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What is Aroma-Yoga?

by Mary Beth Janssen

Whether at work or play, I make essential oils an integral part of every day. I use aromatherapy clinically with patients, in spa settings with staff and guests, and with my yoga students. At the beginning of every yoga or wellness session, I pass out an organic cotton ball moistened with a couple drops of essential oil to set the mood. Whatever the activity, therapeutic-grade organic essential oils can make a difference, enhancing mind-body awareness and releasing tension.
Yoga and aromatherapy have traditionally been linked through the holistic medical system Ayurveda. In India, attars —plant-based perfumes in a sandalwood base—were an elemental part of yoga practice, used to massage muscles before and help calm the mind during asana practice. Many lovely attars are still available today.
Aromatherapy, like yoga, works on the whole person: body, mind and pure consciousness or spirit. Aromas trigger instincts, emotions and memory. Yoga weaves neuromuscular memory into our cells. Combining the two, we can condition ourselves to feel yoga’s deep calming relaxation off the mat just by smelling the scent that accompanied our asanas.
Every week I distribute cotton balls with different mood-enhancing oils to my students, who breathe in their scent during our upfront pranayama. They place the cotton ball on the corner of their mats and get whiffs during our asana practice.
Using essential oils to clean your mat is another great way to get aromatherapy’s benefits while sanitizing and deodorizing. To energize your practice, mix several drops of anti-microbial and antibacterial essential oils such as tea tree, rosemary, eucalyptus, cedarwood, or lemon into a spray bottle of purified water. White vinegar can enhance the disinfection quotient.
If a cold, sinusitis or allergies has messed with your sense of smell, add eucalyptus, juniper or tea tree essential oil to a diffuser or vaporizer or try this Ayurvedic remedy.
Nasya is simply applying a few drops of organic olive, sweet almond or sesame oil infused with a small amount of camphor, eucalyptus or menthol oil to the inside of your nostrils with your little finger. The Chopra Center’s Ayurnas Ayurvedic Sinus Support Nasya Oil provides cold and allergy relief and also helps with insomnia, muscle tension, neck pain, snoring, hoarseness, stress and fatigue.
1 ounce, $20; store.chopra.com
Scent Your Asanas
Rose absolute oil: enhances heart-opening effects of bridge and backbends
Sandalwood: reduces anxiety for grounded warrior and standing poses
Lavender: promotes calm surrender during standing and seated forward bends
Peppermint: quickly energizes prana flow for downward dog and inversions
Clary sage: soothes tension, inspires creativity and renews vigor during twists
Frankincense: inspires deep focus during restorative poses
My Favorite Essential Oils
Ananda Apothecary anandaapothecary.com
Aromadina aromandina.com
Aura Cacia auracacia.com
Aveda aveda.com
Floracopeia floracopeia.com
Intelligent Nutrients intelligentnutrients.com
Lotus Wei lotuswei.com
Natural Patches of Vermont naturopatch.com
Young Living youngliving.com
To learn more about aromatherapy, check out Mary Beth Janssen’s article “Aromatherapy 101” at
Beauty and wellness educator MARY BETH JANSSEN is a certified mind-body health educator for the Chopra Center for Well Being and the author of five books.

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