Essential oils

Published on October 12, 2011 by      Print
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By Sachie Alessio Heath

My mother has been into alternative medicine since I can remember.  I’ve endured countless “healthy” trends like:

  • 35% hydrogen peroxide drops in our milk,
  • growing kombucha on our dining room table,
  • eating raw garlic,
  • and other things I’d rather not mention.

Her current medicinal miracle of choice, which has lasted a few years now, is coconut oil.

She not only uses it as a body and face lotion, but has also replaced it for olive oil in her cooking.  She is truly shocked when I tell her I don’t care for the coastal tropical flavor her lovely Mediterranean dishes have adopted.  When I was a child, I had no choice but to survive these phases, but now, as an adult, I have the option to ignore her completely.  (Just kidding, mom!)

I have a natural aversion to anything she’s ever told me to try – have you ever had hydrogen peroxide in your milk? – but she was relentless with this one, and I figured I at least didn’t have to ingest it.  So, after years of pushing, I started using coconut oil as a body lotion.

I was initially turned off by the greasiness on my skin, and then after a few weeks, I developed a rash on my chest.  Some investigation on my part disclosed that a minor percentage of people are in fact allergic to coconut oil.  This led me to seek out other essential oils, their properties, and health benefits.  There are a ton of them:  sesame seed oil, macadamia nut oil, olive oil, oregano oil – just to name a few.  I chose sesame seed oil, and put the coconut oil aside to return to mother.

A few days later, my mom asked about the coconut oil during our phone convo…

Mom:  “So, how’s the coconut oil working out for you?”

Me:  “Well, I actually found some Ayurvedic sesame oil, and I like it!”

Mom:  “But coconut oil is a beneficial oil with lots of healing properties!”

Me:  “I know, and sesame seed oil is an antioxidant, has natural enzymes, and fatty acids that are absorbed into the skin.”

Mom:  “Coconut oil has that too!”

Me:  “And, sesame oil is naturally antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial.  And it’s a natural anti-inflammatory!”

Mom:  “Yeah?!  Coconut oil is that too!!”

Me:  “Sesame seed oil is a natural UV protector, and is good for your joints!”

Mom:  “Well, COCONUT OIL is BETTER!”

Long pause.

Me:  “Mom, do you really think God made ONE essential oil that was only available in ONE part of the world leaving, everyone else totally screwed?”  (silence)  “Besides, I developed a rash using the coconut oil.”

This impassioned response was not foreign coming from my mother.  She was this way about everything.  But, it got me to thinking that we are all like this about something in our lives.  We see this in religion, politics, business, philosophy, medicine.  In the yoga world, it can be about what style you take, what teacher you go to, vegetarianism, veganism, chocolate, and mats.  And everyone is emphatic when you ask them about said things.  Common descriptions include: “the only way,” “the best way,” “the real yoga,” etc.

Ayurveda, the 4000-year-old medicine meant to compliment asana, is all about looking at the individual and tailoring to his or her needs.  And though there are three main doshas, and seven possible combinations of those doshas, there are numerous potential imbalances and treatments, including the highly charged topic of vegetarianism.  Just like the coconut oil, maybe some of us thrive on vegetarianism, but others of us really need the protein in grass-fed meat that we just cannot get from veggies alone.  Some of us might love Ashtanga, but it might be too vigorous for others. There are numerous styles of yoga and I’m sure every single one of them is right for at least someone.  Even Bikram.  The longer I teach and practice, the more challenging it gets for me to plan a class.  I know there will be at least one student who may not benefit from certain alignment instruction, if I’m lucky.  Some days, half the class needs one thing, and the other half requires the opposite.

It’s the rigidity and judgment that I can’t ever seem to comprehend, especially in the yoga community.

I mean, who really cares how open your hamstrings get if your mind doesn’t mirror the same or greater flexibility?  Couldn’t we all have the freedom to explore our latest “medicinal miracle,” be completely immersed in it, and release it when it no longer serves us – just like my mother went through her fixations.

I have certainly gone my way of declarations, and have wished I could take a lot of those things back, as they have cycled their way out of my life.  I still catch myself on the brink of steadfast announcements.

I used to teach a theme in class – more often than not, my execution was inelegant and underdeveloped.  There are a few teachers that are able to effortlessly weave philosophy with asana, and I humbly bow to them.  I, however, felt I was doing a disservice to these people who paid good money to come to class, and if they were interested in the philosophies of yoga, could just pick up several well-written books on the subjects.  I changed my focus to just the asana, and discovered that proper alignment gave me more AHA! moments than my poorly executed themes ever could.

Shifting my focus to alignment was the ticket to the body/mind/spirit connection I was looking for.  The more I learned about alignment, the greater parallels I found to philosophy — so THAT’S what they were talking about!  I wanted to share this experience with everyone.  I found myself behaving in the same manner I did when I discovered Intellingentsia coffee – shrieking “THIS IS THE BEST COFEE EVER!!”  I wanted everyone to experience this joy, this true connection.

But I had to remember: I wasn’t the only person to have felt this.  Duh.  And, the yogis back in the day were pretty darn brilliant.  Those poses did not happen by chance.  The eight limbs of yoga aren’t an accident either.

Having a mother so passionate has helped me develop compassion for other people’s beliefs.  My wish for each person is that they learn respect and tolerance for everyone on their own path to whatever it is they’re aiming for.  Whatever devotion we might have at the moment, there will be others with the complete opposite belief.  Good for them.  Good for us.  May it help us continue to develop love, compassion, tolerance, and respect for our entire human race.

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

About Sachie Alessio Heath

Sachie Alessio Heath is a yoga teacher, actress, foodie, and action hero.  She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Josh, and their two adorable pit bulls, Sasha and Bruiser.   She loves learning and sharing knowledge, and also happens to have a preternatural talent for impersonations.  Follow her on Twitter and check out her website.

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27 Comments !

  1. Don says:


    Great post Sachie, thanks!

  2. Ellen says:


    I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says “With all the yoga I do, you’d think I’d be more flexible.” It was one of those instant purchases – the minute I saw it, I thought, “DEAD ON!” Thanks for this great post, that beautifully expands on this idea! :)

  3. beka says:


    This was perfectly timed for me. Thanks for your post. I too humbly, and slightly jealously, bow to those teachers who are able to eloquently deliver a theme at the beginning of class and effortlessly bring us back to said theme throughout class. That is a skill as a teacher I have not been blessed with and thanks to your post I feel much better about it.
    PS
    My grandmother has religiously smeared castor oil on her body as a lotion/tonic/whatever since before I was born.

  4. YogaforCynics says:


    It’s striking that yogis–both in India and the west–tend to make the same mistakes that have historically been made by western social scientists: assuming that what’s seems true for one person, and seems to work for one person must apply to everyone. Thus, when I see someone like B.K.S. Iyangar say categorically that it’s best to practice yoga first thing in the morning, since that’s when the mind is most clear and the body most flexible (even though it’s painfully obvious that neither of those is true for me)), I’m reminded of the generalizations of psychiatrists and anthropologists from a century ago (and the stories of the legions of victims of their well-meaning generalizations).

    Nonetheless, I’m gonna have to check out Intelligentsia coffee…

  5. Michelle says:


    Brilliant!!! I love this.

  6. Doug Cummings says:


    Good for you, Sachie…

    To realize that the truth is in the actual practice, and relinquish your attempt to explain it is most useful. In my experience (I’ve been teaching for 11+ years), teaching is much more effective when you’re directing people into their own practice, rather than trying to cajole them in to be a fan of you.

  7. Jenifer says:


    There is only one way — My way or the Highway.

    So, use avocado oil instead — i demand it!– and only krisnamacharya lineage — i insist! — and buy my $10,000 Death Eyes training in the Maldives — or else you’ll never truly know the awesomeness of my awesomeness.

    Early bird special if you sign up by next week. That special is $9,999. You can put the other dollar into your karma yoga practice — donate it to OWS.

  8. Gayle says:


    Fabulous, Sachie. Thank you very much.

  9. sachie says:


    thank you!

  10. Amery says:


    Sachie, I loved your themes. I thought they were awesome and would stay with me for the entire day, a few days even!

    Thanks for the perfectly timed post on rigidity! :)

  11. Stephanie says:


    Bravissima!! i love that your personality is so present in your writing. i can hear you imitating your mother saying those things! (sorry mamma alessio) I am inspired by your desire to always learn more and your ambition to obtain joy from helping others. I am very proud to call you my friend! and my monkey :) (sorry josh, totes stole it) XOXO

  12. Andrew Gurvey says:


    I appreciate your authenticity so much. It shines through in your writing. I am a recovering superlative declarer myself. Every time I have learned something, especially on my yoga journey, I have been horribly guilty of telling others that my way of learning it is the BEST way, and snubbed my nose at other styles or ways of doing things. I think I have grown past that in most ways, but find myself having to be vigilant to make sure that I don’t let dogma overtake my truth or ruin someone else’s. You put into words so many feelings I have had or experienced through the years. I actually use coconut oil in hot weather, and sesame in colder weather. They both work well for me, but I actually think I like the sesame a little better. Thanks for such a thoughtful article, and for helping me reflect on my own choices.

  13. Lisa @ Just here. Just now. says:


    I loved this. As someone with a similar mother (we grew kombucha in the living room and I took my first Tylenol at age 20) I can totally relate. Recently I’ve noticed that I’m doing things I thought I’d NEVER do. I’ve been changing my mind about things I thought I would ALWAYS do. It makes one a little leery of grand pronouncements about right and wrong.
    Thanks for the great post.

  14. Amber says:


    You are amazing to the power amazing!

  15. Trudi says:


    for the record, I loved the themes you brought into class. and in my heart I carry the last two private classes with you – learning how to fall was one of the best lessons I’ve had in yoga, but more importantly in life. I miss you so, and I’m so happy that you are sharing your writing with the world. love from lil’ole NZ xx

  16. Maggie says:


    Fuck yes.

  17. vanessafiola says:


    Sach, after reading this and your last one, I can’t wait to read your next one! What’s it gonna be???

  18. Essential oils. ~ Sachie Alessio Heath | elephant journal says:


    [...] oils. ~ Sachie Alessio Heath  Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on October 12, 2011.  [...]

  19. me says:


    you spelled “coffee” wrong: “THIS IS THE BEST COFEE EVER!!”


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