Self-Care, Self-Love

Ylang Ylang can be beneficial for heart health. 

Mid-winter has arrived, marked on Feb. 1 by Imbolic, an ancient celebration honoring the inklings of spring’s return. Despite a snowy two months ahead, the wheel of life keeps turning; thankfully, daylight has increased, and soon new life will be sprouting forth in all forms.

February’s infamous red hearts everywhere remind us of love and Valentine’s Day. But this is American Heart Month, too, when the American Heart Association encourages us to focus on improving and maintaining cardiovascular health. This is a great time to rebuild the momentum of New Year’s resolutions and goals and re-ignite energy and find renewed inspiration. Taking some time to renew and rejuvenate this month will give you the energy you need for a vibrant spring.

Try to reduce or eliminate the little things you have indulged in over the recent holiday season. Drink more water, use less sugar, reduce heavier foods and abstain from alcohol. In addition to these basic steps that help to support your heart health, incorporating mindfulness techniques and aromatherapy into your lifestyle will provide you with healthier ways of dealing with everyday stressors.

Our mindset and how we react to situations in life play a significant role in our heart health. There are some simple techniques to help you find ways to practice self-care and support heart health in ways you might not have previously recognized as beneficial for your heart. A positive mindset can help you feel less stressed and less frustrated, which is also healthier for your heart.

Using affirmations and prayer is an act of self-love. Being in nature each day, even if only for a short period of time can help release a significant amount of stress. The combination of natural light, fresh air and the great outdoors offers significant mood enhancing and health benefits. Humans are naturally designed beings and spending time in nature promotes general wellness because we literally recharge from the natural world. My personal favorite is a forest bath. I am fortunate to live on six acres and can easily step into the forest to immerse myself in its aromatic, majestic glory and literally feel the stress and tension of whatever might be happening in my life melt away.

Sacred, sound prayer or affirmations are powerful ways to quiet a busy mind and connect to the heart center. That and meditation can be beneficial to your heart health as well. The Sanskrit mantra, “Aham Prema” (which translates to, “I am divine love”) is a potent and powerful mantra that when recited instills a warm, peaceful and loving sensation from within the heart center. In fact, it has been a favorite heart chakra mantra of mine for many years, helping me heal sadness; it has also supported the growth of my personal self-worth over the years. Incorporating mantra, prayer or affirmations on love are beneficial to overall physical wellness and emotional balance.

The heat chakra is located at the center of the chest; each chakra has a seed sound associated with it. The heart chakra, also known as Anahata, correlates to the seed sound of “yum.” Chanting “yum” helps balance to this special energy center. Using specific mantras such as Aham Prema can facilitate energetic changes within. Chanting Sanskrit mantras increases spiritual energy. For nearly 23 years, I have therapeutically used mantras. I have been amazed by the transformative benefits of using specific mantras for my physical and emotional health as well as for balancing out karma (such as attracting desired results, opportunities and experiences).

Yoga is also a wonderful movement practice to support heart health. It has been shown to have profound effects on the health of the heart, as it greatly reduces stress, lowers high blood pressure and is an excellent exercise since it also strengthens muscles and bones while increasing flexibility in the body.

Last but not least in heart health is Ylang Ylang essential oil. It has been used historically throughout the East and West. In Indonesia, Ylang Ylang petals are scattered over the bed of couples on their wedding night, likely because of its aphrodisiac qualities as well as its supportive benefits for health, pregnancy and babies. In the Philippines, Ylang Ylang has been used in salves to soothe a myriad of skin concerns such as insect bites, snake bites, cuts, scrapes and burns. In the 20th century, French chemists Garnier and Rechler discovered Ylang Ylang was effective for many health issues, including malaria, typhus and intestinal infections. They also noted the calming effects of Ylang Ylang on the heart during times of distress. Oriental health practitioners have used Ylang Ylang for its calming benefits on the heart.

Ylang Ylang’s heavenly sweet, fragrant aroma makes prized essential oil for the cosmetic and beauty industry. In addition to its gratifying aroma, Ylang Ylang’s calming compounds can help provide a good night’s rest. Ylang Ylang has also been found to alleviate depression. This powerful plant oil is considered an effective anti-depressant, anti-septic and anti-spasmodic. Ylang Ylang has a positive effect on immune health, blood flow and emotions. It can be used as a natural remedy to support the endocrine, cardiovascular and reproductive systems. You might be surprised to learn that Ylang Ylang essential oil has even been studied for its ability to reduce blood pressure!

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Michelle Davis is an esthetician, Reiki practitioner, yoga instructor and owner of Essential Wellness in Keene.