I was in a yoga class once where, during savasana, the instructor came up to each of us and rubbed oil on our foreheads and temples. It smelled amazing, and I remember thinking about how I wanted to smell that smell forever. She was using lavender essential oil, and that class opened up a whole new world for me as I learned more about essential oils and began to incorporate them into my spiritual practice.
At Inspiring Actions, some of our mixed-level and candlelight flow classes incorporate essential oils, but as a rule, we try to stay “scent-free” to be respectful of people’s individual sensitivities. Instructors will always ask before using an oil and if there is ever an unexpected reaction, we act quicky to open the doors/windows and turn on fans. To address other scents such as perfume, we encourage students to change their shirt before class if they wore perfume that day, and to wash hands and wrists before coming to class.
Click here for a full list of our classes! We encourage people to try essential oils on their own, and to find the scents that make you feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and calm. There are literally hundreds of different kinds of with endless physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits, and they can be an excellent supplement to your personal yoga or meditation practice.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated, natural oils derived from plants through steam distillation, cold pressing, extraction, or resin distillation. They are extracted from flowers, trees, shrubs, roots, and seeds.
Essential oils can be adaptogens, that balance chemicals in the body that boost resistance to stress, or analgesics; more simply put, pain relievers. There are a multitude of other benefits you can receive from essential oils as well as a variety of ways you can use them. In this post, we’ll go over some general information about essential oils, some easy ways to use them, and my three personal favorites.
Essential Oils in Aromatherapy and Ayurveda
Aromatherapy and Ayurveda are traditional forms of medicine where things like oils, spices and nutrition take the place of Western medications. Essential oils play a key role because of their healing properties; they can be analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and a variety of others.
Many essential oils can help with both mental and physical issues. Lavender, for example, can help with insomnia but can also be used to treat minor bacterial and fungal infections.
It’s essential (pun absolutely intended) that you purchase pure oils, as many come diluted and therefore do not have the same therapeutic effects. Watch out for products like scented candles and perfume that say ‘made with essential oils’ as many of these may still contain synthetic material.
Ways to Use Essential Oils
- 10 – 20 drops in an essential oil diffuser
- 10 – 20 drops in a spray can for body mist or room spray, glass or metal works best.
- 2 – 3 drops on a lava bead bracelet
- 2 – 3 drops directly to the skin (typically wrists, neck, etc. and only for oils that are safe for topical use)
- 10 – 12 drops (lavender works great for this) mixed with witch hazel for a homemade yoga mat cleaner
Incorporating Essential Oils into Your Yoga Practice
Even if you don’t find yourself in a yoga class where the instructor uses oils, you can easily incorporate your favorite essential oil into your personal practice. If you’re doing yoga at home, set up a small diffuser in your space and add a few drops. Spray your mat with a homemade spray, or simply rub the oil onto your wrists, chest, forehead or wherever you find helpful.
Yoga is a personal practice, and using essential oils follows suit. There really is no right or wrong as far as which oils to use and how. There are guidelines that help you use them to the best of their ability, but overall, find what you like and roll with it!
My use of oils in yoga is pretty simple. I have a little metal spray can in my space that I fill with about 20 drops of a lavender and clarysage mix that I buy from a local company. Before my practice, I spray my mat and myself with the mixture, and it helps to keep me grounded throughout the session. I also like to rub some on my wrists and chest like perfume.
My Top 3 Essential Oils
Lavender. By far the most popular essential oil, lavender has a ton of potential uses, and is even safe to apply undiluted onto the skin. It affects the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with the body’s anxiety responses such as increased heart rate, sweating and shaking.
For this reason, lavender can help promote relaxation, calm anxiety, and even help with sleep.
I make a spray with about 10 – 20 drops in a small spray can mixed with distilled water, and spray around my room before I go to bed to help with sleep.
I also like to mix a couple drops in with my hemp lotion after I get out of the shower.
Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus essential oil is one that I use every year during cold season because of its’ expectorant properties. I put a couple drops in my son’s bath when he has a cough and run a diffuser in his room. Eucalyptus can help with cold and flu symptoms and is also an effective pain reliever for things like arthritis and general muscle pains and tension. It can also help with diabetes symptoms and boost the immune system. It can also be used as an insect repellent, pain reliever, and anti-inflammatory.
Valerian. Valerian is a lesser-known essential oil, but it makes it into my top three because of its incredible benefits. Sidenote: Valerian root is also sold as a supplement, and can have an amazing beneficial impact on anxiety, depression, and sleep issues. Back to the oil. Valerian helps to calm an overactive mind and ease the physical symptoms of anxiety. Safe for direct inhalation, I will often inhale valerian directly from the bottle before a meeting or something that makes me nervous.
There is so much more to learn about essential oils, but it’s best to start small. There are so many kinds of essential oils and so many different uses and benefits, it can be overwhelming. Most if the information in this post was taking from an excellent book for beginners, literally called Essential Oils for Beginners. You’ll find tons of information, as well as some amazing blend recipes.
Come join us for a class and pick some up; we’d love to see you in our Hudson or River Falls studio!