10 Essential Oils to Enhance Your Yoga Practice

I LOVE essential oils! Those beautiful, sensual aromas have the power to transform your mood, whether it’s to pick you up, calm you down, or even make you feel a little sexy! They have become an integral part of my yoga practice and I like to incorporate them whenever I can. They’re gorgeous, natural and grounding, and they make me feel connected to nature even when I’m trudging my mat through the proverbial concrete jungle.

Here are 10 essential oils you can use to enhance your yoga practice.

1. Lavender: Be Calm

Those gorgeous purple flowers pictured above are used to create one of the most popular and well-known essential oils. Lavender, also known as Lavandula, is a rockstar oil. It’s calming, soothing, and incredibly gentle. It may even be the most gentle essential oil of them all. This comforting oil is one I like to use during a soft, restorative practice or when winding down at night with meditation. Usually I diffuse it, but I sometimes place a few drops in the palm of my hand, rub my palms together to generate heat, and then inhale its aromas deeply. Immediate stress relief!

Quick disclaimer: I recommend diffusing essential oils, but they can also be applied to the skin if diluted with a carrier oil. The typical recommendation is a 2% dilution, which is equal to about 20 drops of carrier oil mixed with 1 drop of essential oil. A little goes a long way with these highly concentrated oils. Usually I opt for jojoba oil or almond oil as my carrier oil, but coconut oil is another popular option. Essential oils can cause reactions and skin sensitivities when not diluted, especially the more citrusy ones, so always remember to protect your skin by diluting with a carrier oil before applying.    

2. Frankincense: Be Centered

Mmm my darling Frankie, how you leave me so centered and at peace. Frankincense is one of the oldest known essential oils, even referenced in the Bible alongside Myrrh as a gift to Jesus from the three wise men. Frankie is an excellent alternative for those who aren’t into the floral vibes of Lavender. It is earthy and warm, but also quite relaxing. I particularly like to rub some onto my chest with jojoba oil so I can breathe in its deep aromas throughout my practice while also giving my skin some love thanks in part to is astringent properties. Frankincense is truly beautiful and an oil I highly recommend.

3. Orange: Be Happy

Infuse some fun into your sun salutations with orange essential oil. Be it a sweet orange or a wild one, this essential oil is a mood boosting powerhouse. It is an adaptogen, meaning it has properties that are both uplifting and calming. Depending on your mood, your body may respond differently to orange. If you need energy it can boost you up, and if you need a moment it can calm you down. Personally, I like to take it down a notch by diffusing it with lavender. This dynamite duo brings out the best in one another. They soothe without causing sleepiness and energize without excess. This is an awesome oil to diffuse on its own in the mornings.

Other citruses of note: bergamot, grapefruit, tangerine and lime

4. Patchouli: Be Grounded

Oh, so you like it earthy? Then you want to meet patchouli. A colleague of mine describes its scent as “dirt flowers” and I couldn’t agree more. It’s got floral notes that coexist with the essence of damp tree trunks in a forest, which is not necessarily reflective of how others would describe it but pretty accurate to me. Patchouli is as grounding as they come. Take big, deep inhales of patchouli to feel connected to your breath, your practice, and the earth.

5. Peppermint: Be Invigorated

Put some pep in your step with peppermint. Peppermint is excellent for energy and is also cleansing for your respiratory system, making it nice to breathe in during a practice. This is another oil I like to use topically. I used to work at Saje so I’m biased, but I especially love rolling this Peppermint Halo blend on the back of my neck before practice or at the end prior to savasana. Depending on your body, peppermint can feel cold or warm on your skin. For me, it’s extra icy! You can use straight up peppermint essential oil too, just add a few drops to a carrier oil and apply as desired.

Other herbs of note: rosemary and basil

6. Black Spruce: Be Strong

Stand tall like a tree while feeling rooted through the earth when you welcome black spruce into your practice. It’s one of my favourite tree scents. It shares elements of other oils, such as being calming and grounding, but what I like most about it is it makes me feel connected to nature. When I close my eyes and breathe in its aromas, I can imagine myself surrounded by the tall spruces of the west coast. If you can’t find black spruce, regular spruce is also gorgeous. Spruce makes me feel tall and strong, powerful and grounded, like nothing can take me down, nothing can make me feel small. Tree pose in a bottle.

Other tree scents of note: cedar, pine and balsam fir

7. Sage: Be Pure

When we want to cleanse a space, burning sage is often the spiritual go-to. These properties carry into its oil form as well, bringing a cleansing, purifying and spiritually grounding element to your practice. There’s a reason why in yoga we have asanas like Sage Pose, a testament to the guidance of the wise ones. Sage is an age old oil that envelopes a space in purity of thought and intention. It gets its name from the latin word “salvere,” which can be translated to “salvation” or “to be saved.” A gorgeous oil for a grounding and invigorating vinyasa or ashtanga practice.

8. Ylang Ylang: Be Free

Talk about flower power! Ylang ylang is one of my go-to essential oils. Its sexy, soft and spicy. While known for its calming and peaceful properties, I consider her more of a wild child. She’s an aphrodisiac and an energizer, a stress reliever and an antidepressant. She’s surprising and fun, floral like the crowns you wear in your hair at music festivals. Diffuse Ylang ylang during a free flowing practice on those days when you hit the mat and just see where it takes you. Ylang ylang isn’t everybody’s fave floral, but if you operate on the same vibrations she’ll treat you real good.

9. Rose: Be Comforted

Is there any scent more beautiful than rose essential oil? To smell 100% pure rose essential oil is to walk into a dream. It is powerful and intense, familiar and comforting. Rose essential oil is associated with the heart chakra and is considered an excellent oil to help with grief, depression and anxiety. It is soothing in a different way than lavender, almost like a warm scarf or a hint of home. When I was working at the store, I witnessed it trigger emotional responses in people on more than one occasion. We have memories that are deeply rooted in scent even if we don’t realize it and sometimes smelling something in particular can evoke something inside you. Alternatively, I also find rose an empowering, sensual scent. It’s the oil I would most associate with goddess pose. It is strong and delicate, just as it is in flower form.

10. Sandalwood: Be Still

Grounding, centering, soothing and relaxing, Sandalwood has it all. Incredible for concentration and focus, sandalwood is gorgeous during meditation and yin yoga. It has a magical essence that possesses an almost universal appreciation, a quality that is seemingly unique to it. It’s masculine and feminine, musky and soft all at once. Diffuse it, breathe it in, or apply it to pulse points like the inside of your wrists, your temples and behind the ears to enjoy its benefits topically (using a carrier oil). Sandalwood is a more expensive oil, but a worthy addition to any essential oil enthusiast’s collection especially as one drop really is all you need with this handsome oil. Sandalwood is what I would consider meditation in a bottle.

Where to get essential oils:

Here are just a few of the places you can pick up essential oils in Toronto and online. I recommend trying them in person first so you can smell and experience the oils firsthand. It’s an amazing way to discover new scents you may not have been drawn to otherwise.

  • Saje Natural Wellness – A Canadian essential oil company with numerous locations throughout the city. As I mentioned, I used to work here so I’m a little biased, but I can vouch for the quality of their oils and that they source sustainably.
  • Wonderworks – Beautiful selection of oils and related products at great price points. Some of my favourite oils are from here and not just because they’re sourced locally.
  • Your local health store – Lots of health stores carry essential oils. If they sell supplements they probably sell essential oils too!
  • Vitruvi – A Canadian company that offers a small, but curated selection of beautiful oils that jump to life. The tangerine is a surprising fave!
  • Way of Will – A Toronto-based line, the oils of Way of Will have been chosen because they pair well with movement. I’ve also tried a few of their other essential oil-based products and highly recommend! They smell and work great.
  • NOW Essential Oils – A popular brand that is widely available in health stores and online. They offer decent oils and prices, though the strength of certain scents can be on the mild side in my opinion.
  • Well.ca – Large online selection of oils, many of which are from Canadian suppliers.

What are your favourite essential oils to use during your practice? Would love to know in the comments below. 

Photos by: A Fox Mateus Bassan Joseph Young Alina Sofia

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