Breathing is essential to all life. Yet it’s an aspect of our wellness that we take for granted. Because breathing seems as second-nature as…well, breathing itself.

If you’ve had the pleasure of watching whales or dolphins swim (not in captivity, hopefully), it’s thrilling to see them “exhale” through the blowhole. Visualize this magnificently forceful exhalation as an example relative to your own breathing. For optimum health, both inhalation and exhalation should be profound, deep, mindful and complete.

Aromatherapy for stress management begins with an awareness of breath. Many of us do not make full use of our lung capacity. This leads to shallow, incomplete breaths. There may be several reasons for this. A sedentary life, diminished pulmonary function and air pollution are all contributing factors.

Aromatherapy for stress management, beginning and ending each day with essential oils in the shower in the form of Essio blends, is an enjoyable way to re-tool your breathing. Amazingly, although we breathe automatically, most of us would benefit from “re-learning” breathing techniques for greater well-being.

Inhaling essential oils as part of daily health program addresses well-being in a couple of ways. First, simply practicing deep breathing will benefit your mind and body. Deeper, measured breaths help to lower your blood pressure, and allow you to more easily release stress, anxiety, distractions and tensions which elevate cortisol and adrenalin levels. Chronic, daily elevation of these hormones leads to systemic exhaustion and depletion which feels very different than the robust tiredness we experience after a day of snowboarding, skiing or hiking. Unlike physical fatigue, which is readily repaired by rest, hydration and good nourishment, the exhaustion which we experience as a stress-response is not affected by a good night’s sleep or a good meal.

Of course, stress-related fatigue often makes sleep itself impossible. Also typical of the syndrome: shallow, rapid, sometimes erratic breathing–panting!– when we are stressed. This fragmented breathing pattern further contributes to feelings of anxiety and physical fatigue, as well as myriad other symptoms– see a few here:

Aromatherapy for stress management combines the benefits of a conscious breathing practice with the subtly powerful benefits of essential oils. This combination was the inspiration for Essio aromatherapy for the shower, where deep, meditative breaths take in our expertly blended botanical essences, in the comforting embrace of a warm shower.

Yes, “inspiration” is a little aromatherapy pun. The root to the word formation is “spire”, which means to breathe. Inspire means to breathe in, aspire means to breathe toward, perspire means to breathe through. And expire is what happens when we no longer breathe — or respirate– at all.

A number of traditions surround healthful breathing. One school of yogic practice suggests that alternate-nostril breathing helps to align energies and balance both metabolism and psyche.

Health practitioners uniformly agree that building cardio-pulmonary endurance through fitness allows your body to function better, especially when stressed. And of course, protecting lung function and overall health by avoiding cigarette smoke enhances your ability to breathe deeply.

When you’re feeling stressed, head for the showers, clip in a pod of Essio UNWIND — a blend of citrus, spice and floral–and melt away angst with deep, essential oil-infused breaths. If you’re stuck on the freeway or in your cubicle, think of a dolphin gracefully breaking the surface of the sea, and let out a long exhale–thar she blows!–followed by a slow, long inhale. Hold, repeat.