A Nose For Yoga
Exploring the Benefits of AromaYoga
by Hal Smith
When Eko McHugh first heard about AromaYoga™ being offered in Charlotte, she was intrigued but did not know what to expect. “I had been practicing yoga and using essential oils but did not know you could combine them for a powerful experience,” she said.
AromaYoga™ combines the power of therapeutic grade essential oils with the practice of yoga. It’s as simple as a person placing a few drops on their palms and rubbing their hands together before entering into their practice. (For those concerned with skin sensitivity, essential oils can also be diluted with carrier oils, like sesame, olive, jojoba, fractionated coconut or a blend of carrier oils.)
“Once I took my first class,” McHugh said, “I felt both energized and relaxed at the same time. I now regularly practice at Okra and go to every AromaYoga™ Workshop. The oils and asanas are customized for a special experience at every session.”
As with yoga, essential oils and plant extracts have been used for thousands of years to heal and balance the body, mind, and spirit. So, it’s not surprising that combining essential oils with one’s yoga and meditation practices would offer a new and powerful means to physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional benefits—both on and off the mat.
Tias Little owns Prajna Yoga, a studio based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his wife Surya. He explained the impact of introducing oils in his classroom: “The essential oils add a subtle yet potent effect in our yoga space,” he said. “When the students experience the diffusion of the aromas, it enhances their receptivity and wakeful presence in class.”
Essential oils are the lifeblood and essence of the plant and are extracted from leaves, flowers, roots, buds, twigs, heartwood, bark, resin, seeds, and fruits. They are chemically similar in structure to human blood. After being extracted from the plant—the most common methods are by water and steam distillation—the oils are mechanically processed in the same way as citrus rinds. The concentration, however, is much higher than their herbal counterparts. For example, the potency in one drop of peppermint oil is equal to approximately 26 cups of peppermint tea.
The sense of smell is our most primal sense, dating back to the origins of life on earth. When a person inhales an essential oil, the aromatic molecules are uplifted instantly via the nasal passages and olfactory bulb to the limbic region at the center of the brain, where all of our emotions and memories are stored. The limbic system regulates memory, creativity, motivation and the autonomic nervous system.
Essential oils have been known to neutralize the central nervous system by assisting both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. This all happens without our conscious involvement. Smelling just one drop of an essential oil, such as Idaho Balsam Fir, may simultaneously help steady a person’s mind and soothe their emotions.
Both yoga and therapeutic grade essential oils have been known to naturally decrease symptoms of stress by toning the glands of the endocrine system. Essential oils can also help improve physical strength and mental focus. With various methods of application to choose from, they enhance pranayama, meditation, and relaxation. They also help cleanse and purify the body, as well as activate and balance the energy centers (i.e., chakras).
Other benefits off the mat for students who incorporate inhalation and topical application of essential oils in their practice include feeling more alert, receptive, connected, grounded, and uplifted afterward. The potential to strengthen body-mind connection, increase stamina, and reduce muscle and joint pain and tension is also greater.
For those interested in experiencing AromaYoga™, a workshop will be held April 15 at Okra Charlotte. For more information or to sign up for the session, call 704-266-1443 or visit OkraCharlotte.com. Hal Smith is the only certified AromaYoga™ Instructor in North Carolina. He is the co-owner of OkraCharlotte and GumboGoods in Plaza Midwood and teaches monthly AromaYoga™ Workshops as well as several other classes at Okra, located at 1912 Commonwealth Ave.