Smell is an underrated sense organ. There are many cases in our lives where the nose literally shows us the way, i.e. where to go and what to avoid during the day.
Essential oils and aromatherapy in general are natural ways for those that wish to enhance their lives through this marvelous sense of smell and conscious breathing. Essentially oils are made from extracting the oils from different plants like herbs, leaves, barks and rinds through a variety of different methods. They’ve been in use for thousands of years in folk medicine around the world.
Although the medical properties of aromatherapy are generally shunned by many of today’s scientists, (1) it would be ignorant to discard the healing qualities that relaxation and proper setting and atmosphere can have on the wellbeing of the physical body and mind. For example, did you know that by just mere seeing nature and greenery, you could speed recovery from illness and increase general wellbeing? This fascinating result was concluded by another study (2) that followed patients confined to hospital beds, where one group was exposed to nature and another group was exposed to an inanimate concrete wall.
Having said that, we believe that essential oils can be quite useful for the yoga practitioner or regular meditator when done properly. Whether it’s to help you focus, to rouse the senses or just to make you feel blissed out.
In this overview, we’ll go through some of the best essential oils to use before, during and after your yoga session and how to go about using them.
1. Lavender Oil for Stress & Anxiety
There is a reason why we picked lavender as our first mention. In many ways’ lavender is the queen of the essential oils. Having been used as a perfume for quite a long time in human history, lavender is perhaps best known for its calming effects on the nerves, especially for those with anxiety and stress.
Lavender oil is great to create that calming atmosphere where stress and anxiety are dissolved by the yoga practice in combination with the scents.
2. Cedarwood Oil for Grounding & Safety
Cedarwood brings you back to earth and nature, grounds you to the sense of presence by nourishing your mind and spirit. Cedarwood has a warm and balmy “foresty” scent that is great for creating a relaxing and protected atmosphere where you can reconnect with the primal essence within and outside you.
3. Sandalwood Oil for Healing & Recovery
Originating from Asia and Oceania, sandalwood trees and the oil extracted from them are yet another good example of an exotic essential oil that exudes a woody, warm and mild scent that soothes the senses. Having been used in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, sandalwood oil has shown to be effective when it comes to healing wounds and fighting off certain types of cancer.
4. Frankincense Oil for Spiritual Growth
Frankincense is an aromatic resin extracted from the Boswellia trees. Having been used and traded in and around the Arabian Peninsula and Mesopotamia for thousands of years, frankincense, like sandalwood, is perhaps best known for its usage in religious and spiritual contexts. Frankincense oil is recommended for those moments of meditation and prayer right before and after a yoga session.
5. Peppermint Oil for Clarity & Vigor
Peppermint oil derived from the hybrid herb Mentha balsamea Wild that grows all over Europe and North America, is one of the best oils to use to induce clarity and boost vigor. The fresh, cool and stimulating scent of peppermint will definitely give you that extra edge right before yoga practice.
Having been used for a variety of purposes (décor, perfume and as flavoring) since antiquity in Rome, Greece and Egypt, this is one of our best picks for those that want some boost of energy.
6. Lemongrass Oil for Rejuvenation & Energy
Cymbopogon, also known as lemongrass, is quite a versatile plant has been used as an herb for cooking, medicine, perfume, beekeeping and even in some hoodoo rituals. As an essential oil, lemongrass is a good choice for those days you feel that you need some rejuvenation, balance and additional energy. The medical properties are many of lemongrass, ranging from its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to its relieving effects of pain, headaches and migraines.
How to use essential oils for yoga
There are many ways of using essential oils to enhance your yoga practice, ranging from the simplest way which is just to sniff directly from the bottle or to use a diffuser that occasionally releases the chosen oil out into the air.
Let’s have a look at some of these ways.
Try simple smells from the bottle before the yoga session begins
Just a sniff or two of your favorite essential oil can be enough to bring you to into the zone. Sometimes the simplest way is the best way!
Apply to body part which won’t come into direct contact with anything
Try applying the oil, a drop or two, on a body part that most likely won’t come into direct contact with either the mat beneath you or any other body part. Generally the temples, the back of the neck or just above the of the collarbone are good options to apply the oil. Do this before you start your session!
Try a drop in the palm of your hands
Place a drop of oil in the palm of your hands and start rubbing and dispersing the oil across your entire hands. When you’ve done this, cup both your hands and place them over your face and start inhaling deeply and slowly from your nose and uncover your hands from your face when exhaling. Coordination is key!
Use an essential oil diffuser
One of the smoothest and most popular ways of incorporating essential oils into your practice, is to use a diffuser that infuses the room and space with occasional bursts of the chosen essential oil. Note that if you have a big room or class, try placing the diffuser in an optimal position so that you still get access to the oil. We recommend this diffuser by Breathe Essential to do the job for you!
Light an aromatic candle
If you’re not too fond of using these oils on your skin or by turning them into a airborne mist, try an aromatic candle, like this lovely one by Yinuo Light, which will both uplift the atmosphere and at the same time release these lovely oils into the room. Twofer!
Aromatherapy eye pillows
Aromatherapy eye pillows is yet another great way of making use of essential oils in your yoga practice but in a somewhat creative way. These are great to use during savasana, before or even better, after a yoga session.
One thing to keep in when using/buying these eye pillows, is to know which are suited for microwaving or heating in general and which are not. For example this Lotus Eyepillow by Nolava Designs, is an excellent choice which is both heatable in the microwave, oven and can also be used as a cold eye mask compress.
Tips and Caution
Generally speaking, when it comes to essential oils, try to avoid rubbing your oil-infused hands on your eyes, nose, mouth or private parts. This is especially the case with oils that are bit stronger, like say lemongrass.
Another thing to consider before using essential oils for yoga or in general is to know yourself. Find out if you’re allergic or just naturally sensitive to certain types of oil. Also always try to check for the quality of the manufacturer and the producer of the essential oil, there are many brands and companies out there in the essential oil industry, so doing your research is well advised.
If you have sensitive skin, abstain and/or stop immediately from using the essential oil topically or in some cases even when its airborne.