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Yoga Beginnings: Mindful Smell (Week 4)

Our Magical Sense of Smell

Autumn arrived officially last month and following it, the three months of the year when our sense of smell (olfaction) is as much a part of the festivities as trick or treating, pulling the wishbone, and exchanging gifts. Smell, the action of perceiving and distinguishing odors, is the only one of the five senses directly connected to the brain. When we inhale aromas, they glide from our noses toward the olfactory bulb, where odor processing moves them to the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with learning and emotional experience. The amygdala is especially accomplished in reacting to disgusting or unpleasant odors. The distinctive framework of the olfactory system may be what assists us in remembering experiences – pleasant and unpleasant - and associating them with the aromas and smells that accompanied them. Natural gas is odorless; to protect users, natural gas providers infuse it with an unmistakable and very unpleasant odor. On the other hand, the aroma of freshly baked bread or pumpkin pie from the oven is delightfully pleasant for most people. The nose knows those fine smells and the brain remembers them physically and emotionally. The pleasure we derive from creating and eating special meals may well be related to the emotional connection one has for the other. Studies have shown that time and later experience do not weaken the emotional responses we have to smelling certain scents. For those who grew up in colder climates, the crisp smell of new-fallen snow brings memories of ice skating and sledding while the tangy whiff of crashing waves at the sea shore reminds others of youthful holidays spent playing in the sand. Those who grew up in Texas - or got here as soon as they could - can’t wait for the unique smells, sights, and sounds of the holiday.

So how do we use what we know about our sense of smell to transform the busy-ness of the up-coming holidays into memorable moments of connection with friends and family as well as to our own mind, body, and spirit? How do we find mindful moments for reflection amid all the activities? First, we stay faithful to our Yoga practice, attending classes or spending time at home on the mat as often as our schedule allows. Second, we acknowledge and celebrate the power of our sense of smell and incorporate aromatherapy into our lives. If you are a Sacred Space student, you’ve probably noticed the use of essential oils and a diffuser during classes. The reason for this practice is simple - the powerful combination of a few drops of pure essential oils moved through our sacred space by a diffuser delivers subtle scents to rejuvenate body, mind, and spirit and enrich the many benefits of our Yoga practice. If you have any questions about using a diffuser or essential oils in your home, talk to your Sacred Space instructors or email me at If you haven't attended a 2 hour Free Community Wellness event infusing yoga with aromatherapy, it is a divine experience. Our next two free classes will occur on October 13th and 14th so stay tuned for signups. Additionally,in November, Sacred Space will be offering educational classes on essential oils on most Friday evenings to share this amazing resource we have to detox our homes and our lives and support our physical and emotional health. We look forward to seeing you there.

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