Aromatherapy employs essential oils extracted from plants to help improve our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Because of this, Aromatherapy and Yoga are great natural companions. Not surprisingly, essential oils are often commonly used in Yoga practice.
The type of essential oil suited to Yoga practice depends very much on what the goal of the practice is. The following 20 essential oils are very helpful for:
- Calming: Rose, Frankincense, Lavender, Ylang-Ylang or Chamomile
- Greater grounding: Cedarwood, Patchouli, Vetiver, Myrrh or Rosewood
- Improved mental clarity: Rosemary, Basil, Sandalwood, Lemon or Eucalyptus
- An energy boost: Ginger, Peppermint, Orange, Thyme or Grapefruit
In this article, we discuss Yoga and Aromatherapy in its wider context and which essential oils work particularly well for Yoga practice. In addition, we also address the best methods for using and applying essential oils and the safety precautions you should bear in mind.
The History Of Essential Oils
An Ancient Tradition
Similar to Yoga, Aromatherapy is an ancient tradition. In general, Aromatherapy uses the aromatic oils extracted from the leaves, roots, stems, seeds, fruits and flowers of many different plants for therapeutic purposes.
Essential oils were widely known and used in traditional cultures well before the advent of modern science. The Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used them widely in cosmetics, perfumes and drugs. Amazingly, historical records indicate that the Chinese first used essential oils around 2000-3000 B.C.
Around the Year 40, the Greek physician Dioscorides first wrote about the healing properties of a number of essential oils. Then later in the 11th century, the famous physician Avicenna similarly described different essential oils and their use as medicines.
The Expanding Use Of Essential Oils
Until a short time ago, the application of essential oils was mainly based on anecdotal evidence. However, science increasingly also demonstrates the benefits of essential oils. This includes their antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory effects, together with as well as immune boosting, mood and memory improving benefits.
Interestingly, it the structure of essential oils closely resembles those of actual human hormones. These stimulate the release of brain messengers such as serotonin, endorphins and adrenalin. In turn, these directly affect our energy, mood and our state of clarity and calmness.
Consequently, the use of essential oils in modern times has greatly increased. In addition, many trained aromatherapists and manufacturing companies offer their services and products.
Essential oils also find increasing use in homes as scents, relaxants and also for medicinal purposes. A common example is eucalyptus oil to support congested lungs and sinuses during flus and colds. Another is lavender to promote relaxation and sleep.
Aromatherapy and Yoga Are Natural Companions
At times, we walk past a yoga classroom and get the lovely whiff of essential oils. Involuntarily, we breathe in deeply, savouring the scent and the effect it has on our mind and body. Ahhh!
It’s not surprising that essential oils are often used in the Yoga classroom or home Yoga practice. In combination, Aromatherapy and Yoga enhance our practice and help balance mind, spirit and body.
A great example is the use of essential oils during Savasana at the end of Yoga practice. Essential oils can also be used at the beginning of a class to help energize and gain greater mental clarity.
Choose The Ideal Essential Oil To Inspire Your Yoga
So, which are the best scents for Yoga?
We have put together a list of essential oils for you to use in your Yoga practice, depending on what you want to achieve. Do you want to achieve calmness? Grounding? Gain clarity? Energize? Below we describe some of the commonly used essential oils you can choose, depending on what your goal is.
Calming Essential Oils
1. Rose: the queen of oils to help with all stress issues.
2. Frankincense: relaxing and aromatic, anti-inflammatory.
3. Lavender: soothing, builds solidarity and strength.
4. Ylang-Ylang: helps release anger and frustration.
5. Chamomile: calming, soothing, medicinal.
Grounding Essential Oils
1. Cedarwood: mildly sedative, helpful with sleep, promotes connectedness.
2. Patchouli: an antidepressant, promotes the release of serotonin and dopamine.
3. Vetiver: powerfully calming and grounding, stress relieving and promoting good sleep.
4. Myrrh: helps with feeling safe and connected, improves trust in others.
5. Rosewood: allows love to flow to the heart center.
Essential Oils for Increased Clarity
1. Rosemary: promotes mental function and memory, anti-inflammatory.
2. Basil: stimulates the nervous and immune systems, energizes and boosts mood.
3. Sandalwood: beneficial for calm mental clarity, relaxation and peace.
4. Lemon: uplifting to the mind and body, promotes physical energy and purification.
5. Eucalyptus: improves clarity and focus, strong antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Energizing Essential Oils
1. Ginger: maintains energy levels, stimulates nthe ervous system, warming
2. Peppermint: stimulates the mind, supports memory, focus and concentration
3. Orange: uplifting and tranquilizing, anti-depressant, promotes clarity.
4. Thyme: lifts the spirit and energy levels, stress-reducing, strong anti-bacterial
5. Grapefruit: beneficial to reduce mental fatigue, balances stress, an anti-depressant.
Essential Oil Blends
You can easily mix to or three of the above oils to create your very own personal blend, using a few drops of each in a small bottle of carrier oil such as coconut or almond oil. Otherwise, you could choose some of the ready-made blends that promote relaxation and calm.
How To Use Essential Oils
Generally speaking, it is better to use high-quality, organic essential oils wherever possible. Because of their extremely high concentration, only a few drops of oil are used at a time, diluted in a carrier oil or water.
If diluted in a carrier oil such as almond oil, essential oils can be applied directly to the skin. Alternatively, they can be inhaled directly from the bottle or with an essential oil diffuser. Another option is infusing a permeable piece of jewellery.
Overall, just a few small drops are enough to allow essential oils to quickly reach our body via the skin or lungs. Once there, the resulting aromatherapy scents work their effects in subtle ways – both physical and mental.
Automatic oil diffusers work really well because they emit a controlled stream of oil infused steam. Coupled with a timer, this helps avoid the messy business and fire risk of conventional oil burners.
Many diffusers use ultrasonic vibrations to turn water and oil into a scented mist that lasts for hours with minimum fuss.
Yoga And Essential Oils – How To Use Them In The Classroom
Many Yoga teachers like to use essential oils in the Yoga classroom to enhance their students’ practice. Mostly, the choice of essential oils depends on the objectives of the Yoga class. Check out again the oils we have described above.
Before using essential oils, it is important to consider any safety precautions. These are described in greater detail below.
In addition, it is generally a good idea to seek permission for the use of essential oils in the classroom. In all likelihood, students will absolutely love it, but it’s best to be on the safe side.
Every individual is different in her/his response to essential oils. Because they do have demonstrated effects on the body, mood and mind, essential oils should be used carefully and with appropriate guidance. They should always be diluted in a carrier oil or water for use, and not applied directly to the skin. Similarly, it is not advised that they are taken orally unless specifically guided by a qualified practitioner.
Particular caution is advised around pregnant women, children, as well as pets. In these instances, essential oils should only be used with appropriate guidance from a qualified practitioner.
Overall, it is best to only buy high-quality, therapeutic-grade oils without artificial ingredients or chemical residues from a reputable company. Organically sourced essential oils are preferable.
Create Your Own Essential Oil Yoga Mat Spray
Did you know that essential oils are a great way to clean and deodorize your Yoga mat? We have a great recipe for a spray you can use for just this purpose.
YogiApproved has a great recipe which is listed below:
- Small spray bottle (2-4 ounces or so)
- Distilled or spring water (3/4 of spray bottle)
- 2 drops of tea tree essential oil.
- 1 drop of lavender essential oil.
- Optional: Witch hazel or white vinegar (fill 1/4 of spray bottle)
Before cleaning your yoga mat, shake your container and spray the entire mat. Then use a damp cloth to wipe down the entire mat. Clean the other side and then allow the mat to dry for 5-10 minutes before rolling up again. Repeat as often as necessary! Your mat will smell delicious plus give you all the calming effects of lavender – or perhaps the benefit of another oil of your choice.
Overall, aromatherapy and Yoga are natural partners in promoting a healthier, energized, and more relaxed lifestyle. You can choose from a plethora of essential oils. The selection discussed in this article is only a small sample.
There are many websites that discuss the many benefits of the different essential oils in far greater detail.
Essential oils are wonderful and enriching, but their use does bring a few risks and these must be considered carefully.