One of the best gifts of a consistent yoga practice is the heightened awareness you feel when you walk out of a particularly satisfying class. Often the classes that bestow this yogic high are the ones where the senses are awakened by a particular combination of music, asanas and atmosphere. Essential oils can be a potent tool in this respect.
Studios appeal to the sense of sight by using earthy paint colors and indirect lighting. Touch is incorporated by the grounding of your body to the mat and the occasional adjustment or the massaging touch of an instructor during shavasana. Sound is provided by music, chanting, Tibetan bowls and the instructor’s voice, instructing and encouraging.
Essential oils can contribute by bringing in the senses of smell and taste for a complete sensory experience. The use of oils is an ancient and increasingly popular way to enhance and deepen your practice. Like an instructor’s well-chosen playlist, diffusing a calming essential oil at the beginning of class can ease the transition from street to studio while the use of a variety of oils can track the pace of class from opening meditation through key asanas, concluding with shavasana.
Essential oils are the naturally fragrant extracts of flowers, trees, herbs and other plant material. Their use, historically by healers, is as ancient as the practice of yoga.
In fact, yoga and aromatherapy have much in common. Both are used to balance, relax, heal and detoxify the body. Both provide a boost to the immune system and may be used to treat a variety of mental and physical ailments. Like yoga, scent has the power to release emotions, lower stress and energize and unite mind and body. The goal of both disciplines is to bring wholeness and peace.
Essential oils can be incorporated into your yoga practice in three main ways.
Diffusing: Oil diffusers deliver a lasting, ultra-fine mist, which is suspended in the air. Reed diffusers and candle lamps are other options. Oil can also be diffused simply by adding a drop or two to a tissue placed near your mat.
Topical: Essential oils are absorbed easily into the skin. The chest, neck, behind the ears, the hands, wrists and feet are popular spots for application. Many practitioners use a drop on the third eye. Oils are commonly used during massage to soothe muscles. When used during class, instructors may apply a drop of oil to feet in legs-up-the-wall pose or to the brow during shavasana.
Ingestion: Historically, essential oils have been used to supplement diet during cooking or by adding a drop to a glass or stainless steel water bottle. Ingesting key oils can aid digestion, provide antioxidants and eliminate toxins.
Oils are available to help you with grounding, breath work, meditation and centering, energizing, detoxifying, relaxation and immune boosting. Naturally with fragrance, personal preference plays a part as well since there may be more than one oil commonly used for your intended goal.
Examples of effective and popular essential oils are:
Citrus oils such as lemon and grapefruit: uplifting and energizing. Citrus oils may be used to
begin the practice by giving students the feeling of a clean slate.
Frankincense: for grounding, breath work and meditation. Often applied to the back of the neck.
Peppermint and eucalyptus: for breath work and to energize. Opens the chest.
Chamomile: apply to the third eye to enhance awareness.
Lavender and sandalwood: for calming, centering and grounding. Soothes muscles during
Wild orange and lemongrass: to purify and cleanse.
Essential oils and yoga are a natural combination. Connecting scent to the other senses that are awakened during practice can lead to that feeling that all of your senses are powered on and heightened, and that’s as good as it gets.
At Valley Vinyasa, we partner with doTERRA Essential Oils to offer monthly Essential Yoga classes designed to help you experience the benefits of both yoga and essential oils. Check our schedule and try one out!