By Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist
It probably has not escaped your notice that when we talk about the therapeutic value of aromatherapy, we often refer to the benefits for mind and body, as well as the spirit.
And, recently, we discussed how holistic aromatherapy helps bring balance to all three aspects in What Does Holistic Have to Do With Our Health. It is this harmony in our whole being that helps us sustain better wellbeing.
Sometimes, though, it is best to approach the specific needs of one aspect of our being, before the rest of our selves can come back into a better state of balance. Most of us are familiar with how aromatherapy can support the needs of mind and our body. But, what about when it comes to support of the spirit?
By nature, this realm may feel more ethereal, but it is no less important. Balance in our spirit in actuality is a vitally important source of our wellbeing.
In The Wonderful Wide World of Aromatherapy, we outlined the many approaches to aromatherapy practice. When we want to start by specifically addressing the needs of the spirit, we turn to the practice of subtle aromatherapy.
So, what exactly is subtle aromatherapy?
With subtle aromatherapy, we use essential oils and aromatic extracts to support sources of imbalance in our core being with the intention of encouraging wellness from the inside out. Rather than starting with the mind, or the body, we start with what we often refer to as the spirit, but more specifically encompassing our entire subtle body.
From this perspective, we see ourselves as whole beings comprised of the following interconnected aspects of our existence:
- Emotional/Mental Body
- Physical Body
- Subtle Body
Our subtle body includes what we would call our spirit, life force, soul or core essence, our psyche, and our natural energy flow.
It is important to note when we are talking about caring for the spirit, or our subtle body, we are not talking about religion, nor the supernatural. Subtle aromatherapy transcends our own personal belief systems about our core essence and how we individually see and feel a sense of connection to higher consciousness while working with our natural energy flow.
Just as with our mental/emotional bodies, and our physical body, our subtle body seeks balance. Imbalances in our energy flow frequently form as blocks. We can work to release these blocks with various approaches to influence the energy flow in the subtle body. When we are out of balance to the point our whole being cannot compensate, we can seek support from qualified practitioners.
How Do We Balance Our Natural Energy Flow?
From an Eastern medicine perspective, there are two traditions of working with energy which you are likely familiar. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) comes to us from ancient China. Acupuncture is one of the most visible aspects of TCM to bring balance to our natural energy flow through the meridian pathways. From ancient India, we have Ayurveda. In this tradition of medicine, our natural energy flows through the chakra system. One familiar aspect of the Ayurvedic tradition is yoga, which helped introduce the concept of chakras to the West. The flow of yoga helps to open and move our energy through the chakras.
From the Western perspective, we have combined modern studies of psychology and human development with ancient understandings of the chakra and general energy systems. We can create balance in an approach called energy medicine or energy healing by using our hands. There are many types of techniques with qualified and professional hands-on practitioners. Reiki and Therapeutic Touch are two common examples often performed in major medical centers.
My personal training and experience is with the western approach to energy medicine and the chakra system. Before I trained as an aromatherapy practitioner, I trained as a hands-on energy medicine practitioner. During my clinical internship at a large, urban, bustling teaching hospital, the patients I served during that 6 months reported a nearly 60% reduction in pain overall measured pre- and post-energy therapy sessions.
Because I was grounded in both energy work and aromatherapy, I intuitively longed to bring both together into one practice. I was delighted to discover others had already done so opening up the path for me for learn and practice both of my passions through the synergy of subtle aromatherapy.
In 1991, Patricia Davis published “Subtle Aromatherapy,” in which she discusses bringing together aromatherapy and chakra balancing into one practice. In essence, she defined subtle aromatherapy as working with aromatic essences to affect non-physical elements of our being.
In 1997, Gabriel Mojay published “Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit.” In his work, Mojay discusses the use of essential oils for healing the psyche and the spirit by influencing energy flow from the perspective Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Both pioneering works put to paper what many had intuitively felt creating pathways to learning that remain relevant and often referred today. Today, there are even more aromatherapy thought leaders, educators and practitioners coming from both systems of energy work to pursue your area of passion.
Depending on your own unique needs, the practice of subtle aromatherapy can be integrated to support other forms of healing while under the care of professionals and it can be approached independently as part of your self-care routine at home.
How Chakras Impact Our Health
As part of our subtle body, chakras are wheel-shaped energy centers that intersect with our emotional/mental bodies and our physical body. The chakras take in and transmit energy throughout our entire being working as a system of “intermeshing gears.”
When our chakras are in balance, our natural energy flows smoothly creating a sense of overall wellbeing. Fear, stress, chronic negative thinking and belief systems, repressed emotions, wounds and traumas, or sudden shock can disrupt this vital balance creating either excesses or deficiencies in our energy flow. Many times, this distress manifests as as blockages and stagnation.
Most often, we are working with the seven major chakras located along our spine in ascending order from base to crown. In addition to location, each chakra has an assigned color. And, each chakra is associated with states of our psyche, as well as the energy flow in a specific region of the physical body.
The following is a very brief overview of the seven major chakras:
1st Chakra – Root
Location: base of spine/perineum
Concerns: Self-Preservation – survival, support, belonging
In Balance: Sense of safety, security, and trust in the world, while feeling present and grounded and present in our body.
2nd Chakra – Sacral
Location: 2” below naval
Concerns: Self-Gratification – creation, emotions, relationships, growth
In Balance: Ability to experience emotional security, passion and pleasure in creative expression and connection to others.
3rd Chakra – Solar Plexus
Location: 2” above navel
Concerns: Personal Manifestation—personal power, identity, self-worth
In Balance — Sense of self-esteem, self-worth, self-respect and self-confidence while retaining warmth and graciousness toward others.
4th Chakra – Heart
Color: Green or Rose
Location: Center of chest
Concerns: Loving Compassion — love and acceptance of self and others, unconditional love, empathy
In Balance: Open to love, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion for self and others
5th Chakra – Throat
Color: Light Blue
Location: Center of Throat
Concerns: Self-Expression/Communication — speaking and hearing truth
In Balance: Ability to identify and speak your true needs while in integrity with yourself and others.
6th Chakra – Third Eye/Brow
Location: Center of Forehead (between brows)
Concerns: Self-Reflection/Intuition — perspective, insight, clarity, imagination
In Balance: Ability to clearly “see” conceptually and symbolically through intuition, perception, visualization and imagination.
7th Chakra — Crown
Location: Top of Head
Concerns: Higher Connection –sense of oneness, higher consciousness
In Balance: Sense of connection to a higher consciousness, higher purpose, and higher self.
Working with Subtle Aromatherapy to Balance Your Chakras
As its own form of energy work the intention of subtle aromatherapy is to influence the balance in our natural energy flow by “drawing on the subtle, energetic or vibrational qualities of the oils, rather than their physical properties.”
Many aspects can go into choosing an oil, or synergy, to help support balance in the subtle body include:
- Color of plant part used
- Color of the essential oil or extract
- Color or quality of the smell
- Part of the plant used/function of that part
- Therapeutic function of the oil or plant
- Nature of the plant – shape, climate, conditions, geography, how it grows
- Folklore of the plant – how used historically
Below are examples of some more commonly used essential oils to help bring balance to the chakras. This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor will every oil work for every being. This is simply a possible point to start you on your exploration.
When you are feeling an imbalance associated with a particular chakra, or energy center, you can choose essential oils or synergies to incorporate into your self-care routines.
Because we are working with our subtle body, we want to use essential oils and extracts at much less intensity than would be used for the mind and body in order to resonate, rather than overwhelm, the subtle nature of our energy.
Use at 1 drop per teaspoon, or 6 drops per ounce for a 1% dilution. Use a more subtle scent in direct inhalation, or room diffusion. A drop will do for passive diffusion.
Now that we have discussed what subtle aromatherapy is, we can go on to discuss the basics of how incorporate this approach at home. Look for our next blog where we will discuss how we can bring a synergy of subtle aromatherapy self-balancing techniques into our self-care routines.
 Davis, Patricia. Subtle Aromatherapy. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel, 1992. Print.
 Mojay, Gabriel. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: A Guide to Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance through Essential Oils. London: Gaia, 1997. Print.
 Judith, Anodea, and Selene Vega. The Sevenfold Journey: Reclaiming Mind, Body & Spirit through the Chakras. Freedom, CA: Crossing, 1993. Print.
 Davis, Patricia. Subtle Aromatherapy. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel, 1992. Print.
Davis, Patricia. Subtle Aromatherapy. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel, 1992. Print.
Mojay, Gabriel. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: A Guide to Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance through Essential Oils. London: Gaia, 1997. Print.
Judith, Anodea, and Selene Vega. The Sevenfold Journey: Reclaiming Mind, Body & Spirit through the Chakras. Freedom, CA: Crossing, 1993. Print.
Judith, Anodea. Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self. Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2004. Print.
Keim, Joni, and Ruah Bull. Aromatherapy & Subtle Energy Techniques: Compassionate Healing with Essential Oils. N.p.: CreateSpace, 2015. Print.