Doing a yoga practice is the perfect time to take advantage of the benefits of essential oils. Essential oils are extracted from flowers, leaves, bark or roots of plants and have been used as natural remedies for thousands of years.
Essential oils pair perfectly with the deep breathing encouraged in yoga. When you breath DEEP with a yoga flow you’re flooding your body with much-needed oxygen and improving your respiratory function, but you can also breathe in diffused or applied essential oils that enhance your goals (relaxation, energy, mental clarity, hormone balancing, etc.).
Using essential oils with yoga is one of the ultimate methods of self care.
In the SHE Spring Handbook, I've included a yoga flow for well-being and detoxification. I also suggest using essential oils with the flow to enhance the benefits. (Also, refer to the SHE Spring Handbook for a simple breakdown how to use essential oils from Jennifer Klotz, MS, RD, LDN).
The five ways I like to use the oils with my yoga practice would be to
1) diffuse them into the air,
2) wear them in aromatherapy jewelry,
3) simply inhale the scent from the bottle before I start, during any breaks, and at the end while I breathe.
4) rub them into my feet at the end of a practice.
5) I will also rub them into my hands and inhale deeply or rub a few drops into my skin with a carrier oil like almond oil, coconut oil, etc. I love this method during the day or AFTER a yoga practice, but I don't recommend it right before yoga - your hand will be sliding all over your mat! I only do it if for some reason the other options aren't available to me.
USE A DIFFUSER
I highly recommend you diffuse essential oils while you are doing the yoga! This is my favorite way to incorporate oils in my yoga. It changes the entire experience. It is so simple to put a few drops of oils the match your goals into a diffuser and get started! With the right diffuser it feels as simple as unrolling your mat.
Most essential oil companies sell diffusers. Unlike humidifiers (which do not produce a micro-vapor like a diffuser and often don't have components designed with oils in mind and will break down) and vaporizers (which heat water until it turns to steam..and the heating can break down the therapeutic benefits of oils), diffusers are designed to produce a micro-fine vapor that suspend essential oils into the air for an extended period of time.
I own and enjoy a diffuser from doTerra that I use in my bedroom, but I also use the more inexpensive version (shown above) in my living room that I got right off Amazon. The one feature I love about it is that it will go until it runs out of water with an auto shut off!
USE AROMATHERAPY JEWELRY
Put some oils onto aromatherapy jewelry like the necklaces and bracelets offered by Above Roots Shop (she also donates proceeds to fight human trafficking!).
I've been happily using the Minimal Lava Bead Necklace, but I've got my eye on the Pink African Opal & Lava Diffuser Necklace, Diffuser Necklace to the right!
There are more options...just look for something with a lava bead that can absorb and diffuse the oil! Some options have absorbent pads you can enclose in locket-like charms; this is great if you want a stronger scent I've found.
USE ESSENTIAL OILS IN SAVASANA (CORPSE POSE / RESTING POSE)
Ok, so that final savasana is the best reward after some focused yoga, but using essential oils at the end is like adding frosting to an already irresistible cake ; ) I like to be warm during savasana, so I'll rub two or three drops of essential oils into my feet and put on socks while I rest for 5 minutes (or if I have extra time more!).
Surprisingly, putting essential oils on your feet is a tremendous area for your body to absorb them because the pores on your feet are thicker than any other pores in the rest of your body. That means the essential oils can be absorbed faster and reach your bloodstream quicker.
Cool additional fact: Sebum is an oily substance covering your body that helps make it waterproof. Your feet and hands do not have sebaceous glands, so you get better absorption of oils there! Aaaaaaaaand rubbing the oils into your feet is a great moment of relaxing self massage and reflexology, since so many nerve lines end in your feet.
Now that you know all the ways I love to incorporate essential oils into my yoga practices, here are some of my absolute favorite essential oils for calm, balance, and improved respiratory function.
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR CALM AND BALANCE
- Camomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
- Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)
- Frankincense (Boswellia carteri or boswella sacra)
- Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata)
- dōTERRA Peace
- dōTERRA Balance
- dōTERRA Serentity
I also love using one of the three oils in the doTERRA starter pack mentioned in the SHE Spring Handbook. They are contained in the starter pack because they immediately bring a lot of foundational homeopathic benefits to your medicine cabinet! I highly recomend starting here if you've never invested in essential oils before. You can get yours here or message me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Lemon oil stimulates white blood cells to defend the body against infection (1) and increases killer call activity in your body (it triggers your cells to seek and destroy invaders)! (2)
I have struggled with low white blood cell counts for years due to several health conditions, including Chronic Lyme, so I'm focusing on using it more and more!
Its bright scent also boosts my mental and emotional clarity. I love to mix it with a few other oils though. By itself, a lemon scent tells my brain I need to go clean something because it such a popular cleaning scent! (Insert laughing, crying face ; )
If I don't want that scent in my diffuser, I'll add 2 drops of lemon oil to the water I'm drinking to aid in digestion and detoxification or rub it on my feet after I'm done practicing.
Peppermint has been used for thousands of years and is mentioned in records from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. Peppermint oil has been studied most extensively for irritable bowl syndrome (IBS). Results from several studies indicate that peppermint oil can help IBS symptoms. Peppermint oil has also been positively shown to help with tension headaches, and this is what I find myself using it for the most. If I pair peppermint with shoulder openers and neck stretches, I absolutely feel any headache fading. It's phenomenal for this.
I also love to diffuse it in the morning with my yoga flow because the scent is very energizing and helps me start my day with mental clarity as well.
I absolutely LOVE lavender oil. Essential oils have been proven in studies to have both calming and stimulating impacts on the sympathetic system (3), and nothing proves it to me more that lavender oil. I relax immediately. It is perfect for evening flows or flows when I'm just trying to calm down and relax. I even carry one in my purse and will smell it before a big meeting or anything that may be taking my stress levels up.
Lavender oil also is antibacterial, antifungal, carminative (smooth muscle relaxing), sedative, antidepressive, effective for burns and insect bites, and good for soothing skin, which is something I also use it for. I struggle with constant rashes due to allergies and food allergies AND . I've figured them out, but sometimes I'll get accidentally exposed to something, and if I use lavender oil on the resulting rash right away the rashes always seem to fade much faster than if I don't have any.
I hope you'll give some of the above ways to use essential oils with a yoga practice a try. If you do, let me know how it goes and which scents you use!
Note: Only use 100% Therapeutic grade essential oils from a reputable source. And if you are planning to add the oils to water, make sure they are organic and USDA certified. If your skin reacts or you experience any sensitivity, stop use.
Heather Young, the co-founder of SHE Changes Everything, is a 500 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher specializing in yoga therapy, amromatherapy, and vinyasa yoga. Her mission is to help women discover sustainable movement, exercise that builds bodies up instead of tearing them down through injuires or overuse.
"I LOVE teaching women to think about moving differently in ways that are mentally and physically healthy AND sustainable - keeping your body young, injury-free and feeling calm and capable!"
- Raphael TJ, Kuttan G (2003) Immunomodulatory activity of naturally occurring monoterpenes carvone, limonene, and perillic acid. Immunopharmacology & Immunotoxicology 25:285-294
- Li Q, Nakadai A, Matsushima H (2006) Phytoncides (wood essential oils) induce human natural killer cell activity. Immunopharmacology & Immunotoxicology 28:319-333
- Shinichiro Haze*, Keiko Sakai and Yoko Gozu (2002) Effects of Fragrance Inhalation on Sympathetic Activity in Normal Adults. Product Development Center, Shiseido Co., Ltd., 2-2-1, Hayabuchi, Tsuzuki-ku, Yokohama 224-8558