The relaxing and energizing powers of essential oils are a great way to enhance your yoga practice. Whether you are new to yoga or have been practicing for a while, adding the elements of aromatherapy could be the key to more zen. I love the way the instructors at my yoga studio use essential oils to make the space seem in-tune with our practice. If you find yourself suddenly trying to turn your living room or bedroom into a yoga studio while we all stay-at-home, essential oils might be the essential element you need to get it done!
Aromatherapy has powerful effects on mood and wellbeing due to strong linkages between the olfactory (smell) region of the brain and the regions dedicated to emotion and memory, but you need to know how to use aromatherapy properly to get the effects you desire. The first step to using aromatherapy effectively is to think about the goals of your yoga practice, both physical, mental and emotional, which can vary with each yoga session. How are you feeling today? What do you need? Do you crave feelings of peace and tranquility, clarity, energy, calmness, invigoration, or boldness during your yoga practice? Are you getting a major sweat on with energetic flows or relaxing into long, still Yin poses or something in between? Matching the correct essential oils with your practice and goals can help you enhance your experience dramatically. Read on to learn about some of our favorite oils for an enhanced at-home yoga practice.
And as you experiment with different aromas, remember: this is your personal journey! If you don’t like a scent, or the way a scent makes you feel, don’t push yourself to keep trying it. The links between scent, emotion and memory means that the smells you love and the smells you can’t stand are powerfully attached to your individuality, so trust your feelings as you explore aromatherapy!
Relax: Lavender, Vanilla and Jasmine
The number one oil on my list for relaxation is lavender. It is probably my favorite essential oil for yoga because I love the way it smells and I can feel my body and mind relax more with each breath I take. This is great during my practice, when I count on deep, intentional breathing to focus my mind and release muscle tension during long-held poses. Some other wonderful relaxing oils I love to use include vanilla and jasmine. Be careful with these--you might fall asleep during savasana!
Focus: Sandalwood and Vetiver
One of my favorites oils for calming my busy mind and helping reduce anxiety is sandalwood. Many people find sandalwood to increase alertness and wakefulness while at the same time triggering relaxation, which is perfect for yoga. I love the woody, earthy scent and feel more calm focus in my practice while breathing it. If you’re progressing on to more complicated poses and Vinyasa flows where your mind needs to be sharp and laser-focused on the motions and breathing, this oil may be a good choice for you. Another favorite of mine in this same category is vetiver, which has a strong, smoky, spicy scent that I love.
Invigorate: Citrus, Cinnamon and Peppermint
The aromatic use of essential oils can shift your mood at the physiological level. Oils with a strong stimulating effect can make you feel more awake, focused, happy, and motivated to face challenges. Vigorous yoga practices may reach new levels with the addition of a citrus oil such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, or bergamot. These oils are stars for brightening your mood and increasing overall energy, including mental vigor. The different citrus oils also blend well, so you can try different mixes and find a customized scent that you love and find uniquely invigorating during your yoga practice!
Another great stimulating oil that I use often is cinnamon or cinnamon bark. It reminds me of yummy treats like apple pie, which makes me happy automatically. Cinnamon is known to have a natural overall warming effect and increases blood flow throughout your body. This blood flow boost helps to wake up your body and your brain and leave you ready for action!
I also love peppermint for its energizing effects during my yoga practice. I find it lifts my spirits and enhances my focus dramatically, which translates into more energy on the mat. If you like the scent of peppermint, you might try it and see how it affects you physically and mentally during your practice. Many people find it also improves their concentration and clears brain fog, which could be helpful even after your yoga session ends!
One more thing you’ll need to get started adding aromatherapy to your yoga practice is a good-quality diffuser. The diffuser will be filled with water and several drops of essential oil, which will then be dispersed through the room when you turn it on. You can also use essential oils topically by blending with a carrier oil and rubbing into your skin. I use coconut oil and jojoba oil as carriers, which are both great for your skin health as well.
This discussion is barely scratching the surface of the many oils and all the ways they can be combined with yoga, but I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity about the benefits of incorporating some aromatherapy into your practice.
Check out our selection of quality essential oils and diffusers in our Be Vivid You online shop.