The industrial age of smell & how to trust your nose
by Sandra Radja
A love-forlorn friend of mine thinks she might offer herself up as mail order bride. She's pretty cute, I think she'd be snapped up in no time. My mind bubble immediately went to the men that subscribe to these magazines - with their afternoon tea, fluffy small dog at their feet, putting post it notes on the potential candidates. The idea slots nicely into the sale of soap, deodorants and vaginal douches.
There is a wide-spectrum sabotage on our primal urges. And since we all have our space cadet Facebook masks astral travelling with a birds eyes view on human disasters and bad home videos, our feet rarely touch the ground. And subsequently we are losing the ability to smell our way to decisions, so we rely heavily on the visual stimulus.
I walked into one of those $2 shops (things cost more than $2 but the marketing is very effective) and immediately had to walk out again. I had this visual of when they are packing these goods in a factory in China - like going through a huge car wash and the final part is a spray of the cheapest perfume they had left over from some Calvin Klein rip off production. And they have figured out chemically how to make it stick, or make it skunk as I like to use as a verb, to the point that you need to wash your hair after visiting these stores.
The finer your senses become, the more offensive these smells become. Like walking through the 'cleaning' section of a Supermarket or a cheap version of Nag Champa outside a 'new age' store - it draws in a particular nose, one that is usually so congested and full of internal toxins, it takes a sledgehammer to make an impact. The industrial age of producing crap has in turn produced a slight on our olfactory - it's part of the dulling revolution and along with it the dependency model (aka marketing) on decision making; we need things brighter and sharper to attract us whilst nature works in subtle ways, so we may miss hints and omens.
In Ayurveda the sense and experience of smell (Gandha Tanmatra) is connected to the earth element. And the connection is made in our bodies via the consumption of food and defecation - this is one way we can see whether we have a balanced connection to earth; diarrhea can weaken the integrity of the channels, whilst constipation will become toxic and putrefy in the system seeping back into the bloodstream. Losing your sense of smell is an indication that qualities such as integrity, grounding, reliability, solidness, may be lacking in your make-up, which are the qualities needed to create a solid memory.
An aspect I find interesting with regards to well being and the sense of smell is memory and nostalgia. There is a new branch of science emerging called epigenetics, which means 'on top of genetics'. They are discovering that diet and lifestyle are strongly influential as to whether the genetic code expresses itself, as far back as the diet and lifestyle of your parents and grandparents. So it means we can re-program our lot. It means that the smells we associated with nostalgia and comfort, such as baked goods and toxic perfumed laundry detergents, can be neutralised and re-established with more life-affirming (prana) activities. It means you do NOT have to have the loaded genetic gun fire off and chop of your breasts and get preventative hysterectomies, to name a dramatic few (Angelina did you check ALL the options?).
Hooray - science is back on the hope train!
Since we are very familiar with requiring our mouths to eat, cleaning teeth has become established in our society as something required in order for the eating to take place, but we don't comprehend the ability of smell in connection to well being. Aromatherapy is mostly considered something you put in votive candles, and violently synthetic at that, but it can be the gateway to opening yourself up to a direct influence on your state of mind.
One suggestion I made with a client that had an eating disorder was to use a high grade essential oil which was safe to use as direct palm inhalation, meaning she put a couple of drops on her palms, rubbed them, cupped her palms around her nose and inhaled a few times. Then she did childs pose for a few minutes. Each time she had a nervous reaction to food, she performed this exercise. We had great results in re-creating her mood in relation to her food habits (note epigenetics comment above). Anytime you experience a rush of anxiety you can try this, but please consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner for the oils suited to your situation. And please use good quality oils as it really makes a difference to the quality of your experience, especially from a medicinal point of view.
Dr Lad explains, in his Textbook of Ayurveda (Vol III), that by stimulating the olfactory blub, aromatherapy acts on the frontal lobes where current emotions reside. Prana carries the subtle energies of aroma and can help to release emotions by bringing them from the limbic area to the conscious. Past stuck emotions can be released this way as different fragrances can tap into different parts of our body, both in a physical and subtle sense via the chakras. Knowing the qualities that are out of balance, we can pacify the doshas from an Ayurvedic perspective. Sweet smells pacify Pitta and Vata and aggravate Kapha. Sour and salty smells pacify Vata but increase Pitta and Kapha. Pungent smells pacify Kapha but increases Pitta and Vata. Bitter and astringent smells pacify Pitta and Kapha but aggravate Vata.
According to Dr Frawley in his Neti: Healing Secrets of Yoga and Ayurveda book, we absorb a subtle prana through our sinuses and it invigorates our brain and senses - this is the energy of life and what every asana class out there is trying to achieve. Yoga class 101 - clean your sinuses to be better able to tap into that subtle prana otherwise you may encounter energy blocks, causing a domino effect of stagnation and exhaustion that stops all channels from being able to function at optimum. Prana stimulates the mind and if we are forced to breathe through the mouth, as some people do at night due to blocked sinus passages, we can feel dull and unmotivated.
Dr Frawley considers the sense of smell to be one of the most important due to the pranic link to the other five senses. The sinus cavity acts as a kind of reservoir of stored prana that then filtrates through various other channels to effect the sensory experience. Lack of prana can result in sleepiness, mental disorientation, as well as low emotional energy such as depression, anxiety and other psychological problems. Daily cleansing using a neti pot or regular medicated nose drops (nasya), as well as a regular pranayama practise to moderate the breathing can help ensure that you gain the maximum benefit from the natural energy booster of prana.
They banned raw milk where I live (Victoria, Australia). If you chose to sell it you were required to add an unpalatable bittering agent to the product. It is believed that consuming raw milk can lead to death. It was an outcry, considering the sale of cigarettes are available to those as young as 18 in Australia.
It prompted me to check in with where our society is at. I smell my milk before consuming it. I smell all food before consuming it. In fact, real estate agents understand that to bring back memories of comfort they will encourage property sellers to brew some coffee or bake bread. It is known that we use the sense of smell for sales, so why do we forget to use it when we consume food?
Allergies. Congestion. Mucous. The more stuffed up we become, the more legislation is required to think on our behalf.
A study has confirmed that when we take smaller bites of food, the intensity of flavour increases. From an Ayurvedic perspective that would make sense. Since we encourage there to be enough room to breathe whilst eating (suggesting that an inability to breathe post eating means you've eaten too much) it might suggest that where prana is present, the more vitality the food and ultimately ourselves receive.
Oh the elevator when you get stuck behind cheap cologne. I am training myself to be a great yogi, not in a yoga class, but in small spaces where I am exposed to scents not of my flavour - I get my khumbaka on (retention of breath) along with practising a slow exhale (rechaka) so as not to offend. Little do we realise how important this little yogic practise is. There are studies showing that we can inhale fear. The study determined that when women smell the sweat of anxiety in males, it in turn increases their own anxiety. So from an Ayurvedic perspective, you can eat Vata through your nose. Best to create calming aromas in the home before you kiss your honey hello.
And it's the sense of smell that we start to disconnect from when we do online consultations with clients. I repeat this story often because it reminds me of what my daily practises are for. At the Pune clinic with Dr Lad, I had moved a cat out of the way early one morning (6am). Later that day (3pm) as I volunteered for facial diagnostics (not recommended unless your sense of Self is strong!) Dr Lad asked me whether I had touched a cat. I asked him whether he could smell disease, and he replied that it was part of his diagnostics. Incredible.
Scented plants, clean energy, natural building materials and pleasant conversation = pleasant body odours. All with the aim to create a digestible environment to make living in society a harmonious sensory experience. Clean your nose. It is the gateway to experience and the gateway to enthusiasm. Learn to breathe well, for the deeper the expression, the deeper and more full life becomes; you will smell an opportunity before you see it.
And as I walk through the industrial wasteland of bubblegum spritzed hallmark cards and laboratory constructed "fresh" scents, my nose helps me choose where I will spend my time absorbing. And for those days I can't hold my breathe long enough, thank goodness for Triphala and the ability to eliminate.