Walk into almost any yoga studio these days and you are likely to notice that the pungent aroma of incense (not always a universal favorite) has been replaced by a far lighter olfactory experience: essential oils. Some yoga teachers diffuse essential oils during class to enhance the uplifting experience of the asanas. Others anoint students with oil-infused hands as they drift into Savasana. Some studios offer spray bottles filled with essential oil blends for students to wipe down sweaty mats at the end of class.
Essential oils are increasingly being integrated into the holistic management and treatment of diseases for a wide range of illnesses including cancer, respiratory conditions, asthma, migraines and heart disease. They are also commonly used to boost immunity, help manage weight and diet, and treat the symptoms of menopause.
If you haven’t been introduced to essential oils, consider integrating them into your yoga practice. Testing their powers on the mat is a good way to gauge what works for you and what doesn’t. But be prepared: Everyone reacts differently to essential oils. One person’s go-to oil to relieve stress or headaches could be the catalyst of these for someone else. For example, most people find that lavender promotes restful sleep; but others can find the scent agitating, which leads to restlessness and insomnia.
Essential oils are potent (and rare), hence their relatively high cost. But a drop or two usually go a long way. As a general rule, most essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin or ingested, as doing so can cause an adverse reaction, especially for people taking prescription medicines. If you are looking to integrate the oils topically or as dietary aids, do diligent research and consult with a qualified essential oils expert for guidance. Though essential oils are commonly sold in grocery stores and new-age boutiques, beware: Only high-quality therapeutic-grade oils—containing no artificial ingredients or chemical residues—should be used topically or ingested.
Three ways to use essential oils:
Diffusing: Most oil companies sell diffusers that deliver a lovely fine mist of essential oils into your yoga space. Oil lamps offer a cost friendly way to diffuse oils. (These are great for the home too!)
Purifying: From lavender to sweet orange, and peppermint to oregano, essential oils can be used to cleanse and purify your yoga space, yoga mat, chairs and clothes.
Anointing: Touch is healing and powerful, and even more so when enhanced with essential oils. Using the right oil at the beginning of class can infuse energy into your class. Similarly, using the perfect oil just before Shavasana can boost the calming power of this restorative pose.
My top 3 Essential Oils for Your Yoga Practice:
Anchor, Align, and Arise.
ANCHOR, ALIGN and ARISE are optimal – for your practice, your teaching, your sharing, and your daily living. Crafted with care, patience and clarity of intention, may these blends serve you, your work and your living for many moons to come. Each blend is diluted with Fractionated Coconut Oil, so you may use confidently and safely.
Grounds, attunes and refines your capacity to listen and steady yourself. Great to start a practice, on hands, pulse points, inner arms, feet (if you’ll be sitting for a few minutes until it is absorbed). Try this with Seated Meditation, Seated Twists, and Bhu Mudra (one hand to heart, other hand fingertips to the Earth).
- Lavender: calming, communication
- Cedarwood: grounding, community
- Frankincense: healthy neurological function, valuing truth
- Cinnamon Bark: feelings of harmony and acceptance of self
- Sandalwood: devotion, reverence, respect, release from overthinking
- Black Pepper: emotional honesty, courage, self-awarenesss
- Patchouli: physical presence, release of self-judgment, grounding
Centers opens and enhances your capacity to come back to the heart of the matter. Perfect to use mid-practice, perhaps as you or your students are taking a seat to absorb what they’ve accomplished thus far. Lovely for postures like Warrior III, Triangle
- Bergamot: self-acceptance, self-esteem, optimism
- Coriander: integrity, bravery, true to self
- Marjoram: connection, trust, openness, safety
- Peppermint: emotional buoyancy, invigorating, uplifting
- Geranium: love & trust, forgiveness, overcoming grief, emotional honesty
- Basil: renewal, energy, brings strength to the heart, softening to the mind
- Rose: higher love, compassion, wholeness
- Jasmine: passion, healthy intimacy, safety
Enlightens, brightens, and uplifts. For your heart, your third eye (as long as you’re not going to the sunlight soon after your practice, as it contains citrus which are sun-sensitive), top of your head. I love a few drops on my forearms just before sun salutes or standing side stretch. Also perfect for diffusing and for your diffusing jewelry.
- Lemon: uplifting and clarifying, joyful
- Grapefruit: honouring the body, energizing
- Siberian Fir: supports clearing generational patterns
- Osmanthus: eases feelings of sadness
Melissa: enlightenment, joy of living, eases feelings of overwhelm