Experimenting with Essential Oils and Yoga


I love essential oils. I have a few favourites that I always have around. I keep lavender to put on our pillows at night before bed. My boys will ask for it now if I forget! I like the energizing effects of peppermint. And I am addicted to the sensual scent of ylang ylang.

One of our readers, Cat, sent me an email asking if I used essential oils during yoga classes. Sometimes I use them for my home practice but I have never used them during a class that I am leading. I love the idea!

What is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy makes use of the healing , soothing properties of  essential oilsfound in plants. The pure plant essences are distilled or cold pressed from flowers, herbs and trees. Healers have long used essential oils for physical wellness, mental clarity and emotional balance. Essential oils were highly prized as medicine in many cultures throughout the ancient world.

How to use essential oils in your yoga practice

Aromatherapy and yoga are made for one another. They both aim to support the well being of body, mind and spirit. Breathing (pranayama) is foundational in yoga. What if with each breath, you inhaled something that was both soothing and healing?

Essential oils can be:

1. Applied topically

Rub oils on the back of your neck, bottoms or your fee (big toes), spine or stomach. You will get a whiff as your transition through poses. Some oils will need to be diluted so they don’t irritate your skin. I usually use a little coconut oil as a carrier. Skin is permeable. This means the active compounds found in the essential oils can be easily absorbed. Lightly massage it into the area to increase absorption.

2. Diffused (my favourite way for yoga)

Use candle lamps or diffusers with a few drops of oil to scent the entire room. Or put some on your palms and inhale deeply and mindfully. The molecules of theessential oils are taken in through your olfactory system. They stimulate the brain, which releases neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. This helps regulate your mood.

3. Sprayed

Mix several drops of essential oil with water in a spray bottle. Use it to make the room smell nice and to spritz your mat. You may not have a yoga space in your home (I practice in my kitchen!) The use of an aromatic spray can greatly enhance and transform your practice environment.

Essential oils to try for yoga

Everyone reacts differently to oils and it can be quite personal. For example, I find lavender very relaxing but my mom hates it so it is not a soothing scent for her. Keep this in mind if you plan to try essential oils in class. But oils do have particular properties that tend to have certain effects for most people. Here are some oils to try in order to create a particular mood or support an intention.

  • Uplifting, encourage the flow of energy: orange, bergamot, peppermint, eucalyptus
  • Relaxing and soothing: lavender, vetiver, and geranium
  • Grounding and centering: patchouli, frankincense, ginger (I have not tried ginger but want to!)
  • Spiritual nourishment: ylang ylang (love this one), neroli, jasmine

You can also blend oils together. Cat sent me some ideas for blends to try (thank you!)

  • Energy blend: peppermint and wild orange
  • Open you airways blend: peppermint and eucalyptus (would be great for a flow practice)

Do you use essential oils in your yoga practice or daily life? Would love to hear how – just hit leave a comment below.

Photo courtesy of epicnom

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