To help on those recovery days of marathon training, I have taken some classes this fall at a beautiful yoga studio near home, Uptown Yoga - including one when Lindsay came from AL to visit! (Yoga with my friend beside me on the mat is the best!) Here's the beautiful Uptown Yoga building: exposed brick, hardwood floors, lots of natural light and 20-foot ceilings. You feel good just going inside the studio, and even better after you've left.
I recently had the opportunity to attend an Uptown Yoga workshop where we learned some ways to incorporate essential oils into yoga. Even better - our instructor used Young Living essential oils, which my friend Rebecca in North Alabama introduced me to before our move to Texas! I was excited to see how the oils could be used in different ways, since I have mainly been using the ones I bought with our home diffuser. I had read a few articles discussing the yoga/aromatherapy connection, so I was happy to have an opportunity to put the ideas in practice on the yoga mat!
The great thing about this workshop was that our instructor showed us many ways to use the oils, but advised that we ought to experiment with which oils worked for us, and in what ways. She didn't push the Young Living oils on anyone, explaining that while the YL line offered therapeutic-grade products, there were many other companies who sold similar products and to shop around to figure out our favorites that fit our own budgets and needs.
First Oil: Frankincense
Our instructor had us begin the class seated on our knees, or in virasana ("hero") pose. We were instructed to close our eyes, and if we wanted to receive the first oil (frankincense), to place our palms on our knees, facing up. The instructor dropped about three drops on our palms and instructed us to rub them together, put our hands near our faces and inhale deeply. I found this to be very grounding and complementary to the instructor's suggestion that we set an intention for our time on the mat that day. Here's how Young Living describes frankincense:
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) includes the naturally occurring constituent boswellic acid, and has a woodsy, warm, balsamic aroma. Diffuse Frankincense during meditation for grounding and purpose. Applying this oil topically may help smooth the appearance of healthy-looking skin, and is excellent to use for massage after activity.
Second Oil: Peppermint
Peppermint was our second oil: very bright, clean and energizing. A good choice by our instructor to use this oil near the beginning of class, as it really got us going as we began a flow of several standing poses. She applied a little peppermint oil that she had mixed (diluted) with fractionated coconut oil onto the base of our neck near the top of the spine while our arms were overhead in Warrior I pose. So, while it wasn't inhaled in the same way as frankincence, I was able to smell the peppermint fragrance as I moved around. Really liked it!
Third Oil: Lemon
Lemon was next; I liked the scent but I don't feel as if I felt as much of a benefit from this one as I did the first two. Like peppermint, lemon is known for its bright, energizing properties. Our instructor mixed lemon essential oil with witch hazel and distilled water in a spray bottle, and while we on the mats took part in a flow that included taking a high lunge pose directly into Warrior III pose, she sprayed the lemon oil spray all around us. I suspect that I would have gotten more out of this one in a smaller space and/or with more concentrated lemon (i.e., less water/witch hazel), but with the high ceilings in the studio and relatively big crowd, the instructor was working with what she had. I may experiment more with this one on my own.
Fourth Oil: Stress Away
I really liked the instructor's next offering, the Stress Away Roll On. Stress Away is a blend of several essential oils (copaiba, lime, cedarwood, ocotea and lavender) along with vanilla, which is considered an "absolute," or essense. I'm not the biggest vanilla fan scent-wise, but in combination with the other oils, it isn't very prominent in the Stress Away blend. The instructor applied Stress Away on us from a pre-packaged bottle with a little roll-on top, sold by Young Living (but you could also make your own roll-on by buying these empty bottles and filling them up with whatever oil or blend your heart desired). She asked us to move into piegon pose, and if we wanted to sample the oil, we turned our wrists to face the ceiling, and she applied a little to each wrist.
Fifth Oil: Pan Away
Pan Away was another topical application, and is another Young Living blend. The best way that I can describe it is....organic Ben Gay. :) It was not my favorite scent, but I can see how appliying it to a minor ache or pain would be great. In our class, we stood in a revolved triangle pose and pulled our shirts/tanks up a little in the back if we wanted to try it, and the instructor applied the oil near the small of our back. Here's the official description:
PanAway® has a stimulating aroma and is a popular and original combination of Wintergreen, Helichrysum, Clove, and Peppermint essential oils formulated by D. Gary Young. This blend is ideal to apply topically after exercise, and supports the appearance of healthy skin coloration. The essential oils in PanAway include naturally occurring constituents methyl salicylate, gamma-curcumene, menthol, and eugenol.
Sixth Oil: Lavender
We ended our class in savasana, or corpse pose, with everyone's favorite oil for relaxation, lavender! Again, the instructor made a spray for us by diluting pure lavender oil with distilled water and witch hazel, and spraying it all around us as we chilled out. As opposed to the lemon, it seemed like the lavender was assertive enough in the mixture to make its presence known without being cloying or too sweet. A really nice way to end our practice that day!
As you can tell, I really enjoyed this workshop. A few takeaways from the workshop:
1) use the right oil at the right time. As much as we all liked lavender, it wouldn't have made sense to use it early in the class, when "energy" was our focus. Likewise, peppermint or lemon wouldn't necessarily be the right call for a nighttime yoga class when pre-bedtime relaxation was the goal.
2) it's ok to just pick one oil for a given class/session, and use it throughout your time on the mat in spray form, applied directly, in a roll-on, or whatever you choose. The reason we used 6 different ones was because the oil-y education was the point of the workshop. It could become pretty distracting from what you were trying to do, however, if you attempted to incorporate all 6 of these in any given class. Don't let the oil become the primary focus; it should be a nice complement to your mat session.
3) if you are going to use more than 1 on your skin (topical application or roll-on), don't apply it in the same place on your body. Our instructor was pretty strategic about this: she applied the first oil on our palms, then on our neck, then on our wrists, then our backs. That way, none of the oils actually came into contact directly with each other, and they were spaced out enough that we could experience them on their own for a while.
I'm definitely inspired to order some new oils and try some of these uses and applications. I'm far from an expert in any component of the essential oil world, but I am definitely enjoying learning about the process. And, if you have any interest in the Young Living oils or their product line, I can help you with figuring out how to navigate the order process. Just shoot me an email (contact info on sidebar) for more information.