present-day uses, an encyclopedic listing of plant profiles from which essential and carrier oils come, and thorough cross-references for the oils and their magical associations. Learn about the historical uses of scent in ritual, how to blend oils by botanical family, scent group, perfume note, or magical association, and also how to make unique mixes an integral part of your spiritual and magical practices.

Below is an essential oil recipe that Sandra shares in Mixing Essential Oils for Magic.

Grounding Essential Oil Blend
This grounding blend is perfect for use after rituals or whenever you need help bringing your energy back to a mundane level. This blend was created using the single scent group method of selecting oils (covered in Chapter 4 of Mixing Essential Oils for Magic). This blend uses three oils from the woody scent group: patchouli, cypress, and vetiver. Both cypress and patchouli are associated with grounding and vetiver with balance. All three oils are associated with protection, adding an additional sense of security. Jojoba is a good carrier oil, as it supports the grounding and centering of energy as well as balance.

Patchouli: 20 drops
Cypress: 15 drops
Vetiver: 5 drops
Jojoba: 2ml (½ teaspoon) Carrier oil

For most magical applications, your essential oil blends can be used in place of actual herbs (except for eating them) in spells, charms, and as amulets. The more you enjoy blending the oils, the more uses you will find for them.

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