To say Essential Oils are the latest craze is probably unfair. They have truly been around since the Ancient Egyptians. Much more recently than the Ancient Egyptians, it would have been in the late eighties when my mum and I went to a health expo in our small regional town and bought our first oil burner and oil (and since I can remember that it was Frangipani oil, it was probably a fragrance oil). We’ve both used Essential Oils ever since.
But now Essential Oils are everywhere!
Essential Oils have changed. Well, not so much changed, as improved. The distillation processes have improved and the bioactive ingredients are whole, intact and therapeutic. Now phrases are being thrown around such as CPTG (Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade) and Essential Oils are approved by the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Association) because they are recognised as having bioactive ingredients that can affect you at a cellular level.
Essential Oils can be used for body products, cleaning, home health, stress relief, in your cooking… and for yoga!
There are two main ways of using Essential Oils in your yoga practice.
The first of these is diffused.
I don’t have any oil burners any more. I do have five or six diffusers around my house and in my clinic though! Oil diffusers have replaced oil burners for some very good reasons. Oil burners use the candle underneath to heat the water and oil above, to release the aroma of the oil. We now know that heating an Essential Oil changes the structure of the active constituents that have the therapeutic effect and diffusers have taken over. Diffusers are plugged into the power, filled with water, drops of oil are added, and air is pushed through the water to atomise a mist that contains the Essential Oil. For those of us with kids, you can also use them as night lights, you won’t burn your house down by forgetting to blow the candle out, and no one catches on fire if you knock them over!
You can also diffuse Essential Oils by wearing bracelets and malas made with porous stones that you can add a few drops of oil to. As you move, the Essential Oils gently diffuse into the air around you. They tend to last for a few days and then you can reapply or use a different oil.
Another way to use Essential Oils in your yoga practice is topically. Keep in mind here that a little bit works as well as a lot, so diluted in liquid coconut oil is the way to go when you’re starting out. You can buy little roller bottles to add your oils to, or you can just mix them up in a little bowl. If you apply them to your feet, keep in mind that you’ll get warm as you practice and the oil will soak into your yoga mat!
On the back of your neck is a lovely place for a little oil, you’ll smell it as you move. So are your pulse points behind your ears and on your wrists. I like to add Essential Oil to the liquid coconut oil I use as a body moisturiser in the morning, which is beautiful on your skin later when you practice.
So what oils do you use? Here are my favourites:
Frankincense – There’s a reason this beautiful oil is called the ‘King of oils’. Frankincense is very calming and restorative with anti-depressive and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s beautiful in the diffuser while you practice, applied topically just under your nose, or on your mala beads (my favourite!).
Lavender – Lavender has always been known for its relaxing qualities! Pop some in your diffuser to relax you for a restorative practice, or in your diffuser the night before for a good night’s sleep if you’re planning an early practice or class. It’s also wonderful at relaxing muscle tissue and can be rubbed into a tight area for relief.
Wild Orange - Energising and relaxing at the same time, Wild Orange is a favourite of mine for a yoga practice that is more energetic in nature. A drop in the palms of your hands and cupped over your nose will balance your energy and lift your mood.
Sandalwood - This beautiful, deeply calming Essential Oil is a great relaxant. It is calming and almost sedative in nature and has been used throughout history to enhance spiritual development. This oil is great for your relaxation session at the end of your practice. Place a drop in your hands, rub them together, cup your hands over your nose and take a few deep breaths before settling down to relax.
Cedarwood – Cedarwood is grounding and calming and beautiful in the diffuser during your practice. It also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties so is wonderful to have in the air you’re breathing. As a bonus, it blends beautifully with Frankincense, Lavender, Wild Orange and Sandalwood!
The one thing that you do need to remember with your Essential Oils is that you need to buy the best quality ones that you can find. Sadly, cheaper ones have fillers in them which you don’t want evaporating into the air around you, or being absorbed into your skin. Even if you only get one good quality Essential Oil, your yoga practice will enjoy the benefits!