Empowering Yoga with essential oils!

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Empowering Yoga with essential oils!

Base Formula’s Consultant Aromatherapist Nicole Barton explains how you can complement your yoga practice with pure, therapeutic essential oils!

Aromatherapy is a ‘complementary’ therapy, which means, according to the British Medical Journal, that it is a treatment which can ‘support other healthcare disciplines’ to create balanced wellbeing, which often focuses on the ‘whole’ person.  With this in mind, what better discipline to complement than yoga?

Connecting the ‘whole’ – mind, body and spirit

Whilst yoga often becomes an internalised way of life, it can start out as a complementary therapy itself. The British Wheel of Yoga describes it to be about a holistic ‘union,’ through ‘co-ordinating the breath, mind and body to encourage balance, both internally and externally.’  Whilst there are many opinions about what the key principles of yoga practice are, common themes suggest it is about connecting the ‘whole person’ through physical stretches and movement using postures which help relaxation, breathing, grounding and meditation. Given its holistic nature as a disciplined practice that supports wellbeing, similar to Aromatherapy, how can it not be great to integrate the two for ultimate balance?

Where incense might add atmosphere, it has no therapeutic value.  Whereas essential oils have pure and natural therapeutic benefits which are, increasingly, being recognised by the medical profession for their ability to bring about healing.  Derived from plant extracts, each essential oil has different chemical properties which, once breathed in or absorbed into your bloodstream, can have a powerful effect on the body, mind and spirit.  It is in this way that aromatherapy can empower yoga practice: by using aromatherapy oils which can help to overcome any physical, mental and spiritual challenges you might be facing.  It is all about oil selection – if you need grounding, then you might select Myrrh essential oil, for example, which can have a spiritual effect.  The selection process is often ‘intuitive’, but it can help to know a bit more about the oils when creating bespoke blends to support your yoga.

Which oils for yoga?

There are so many ways you can utilise essential oils to empower the yoga journey.  In connecting the ‘whole’ person through yoga practice, we aim towards creating harmony between the ‘mind,’ ‘body’ and ‘spiritual’ aspects of our whole being. Therefore, why not create an aromatherapy blend utilising one essential oil for each aspect to really support a balanced practice?  Or, depending where intuition takes you, perhaps choose several different essential oils to help strengthen the aspect that feels most imbalanced – for example, if you are feeling emotionally and spiritually challenged during yoga practice, perhaps concentrate on oils that can support these aspects more, whilst allowing your physical balance to continue.

This diagram broadly highlights some possible essential oils for each aspect of yoga – in theory:Yoga Diagram

In reality, we can’t use them all – and some of these essential oils have multiple purposes, effecting perhaps mind, body and spiritual aspects – so how do we choose?  One point to remember is that our body usually needs the oils it likes the smell of, so beware of that in the oil selection process and chose the oils that you are most drawn to.  Equally, each essential oil has a different purpose, so it’s worth reading around the individual oil’s properties to discover what you need.  A few of the different essential oil benefits are highlighted below.

Oils to support the emotions:

  • Relax/Calm – Chamomile, Lavender, Sweet Orange, Rose, Jasmine, Geranium, Ylang-Ylang, Vetivert
  • De-stress – Bergamot, Clary Sage, Chamomile, Sweet Orange, Rose, Jasmine, Patchouli, Neroli
  • Uplift – Lemongrass, Lemon, Lime, Grapefruit, Clary Sage
  • Mental clarity – Basil, Peppermint, Rosemary, Lemon

Oils to support the body:

  • Muscular challenges – Lavender, Sweet Marjoram, Basil, Cypress, Rosemary, Thyme, Peppermint, Chamomile, Eucalyptus, Frankincense
  • Breath awareness and deeper breathing – Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Frankincense

Oils to support the spirit:

  • Meditative – Myrrh, Frankincense, Neroli, Patchouli, Vetivert
  • Grounding – Myrrh, Vetivert, Ginger, Patchouli, Cedarwood
  • Strengthening and centering – Sandalwood, Frankincense, Neroli
  • Cleansing – Lime, Lemon, Grapefruit

So whilst we can now understand which oils can aid empowered yoga practice, how do we actually use them?

How to utilise essential oils during yoga practice

Firstly, select two or three oils that you like and feel intuitively drawn to, and ensure their scents blend well together – if you like all three oils together, this is perfect.  There are then several ways you can then use them when you have narrowed it down.

Diffusion

Perhaps the most obvious technique, because it allows the essential oils to fill the yoga space, as well as creating a lovely atmosphere to practice within, is diffusing the essential oil blend you have created.  You can do this with an essential oil candle burner.  Add some water to the burner and then introduce 2-4 drops of each of your three selected oils. Light the candle underneath and the oils’ molecules will soon be dispersed into your yoga space and work their way into your body as you breathe.

Massage

Alternatively, you can massage the oils into your skin before you start your practice.  This is a great way to get the oils into your system more efficiently as they will absorb through your skin and into your blood stream. Before you start, mix 12-15ml of a carrier oil such as grapeseed oil with 1-2 drops of each of your three chosen oils, and massage this into your body before your practice.  You could try both massage and diffusion together, of course, for a really powerful aromatherapy yoga session.

Compress

If you desire, you can apply essential oils with a hot or cold compress.  Fill a bowl with hot or cold water, add 3 drops of each of your chosen oils and submerse the cloth into the water.  Wring out the cloth and then wrap the compress where required on the body.  It might be nice to have a cold compress flannel at hand during practice, or if you are suffering with a sore muscular challenge, perhaps utilise this technique before and after practice – decide if you need heat or cold first, though.

Dousing/Spritzing

This can be a good way to combine aromatherapy oils into your yoga space.  Mixing 10 drops of each of your essential oils with 100ml of water and dousing it over your yoga mat to cleanse it before a session can be a nice way to renew the energy in the room – though do wipe it before you start so it isn’t slippery! This would be lovely with Lime essential oil, which is renowned for its cleansing properties.  Alternatively, you could pop the blend in a spray bottle and spray this round the room before and after, or even spritz yourself.

Essential Oils

Tried and tested blends

Overall, you must find your own, intuitive way with blends for your personal yoga practice.  However, there are some tried and tested ones that I love!  For me, some of my favourite essential oils for supporting a meditative, grounded yoga practice would be Myrrh, Sweet Orange and Patchouli.  Myrrh is very spiritually grounding and meditative whilst also supporting the respiratory system, which makes it useful for deeper breathing.  This blends beautifully with Sweet Orange which is really uplifting and cheery, yet calming for the anxious mind. Patchouli is great with these two oils for its hypnotic properties, calming mental chatter – which is often the part I find challenging in yoga practice.  Try 2 drops of Myrrh, 4 drops of Sweet Orange and 3 drops of Patchouli in your burner/diffuser. For a more cleansing, uplifting yoga session, try 2 drops of Lime blended with 4 drops of Lemongrass and 3 drops of Rosemary to help with mental clarity and focus on deeper breathing.

It could be as simple as integrating refreshing Lime at the beginning of your practice to cleanse the space, and relaxing Lavender to end your practice with meditation.  Alternatively, you could get creative and integrate the essential oils to help balance specific chakras during yoga practice; selecting oils based on where your energetic blockages are.  E.g. to balance the base chakra, select grounding Frankincense or Vetivert, or, for the crown chakra, try mind-calming Basil, or relaxing Rose.

Whichever essential oils you select, remember one thing – the natural, therapeutic effect of these amazing aromatherapy oils can really empower your session; so don’t leave them out!

Namaste.

Nicole Barton is a Consultant Aromatherapist for Base Formula and also operates her own private practice ‘Chalet Holistics‘.

Base Formula supply a wide range of essential oils, carrier oils and aromatherapy skincare products. They are the only approved aromatherapy supplier to the Federation of Holistic Therapists and are also proud members of the Aromatherapy Trade Council.

Base Formula are offering 20% off all purchases for Yoga Magazine readers. Simply quote code YOGA20 at the checkout to receive your discount. Code is valid for your first purchase only and cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer code or discount. Shop online now at www.baseformula.com.

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