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May 20, 2020

Contemplation: Essential oils for “Breathing”

This week I created a blend called “Breathe Joy” for a special person who is a huge source of inspiration in my life. And as most things do, it got me thinking.  

Blending is a contemplative practice for me, and the word “breathe” is a pretty intense one. Interestingly, the medical term for inhaling is “inspiration.”  (More on this later.)

As a former American Sign Language interpreter, I enjoy reflecting on how a sign interacts with the conventional meaning of the English equivalent, how I feel signing it in various contexts, and the personal insights this offers. It’s a mind-body practice. In ASL, “breathe” looks like this:  

Take a moment and try for yourself. Get inside the experience. Sign YOUR breathing: this is the basic movement, but play with the pace, size, and flow until it fits your body and emotions. Notice how you feel. How are YOU making the sign, and what’s behind it? Peace? Release? Panic? What’s your facial expression? What does that tell you? It can help to journal on these ideas. 

There’s a lot here. 

Now, think about a client who emphatically pleads to anyone who will hear: “I. just. need. to. breathe.”

Sometimes breathing is about respiratory congestion. Sometimes it’s about emotional suffocation. Sometimes it’s a tool for meditative practice. Sometimes it’s simply a pleasure, and sometimes we forget we’re even doing it. But breathing is critical to our survival and “thrival” on all levels, and what we need to breathe in each circumstance (and beyond) can be shockingly different.

Do you see just how much that can influence the emotional landscape of a blend?

We often turn to leaf or needle oils, both from a chemistry and an energetic perspective. They’re expansive, often mucolytic or anti-inflammatory, green, herbal… it makes sense, but it can be a default setting.

To illustrate: what if your client tells you, “I need to feel grounded before I can breathe.”  


So when you’re blending for a client…  

Ask. Dig deeper. 

For instance, “what’s under that need?”  

Or you can offer prompts, and you can explore the emotional tempo, the visceral feelings/need, a color, a feeling inside OR outside their body and personal space, and so on. Some ideas: 

  • “How does it feel in your body when you just need to breathe?” (look for emotion words and physical sensations)
  • “What kind of help do you need to get there?”  (some people don’t know, some do)
  • “Do you need to feel more grounded?” (what oils ground them?) 
  • “Do you need more room to breathe?”  (this is more expansive, yes?)
  • “Do you need things to slow down a bit?” (how do essential oils relate to time? oooh!)

Such a HUGE difference this can make in our approach. Do you see it?

So, what about “Breathe Joy”?  Well, if you ask me and my view of the person I held in my heart… that’s the key to this interpretation. I did indeed use a leaf oil, but one that I find very heart centered – Geranium, and maybe that’s because of its rosy aroma? Some things don’t need to be figured out, just felt. Exquisite floral Neroli settles us within the heart for grounding, peace, and spiritual inspiration. (See? There are many layers to grounding, and there’s our “inspiration.”) Grapefruit is the outbreath in this blend – returning to the world with a full heart, nourishing the things we’ve set in motion, infusing them with joy. And we can of course visit the d-limonene, linalool, citronellol, and geraniol to honor the way in which chemistry and energetics are often just different sides of the same coin.  

I’d love to know how this impacts your next blend for a client or yourself, or perhaps your experiences as you sign “Breathe” and what oils that calls to mind for you. What needs come up, and how do you honor them aromatically? Please share in the comments. 

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Michelle Gilbert

Michelle Gilbert, CCA, APAIA, R.SPE.P. is an educator and writer who helps aromatherapy entrepreneurs create better products, services, and results. Her work has been featured in Prevention, AromaCulture, and Health. She offers personal mentoring, freelance writing, and formulation review services for professionals and entrepreneurs who want more income and satisfaction from their work with essential oils.

  • Breathe Joy ~ I love this! When I think about breathing I think of clear and clean scents, but I’m not sure what those would be? The world of essential oils is so fascinating !

    • It is indeed fascinating, Larkin! We have research to connect with your intuitive sense, so choosing oils with typically fresh aromas does line up, particularly for anti-inflammatory or mucolytic compounds in leaf oils such as conifers, mints, eucalyptus, etc – even citruses. When a person is feeling constricted on an emotional level, this is also a great time to explore what needs to be in place so they can feeling safer or more settled to release into their breath.

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