Corn Bag Therapy Pillows from Heather Dumais
Dec 26, 2016 11:00AM
By Jordan Venema
Sacred & Science
By Jordan Venema
Photos: Amber Smith
“In our everyday lives, people are always busy and just looking for a moment of quiet. And that moment of quiet,” says Three Rivers resident Heather Dumais, “is called our sacred space.”
Well, for those of us who aren’t yoga instructors (which Dumais happens to be), we might smirk and call it something else. The phrase can feel a little new age-y, sure, except Dumais isn’t just some crystal-wielding, chakra-charging yogi – she’s also a hard-nosed scientist.
“I worked for the National Park Service as an environmental scientist with air and water quality,” she explains, and it was the pursuit of her degree that also indirectly brought her to her own sacred space.
“I had just finished graduate school and it was Christmas, and I didn’t have the funds to buy everybody Christmas presents. So I asked my mom what she wanted,” says Dumais, “and she said a corn bag.”
Dumais had never heard of a corn bag before, so with scientific vigor she began researching how to make them, but also discovered their application in weight and temperature therapy. She made pillows for her family and even began using them for her own migraines. “The pressure on the head takes that thing right away – it’s like magic,” says Dumais.
From those first gifts in 2010, Dumais soon began Sacred Space Aromatherapy, hand-making a range of therapy pillows with different designs and fabrics. “They’re something that bring you comfort, and bring you to your sacred space,” says Dumais, not just speaking of a comfy place to rest your head.
While Dumais says the pillows work like magic, there’s also science behind the efficacy of those three-pound pillows, and why weight, temperature and aroma therapies can relieve symptoms of anxiety, dementia, hyperactivity, fibromyalgia – and yes, even headaches.
Each pillow is made with a special corn with low sugar and high starch content, which better retains heat or cold. The pillows can be frozen or microwaved, and according to Dumais, they will keep the heat for up to three or four hours.
Heat can enhance body circulation, which aids relaxation, and cold conversely restricts blood vessels, slowing circulation and reducing swelling. A heated pillow can give that feeling of a warm blanket, “feeling safe and secure and comfortable,” says Dumais.
Dumais says her pillows have a shelf life of 35 years.
The handmade pillows are about 23 inches long, a length that can rest collarbone-to-collarbone, hip-to-hip, across the belly or back, or even to elevate feet.
Weight pressure, explains Dumais, helps release neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which can help improve moods, induce a calming effect and help with insomnia.
Lastly, her pillows can use aromatherapy, with the aid of essential oils. “Because there are no chemicals in the essential oil, the scent will go away,” Dumais says, “but I’ve chosen special fabrics that are stain-free, so people can buy their own oils and drop them on the bag.
“Aromas bring good memories, positive places – and sometimes bad memories – which is why I give clients a selection to choose from to help find their journey to that sacred space,” says Dumais.
Her website lists a number of scents and their associated healing properties, like sage, rosemary, rose, pine, orange, spearmint, lemon, clove and frankincense. Personally, she uses peppermint and rose for her migraines, though lavender is the most popular scent.
Whatever we call that place of peace and calm, and whether it’s sacred or just sleep, people are wanting to go there, and they’re using Dumais’ pillows to get there.
Dumais still has the original pillow she made, but otherwise, she laughs, “I can’t keep them in stock. As soon as I make them, they’re gone.”
Making these pillows keep her busy – enough that she’s now making them full time. She’s surprised that she’s been able to make a career of the pillows, and even more surprised that people actually love the pillows.
“People keep telling me their stories about their aches and pains,” she says, and how the pillows have helped. “They aren’t just Christmas ornaments, but people are bringing them home and it’s helping.”
Which really adds a fourth kind of therapy to the pillow – for Dumais, anyway. She calls it her “giving therapy,” because although she can’t make these pillows quickly enough, she’s happy that those she has made have helped people find their sacred place.
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