Aroma Yoga

Aroma Yoga

Aroma Yoga is an inspiring way to start the day by using fragrances that complement yoga moves. Simply put it means burning an essential oil or a blend of essential oils while practising yoga.

Aromatherapy is a natural partner to the five principles of yoga: exercise, deep rhythmic breathing, release from tension, relaxation and meditation. Essential oils can be used to energise the body, encourage deep breathing, awaken the senses, and promote calm.

I practise yoga every morning at home so it is easy to choose an aroma for my daily Asanas (yoga poses). To feel revitalised and renewed after a session, I choose essential oils that are energising and uplifting. Basil or rosemary oils stimulate the mind and clarify the senses, and burning one of these two fragrances brings a greater sense of awareness, aiding focus and balance.

Frankincense is another excellent oil to combine with yoga particularly for classic meditation poses like the Lotus. The orange oils (mandarin, petitgrain, sweet orange) are good choices because they are relaxing and uplifting. Lavender combines well with yoga because it balances the mind and emotions.

My favourite essential oil for yoga is not an obvious one – jasmine. The fragrance of jasmine is very inspiring while practising Salute to the Sun as the world awakes.

I would love to hear more ideas of how to use aromatherapy with yoga.

My essential oils are from Neals Yard, including the aroma stone in the image above.

Top 5 anti-viral essential oils for the common cold

Research findings show that essential oils like peppermint have anti-viral activity

Autumn is here in full swing, with the usual orange leaves and pumpkin-spice lattes that help us move out of our summer daze. With kids back in school and the changing weather, many of us have found that autumn and the oncoming winter also signal the season of the common cold.

Home remedies can be especially useful for the common cold, as it doesn’t usually make sense to visit the your local GP or nurse practitioner for the sniffles, and the pharmacist’s recommendation of Tylenol Cold or Lemsip Hot Orange isn’t always the most helpful. At-home use of essential oils can be a simple, pleasant method for preventing and treating colds, one whose effectiveness has been backed up by recent scientific research.

  • Bracelet honey myrtle: recent studies of the essential oils of this south Australian plant, also known as Melaleuca armillaris, have highlighted its anti-viral properties. The vapors of bracelet honey myrtle killed up to 99% of viruses in the study. The oils were also shown to boost the properties of vitamin C and E, which are known antioxidants; bracelet honey myrtle could thus also be used as a cold preventive agent, to help kill free radicals and boost your immune system.
  • Tea tree oil: tea tree oil has also been shown to actively inhibit the reproduction of viruses, and can be a useful home remedy for mitigating the effects of the common cold; in the study, both forms of herpes virus were more than 90% reduced by tea tree oil. Like bracelet honey myrtle, tea tree oil also prevents the formation of superoxides, those pesky free radicals which weaken cells and also make you age faster.
  • Lemongrass oil: even at very low concentrations, lemongrass oil was shown to be one of the most effective essential oils for dispersing viruses.
  • Peppermint oil: research has shown that viruses pre-treated with peppermint oil were neutralized at very high percentages. This was even true with viruses that were resistant to other treatments.
  • Santolina insularis: This wildflower is only found on the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean. Its essential oils have very interesting anti-viral properties; even in organisms already infected with a virus, the oil helped prevent cell-to-cell spread of the virus. The oil’s compounds worked directly on the virus and made it impossible for it to infect a host cell. (Find a great overview of the scientific research on essential oils here.)

If you need some direction on the different ways to utilise these essential oils, take a look at this post.

Living with lavender

bumble and honeybee on lavender

Your lavender friend is kind and understanding. She instinctively knows how you feel and she is ready to give a friendly smile and a comforting hug when you need one. 

I became a professional aromatherapist in 2005 after completing my diploma in Aromatherapy and Essential Oil Science with Neal’s Yard Remedies Ltd in Covent Garden, London. I studied hard to learn about the essential oils, carrier oils, anatomy and physiology, massage, beauty treatments, therapeutic relationships, and the history of natural medicine. My studies included profiling over 70 essential oils, such as their chemistry and actions.

My tutor Joyce West was a wonderful aromatherapist who taught us to “live with the essential oils”. Every week we chose an essential oil to wear as a fragrance, to use in skin care and massage, for bathing and other uses around the home. “Live with an essential oil,” said Joyce, “From morning till night, immerse yourself in its aroma and personality.”

This was my first post on my first blog about living with essential oils, which I have now revived here.

An introduction to lavender
Lavender is one of the most commonly used essential oils in aromatherapy. The herb has been popular since ancient times, it is a valued and versatile healer that restores balance to the body and mind. The 17th-century English herbalist, physician and astrologer Nicholas Culpeper (1616–54) described lavender as “being an inhabitant almost in every garden, it is so well known that it needs no description”. He assigned planetary rulership of lavender to the quick-witted messenger of the Roman gods, Mercury, because the herb helped to soothe headaches and aided sleep, yet stimulated the mind. It is lavender’s ability to both revive and calm, to balance most physical and emotional states, which makes it so widely used in aromatherapy.

There are different types of lavender. The essential oil that I lived with, and which is described here, is known as true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). It has a distinctive yet subtle aroma, being sweetly floral and herbaceous. Its lance-shaped leaves with spears of purple flowers are familiar in most gardens. Press the flower head or leaf between your fingers, rub gently and lift your hand to smell the beautiful fragrance.

Lavender is widely known as the oil which started modern aromatherapy. The story of the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé (1881–1950) who discovered the oil’s healing properties in a laboratory accident is mentioned in almost every book about aromatherapy. Gattefossé burned his hand and accidentally immersed it in lavender oil, but then found that the oil eased his pain and helped the skin to heal faster without leaving a scar. It is a popular account of the revival of aromatherapy, although I’m not personally saying that burns and scalds are treated other than medically advised.

Still, I always keep a bottle of lavender oil in my cupboard. It is a kitchen staple because of its usefulness in treating so many ailments: spots, acne, eczema, minor skin infections, insect bites, inflammation, aching muscles, and so on. I find that it is a gentle-acting oil, but effective, and so suitable for most people to use.

My lavender diary
Gentle cleansing oil
I used lavender essential oil to care for my skin this week. A blend of 15 drops lavender oil and 15 drops geranium oil to 30ml olive oil in a dark glass bottle to use as a skin cleanser. The blend gently and effectively removed all traces of make up from my face, although, of course, I didn’t use the oil to remove eye make-up.

To use an oil-based cleanser like this, pour a teaspoonful amount onto the palm of your hand and massage on your face for a few minutes. Wipe off using a hot damp cotton cloth, and repeat. The first cleanse lifts off the grime of the day, while the second cleanse removes deep-down dirt and debris clogging up pores.

Adding lavender oil to my evening skin-care ritual helps to relax my mind and brings harmony to my thoughts at the end of a hectic day.

Relaxing and revitalising bath
After a long hard week, I used lavender oil for a comforting bath. While the bath water ran, I blended 10 drops of lavender oil with 10ml full-fat milk; skimmed milk is no good as the essential oil needs to bind with the fat to blend. When my bath was run, I poured in the whole blend and sloshed around thoroughly. I felt like Cleopatra bathing in my creamy lavender bath as the fragrance restored inner peace.

Sweet dreams
Finally, for a good night’s sleep and to awake feeling refreshed, I poured three to four drops of lavender oil on the corner of my pillow to drift naturally into sleep.

Lavender in folklore
I love to read about the myths and legends of plants and flowers, exploring the wisdom traditions in which they were once used. In Ancient Greece, lavender was a herb of Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, and in pagan traditions it belonged to the Willow Moon which shone between 15 April to 12 May.

I remember a herbalist telling me how lavender wine was once drunk to help cure flatulence or colic. The herb was also thought to prevent fainting spells when mixed with fennel, cinnamon, horehound and asparagus root.

This post is dedicated to my grandmother, Antonie Ursula Dees, who introduced me to aromatherapy and a world of fragrances.

Profile of lavender essential oil:
Latin name: Lavandula angustifolia
Plant family: Labiatae or Lamiaceae
Plant type: herb
Perfume note: middle
Botany and origins: evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean, now cultivated worldwide
Extraction: steam distillation
Chemical properties/active components: 45% esters (linalyl acetate, lavandulyl acetate), which are wound healing and anti-inflammatory; rich in alcohols (linalool), which are stimulating, powerful and gentle
Blends with: almost all essential oils
Key actions: antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, cytophylactic (stimulates skin renewal and wound healing, helps prevent scarring), decongestant (mild), sedative or stimulating
Common conditions: anxiety, agitation, depression, frustration, irritability, nervous tension, shock, stress; insomnia, headaches; high blood pressure, muscular aches and pains, rheumatism and arthritis, strains and sprains; colds and ‘flu; cystitis; acne, burns, eczema, inflammation, insect bites, skin infections, spots, sunburn, wounds
Contraindications: lavender is reportedly non-toxic and non-sensitising, but it is advised to avoid during the first three months of pregnancy
Further reading: This profile is based on my diploma studies, knowledge and experience of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. Some of the most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are published in Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9.