Walk into almost any yoga studio these days and you are likely to notice that the pungent aroma of incense has been replaced by a far lighter and more pleasing olfactory experience: essential oils.
I love the smell of incense; it always takes me back to some of my favorite travel spots or a pleasant memory. What I don’t love, is breathing in all that smoke! There are already enough toxins and pollutants in the air without deliberately exposing ourselves to more. It is a spiritual practice to take care of our bodies. Reducing the use of incense is especially important while practicing yoga, with all the deep diaphragmatic breaths we take in techniques like Pranyama.
Essential oils offer a healing alternative that makes sense. Studies are beginning to show some very real benefits of essential oils for our bodies and minds. The part of the brain responsible for processing smells – the olfactory gland is next to the hippocampus, the part of the brain thought to be associated with memory.
The hippocampus has been studied in the context of yoga practice and the impact yoga and meditation can have on this part of the brain. One study used MRI’s to scan the brain of people after as eight week diaphragmatic in mindfulness meditation and yoga, compared to a control group that did not go through the program. Those who had meditated saw as increase in the size of the hippocampus also is seen in people with sever clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. So activities like yoga and meditation that can increase the functioning and hippocampus potentially can impact conditions as varied as memory loss, stress, dementia and emotional well being, supporting yoga and meditation with aromatherapy enhances the possibility of positive outcomes –and it is a pleasure. A win, win!
I use diffusers to create a variety of atmospheres using different essential oils. Oil lamps also offer an inexpensive way to diffuse the aroma of essential oils.
Peppermint is very uplifting, while lavender is relaxing, and other roils are more centering. I find it especially soothing in my own practice to annoit my forehead or spray my mat with my soothing and antiseptic, lavender infused all purpose spray. <@--(*purchase it here)–>
If you have not been introduced to essential oils, consider integrating them into your yoga practice.
Look for high –quality oils, and don’t apply them directly to your skin without diluting them first. Try a variety of oils to see what works best for you. Introduce the use of oils slowly into your practice, giving yourself the time to become aware of their properties and power. Pay attention to how, you (and those around you) react to different scents.
Here are some oils you might want to try and the properties associate with each.
- For grounding: Ginger, patchouli, cedar wood
- For strengthening and centering: sandalwood, cedar wood myrrh, frankincense
- To promote breath awareness and clearer breathing: peppermint, basil. eucalyptus, rosemary, myrrh, frankincense’s, cardamom
- For calming: lavender, geranium, chamomile, vertiver
- Spiritual nourishment: bergamot, lemon an orange
- To uplift: cassia, clary sage, lemon, lime, white fir
- To purify and cleans: arborvitae, grapefruit, lemon, lemon grass, wild orange
- To soothe sour muscles: basil, coriander, cypress, lavender, rosemary, winter green