For many years, yoga teachers have incorporated essential oils into the practice of yoga, sometimes designing entire classes around a theme that is enhanced by a particular aroma. Lavender oil might be used in a therapeutic class to help students relax, while lemongrass oil might be incorporated to create a sense of centeredness and confidence. (See our related post: Lemongrass essential oil benefits: the super-power oil.)
Breathing in essential oils stimulates areas of your limbic system, which is the part of your brain that plays a role in emotions, behaviors, sense of smell, and long-term memory. From long ago to today, aromatic botanicals were and still are used to aid meditation and alter mood. Scent can create an environment that encourages mindfulness and a feeling of balance — which further enhances the benefits of your yoga practice.
Here’s a simple 5-step method on you how can do this on your own.
Step 1: Set an intention for your practice.
If you’ve practiced yoga before, you’ll be familiar with the idea of setting an intention for your practice. If you’re new to yoga, here’s what it’s about: every time you practice, you can call forth something you would like to manifest in your life. You may be seeking strength, inner peace, or mindfulness in your day to day. Some days, it might be something even simpler: feeling gratitude for one small thing that brings you joy, enjoying the love of a family member, or committing to do one thing you’ve been procrastinating on for a while. (We’ve all been there, right?)
Step 2: Choose an aroma that can help facilitate the intention you’ve set.
We’ve created a short list of some of our favorite essential oils, and ways to combine them with a specific intention:
- Lavender essential oil: For relaxing. Incredibly versatile, lavender essential oil is all about achieving a state of calm. Its subtle, soothing scent can relieve stress, anxiety, and headaches. And as a sedative for your central nervous system, lavender also helps lower blood pressure and treat insomnia.
- Peppermint essential oil: For focus. Energizing. Focus-enhancing. Purifying. Peppermint’s very scent is scientifically proven to improve concentration, cut through fatigue, unclog your sinuses, and even relieve sore throats.
- Patchouli essential oil: For stress relief. Inhaling patchouli with its sedative properties and sweet, earthy scent can stimulate pleasure hormones in your brain—and even help you sleep.
- Lemongrass essential oil: For confidence. Lemony with earthy undertones, the scent of lemongrass essential oil helps give you a feeling of calm and centeredness when you’re feeling lethargic, anxious, or need help focusing.
- Tea tree essential oil: For mental rejuvenation. This oil embodies detoxification — with a refreshing and invigorating aromatic twist.
Step 3: Decide on a yoga style or set of poses — and place — that will help you with your intention.
For example, if you’re looking to relax and slow down, you might choose a restorative yoga class or even a meditation practice. If you need a great workout to feel energized, power yoga may be ideal. You may choose to go to a class at a local yoga studio where you feel part of the community so you can benefit from connecting with others. Or, if you need some “me time,” you might use a virtual class that you download online and do from home. If you’re a yoga teacher or seasoned practitioner, you may develop a sequence on your own that is in line with your intention, or the intention you want to share with your students.
Step 4: Prepare for your “aroma yoga” practice.
This can be as simple as spraying your mat or practice space with the essential oil you’ve chosen — just make sure you dilute it in a carrier oil for safe use, or use an essential oil diffuser. You can start your practice with a meditation. When you do this, consider placing a few drops of your essential oil blended with a carrier oil in your hand. Then rub your hands together and inhale the aroma. Do a short meditation with your hands in prayer pose or resting with palms facing up on your lap.
Step 5: Practice and shine!
Choose your own sequence of poses, or attend a yoga class that offers the possibility of using essential oils while you practice. Embrace your intention and the power of aromatherapy to refresh your mind, re-energize your body, and replenish your soul.