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By Ellen Ashton-Haiste
‘If it smells good, enjoy it,’ may well be the new mantra for aromatherapy, which is quickly growing in popularity at spas and natural health clinics across the country. Smell is our most enduring sense. It can transform our emotions, evoke happy or comforting memories and promote relaxation. But more than just fragrant scents, the practice of aromatherapy, using pure essential oils from plants, is increasingly recognized as a healing art.
“Within the last few years aromatherapy has become much more popular, as I think clients are becoming more aware of the benefits,” says Renata Rychlewski, team leader for massage at Elmwood Spa, where aromatherapy is combined with massage.
“In Canada there is certainly a growing awareness of aromatherapy as a healing art,” agrees Joy Watson, president of the Waterloo-based Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists (CFA), the voluntary, federally chartered organization that sets educational and practice standards which allow members to use the designation CAHP (certified aromatherapy health professional). In fact, the CFA launched its first awareness week this month to further promote that awareness.
As part of the campaign, the organization produced a brochure outlining the benefits of this complementary therapy for conditions from skin problems to digestive disorders, muscular skeletal and even emotional issues.
At Elmwood Spa combination blends of essential oils are used with massage to address five specific conditions, which Rychlewski says are the ones most often identified by clients as problem areas.
Rychlewski notes that Elmwood also offers Li’TYA aromatic massages, using Australian Aboriginal healing techniques and native plant essential oils and extracts in three combinations to balance hormones, detoxify or to balance emotions. The treatment is chosen by having the client smell the oils and the body will pick the one it needs. “You might be thinking ‘I sure need a detox today’ but your body might pick something else completely,” she says.
Even with the combination massages, the choice is sometimes made that way, she adds. Most people will come with a specific need; sore muscles, joint pain, low energy levels, problems sleeping, but sometimes they aren’t sure what they need. “In those cases the therapist will have them smell the oils and choose from there as the body takes over.”
While the combinations are standard, the massage will vary depending on what’s happening in the body and which parts require special focus, Rychlewski says. But, she points out, it’s always a lighter pressure, as opposed to a deep tissue massage, since the idea is to facilitate the absorption of the essential oils into the body and the circulatory system.
For the same reason, clients are advised not to hit the pool or Jacuzzi or even to shower following an aromatherapy massage. “You want to give the oils a chance to completely absorb into the skin and not wash off,” she says. On the other hand, a sauna afterwards can have the opposite effect, opening up the pores and speeding up the absorption.
Elmwood’s aromatherapy massages last 50 or 80 minutes. Rychlewski says it’s best to start with a shorter one and gradually work up to longer times, as it may take the body time to adjust.
Feeling the results can happen right away or may take some time, she says. If it’s a muscle issue, perhaps from working out, the benefits may be readily apparent. “The juniper will help to detoxify and increase circulation into the muscles and tissues.” And, for someone feeling very stressed, the effects of a relaxation treatment may be felt quickly. For others, however, it can take time to begin to really know they’re working. “And the more treatments you have, the more results you can see,” she adds.
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