During a good yoga practice – whether it was gentle or vinyasa – the energetic level of the mind will fluctuate between energized, calm or focused. Yoga opens the door to enhance the ability of our senses – mindfully hearing the teacher’s instructions or music; feeling the sensations of our body or energy in a pose; seeing the space around us in which we practice; and perhaps increasing our sensitivity to the world around us. The sense of smell with aromatherapy, however, may compliment a yoga practice in more ways than just adding a lovely scent in the room.
According to Rose Heart, certified master aromatherapist, herbalist and founder of Organic Infusions, “Essential oils can prepare the body, lift the spirit for the yoga experience.”
Heart explains that the use of essential oils during, and outside of yoga practice can help us connect our mind and bodies to help with mental and physical issues – and what better place to connect with the body and mind than in yoga class. Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for everything from spiritual, therapeutic to hygienic purposes.
Today, essential oils are still used for many of the same purposes – including many of the same issues people come to yoga to relieve, such as: stress, insomnia, anxiety and depression, pain, improving memory and focus and increasing energy.
How does aromatherapy actually affect us? When a smell enters the nose, millions of receptors receive the scent and make connections through regions of the brain that stimulate memory and emotion. For this reason, smell is considered the most primal sense that influences how you think, feel and behave. In fact, before the term “limbic system” was used, it was considered the “smell brain.”
As a former massage therapist, Heart was introduced to essential oils and their qualities for healing. As a healer she is also familiar with the chakra system, also an important component in yoga practice.
Heart believes that the opening chakras during yoga practice can be enhanced by using using essential oils, and has even created a special Organic Infusions Yoga Oil Blend of seven different oils that can stimulate each of the chakras and the body’s subtle energy.
The blend, which is appropriate for private or group use, includes: the grounding scent of cedar atlas for the first chakra; ylang ylang, that stimulates the creativity of the second chakra; lemon for balancing emotions and energy of the third chakra; lavender for its ability to calm the heart and the fourth chakra (and known as the “scent of the angels”); rosemary for an energy boost to the fifth chakra for speaking the truth (it is also great for the lymphatic system); frankincense, a very traditional oil typically used for spiritual purposes, that connects the sixth chakra, also called the “third eye”, with the heart chakra; and finally, the ancient scent of sandalwood for the seventh, or “crown”, chakra that helps to open the light of all seven chakras together.
When the Yoga Oil blend was used during a group gentle yoga class at the Wellness House of Annapolis, many of the students, as well as the teacher, all commented on having a stronger sense of being grounded and feeling more peaceful. One student, a woman in her 50’s, stated that she felt “lighter energy around her heart and throat during the practice.”
“Yoga practitioners can connect with the heart of the oil during practice,” says Heart. By using a simple electric aromatherapy diffuser, scents can infuse the air with healing aromatherapy. Heart also explains that essential oils can be applied to the skin if mixed with quality base oils like jojoba, and also recommend using high-quality oils, as some may not be pure or effective.
“People come into yoga class with their ‘stuff’,” Heart explains, “The essential oils open the heart and prepare the soul for whatever that may be for each person.”