Essential oils and yoga — it’s about creating an experience. Just as each asana creates a sensation in the body and mind, each essential oil stimulates a feeling or emotion.
Asanas and essential oils each have unique energies. For example, when participants come into class lively and talkative, I can quickly guide them to an introspective space by bringing them into child’s pose for a few minutes. Equally, when class includes a lot of back-bending I may offer participants a little cotton with a drop or two of chamomile essential oil. Chamomile promotes heart health and soothes the nerves. I find it helps take the edge off the fear people have around heart-opening and back-bending.
How to Pair Yoga Asanas with Essential Oils
There are lots of ways to decide which essential oil to combine with a particular asana sequence. Challenging sequences that require focus and balance pair well with peppermint, whereas ylang ylang essential oil helps mentally relax participants for a slow sequence with long yin poses.
But what if you aren’t familiar with essential oils and their benefits? Or what if you use and love essential oils but have no idea how they pair with yoga asanas? You can spend the time it takes to study the energy of each asana and the uses of each essential oil (a worthy endeavor), but there is a faster, easier way.
Essential Oils and Chakras
Many readers may already know this, but the chakra energetic system is yoga. First described in the Upanishads, chakras were included in the oldest known texts pertaining to yoga and predate the asanas we know and practice as yoga today. In other words: chakras are more yoga than yoga.
There are specific asanas and yoga sequences that affect the energy or parts of the body associated with one of the seven chakras. Likewise, different essential oils are used for calming or activating each chakra.
The chakra energetic system can be used to translate between asanas and essential oils. In this way, they become two tools for balancing energy that work better together, each one enhancing the other’s effects. The experience can be further enhanced by incorporating the colors and vibrational sounds that relate to the specific chakra as well.
Ways to Use Essential Oils in Yoga
There are a number of ways to use essential oils in your personal asana practice or yoga classes. The delivery method will depend on the oil you are using, your desired affect, and your sensitivity or the sensitivity of participants. Click on the quick reference below to read more about each way to incorporate essential oils in your yoga.
Put 1-2 drops of essential oil on a small cotton pad or ball. I sew so I often use a little piece of scrap fabric — one square inch will do. The idea is to provide just enough to hold the oil.
This is my favorite delivery method for sharing an oil with groups. It allows each individual to experience the essential oil as much or as little as they like. It avoids the risk of staining someone’s clothing with an oil, and reduces the risk of skin irritation. It also serves as a memento of the class and participants have told me they kept it in their purse and enjoyed the smell for weeks.
An oil diffuser can be used to permeate a scent throughout the room during yoga class. There are a variety of diffusers to choose from and each have their pros and cons. Check out this essential oil diffuser guide by Wellness Mama to understand the available options.
I personally prefer heat diffusers, such as the classic ceramic burners that work with a tealight candle. They provide a silent, economical, and effective way of distributing oils and work great for burning a scent throughout an hour-long yoga practice.
First and foremost, never spray anyone in the face with an essential oil, diluted or not. I had a yoga teacher who did this during savasana and it was the most jarring experience.
Diluted essential oil sprays can be used to clean yoga mats but are not the best way to share a scent with a group. However, there is an exception when an essential oil spritz can be a delicious experience: when the individual is already warm enough to sweat from asana practice. Even then, you should ask permission before spritzing each individual in a group and aim for their chest.