Yoga is everywhere nowadays! You can find yoga classes on every street and the benefits of yoga are broadcast far and wide on the internet: but what is yoga? To some people it is simply an exercise as a means to promote physical flexibility or to lose weight; to others it is a system which co-ordinates movement with the breath to achieve a sense of greater well-being; while to others, it is a complete spiritual path to self-knowledge and awareness. We can see the term ‘yoga’ means different things to different people … and these variations are reflected in the hundreds of different forms of yoga, which are practiced today. Yet the word ‘yoga’ literally comes from the ancient Indian Vedic texts meaning 'to know' or to have a ‘direct experience’ of something. According to these early Indian yogic schools, by coordinating our bodily posture with our breathing, we can learn to control our life-energy or prana, which in turn conveys a sense of profound relaxation to our mind… where the breathing acts as a bridge between the body and mind. Therefore, by practicing yoga in this way, we can start to understand the direct inter-relatedness between our body, our energy and our mental state.

Likewise, the practice of aromatherapy influences our body, emotions (energy) and mind simultaneously, where the scent of a particular essential oil can act as the bridge between the physical and the psychological. This is because essential oils not only exhibit physiological healing properties but can also influence our emotions & our mental state via their aroma. With regard to the physical body, essential oils are absorbed readily through the skin and into the bloodstream, for example when they are combined with massage … and this is beneficial for a wide range of physical conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure, skin disorders or muscular pain. In this case, the chemical constituents of the different oils have a direct physiological effect on the systems and organs of the body. When practising yoga, this is important as it means the use of aromatherapy massage or aromatic body oils can help to overcome problems such as joint pain or stiffness (Aches & Pains) or to help tone the muscles (Vitality), or to reduce cellulite (Purity).

Many essential oils also have outstanding anti-bactericidal properties, so they are super effective when used as pure and natural yoga mat sprays to ensure that your mat is always 100% clean. The combination of heat, sweat and bare feet can easily result in a yoga mat tainted by bacteria so it is important to look after it. Rosemary, Lavender or Tea Tree Flower Water make fantastic disinfectant sprays which can be used on rubber with no ill effects - while Witch Hazel Water makes a good base for making your own yoga mat blends since it contains some alcohol, which helps dissolve the essential oils. Melissa, Geranium and Spearmint Flower Waters can also be used as beautiful botanical body or mat deodorants, each having a delicious fresh & uplifting scent.

Witch hazel also naturally contains antibacterial properties, so makes an ideal base to make your own bespoke yoga mat spray-blend. To make your own blend and get creative, use natural bactericidal essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus, myrtle, lemongrass, tea tree or the amazing fragonia oil, which has all the anti-septic properties of tea tree but with a lovely lemony scent.


Bespoke Yoga Mat Recipe:


25ml witch hazel

75ml geranium water

5 drops of frankincense oil

5 drops of fragonia oil

5 drops juniperberry oil

5 drops of rosemary oil


Method:


Step 1. Take an empty 100ml spray bottle
Step 2. Add 25ml witch hazel water
Step 3. Add the essential oils carefully one drop at a time & place the top on the spray bottle and shake well.
Step 4. Add 75ml spearmint water, to top up the bottle.
Step 5. Shake the bottle again for one to two minutes to thoroughly combine the ingredients.
Step 6. Spray the mixture on your yoga mat immediately after you finish your practice. Ensure the entire surface is covered with the blend then wipe the mat down with a clean cloth or towel.
Step 7. Allow the mat to dry before rolling it up or putting it away.
NOTE: Always shake the bottle well every time before use.

The volatile nature of each essential oil also plays a vital role in its overall healing quality, because it not only acts upon the individual in a physiological manner but also in a psychological fashion. This is because when we breathe in the aroma, the molecules of the essential oil are quickly absorbed into our bloodstream via the delicate tissues that line our lungs exerting a physical response … but are also simultaneously processed by the limbic system of the brain which influences our mind, mood and emotions, as well as our memories. This is why aromatherapy is so effective in helping to deal with conditions such as stress, as it can target the physical, emotional and mental aspects of this disorder all together in a holistic manner.

In yoga, when we focus on our breathing, it is worth remembering that this is also the pathway by which the scent of an essential oil enters into our lungs whilst at the same time impacting our feelings and emotions via the limbic system. In fact, natural aromatics have been used since antiquity in exactly this way, since incense is actually nothing other than aromatic smoke. Best known of these is frankincense, the oil of which can simply be used in a room diffuser during yoga practise to help deepen the breath and create a calm yet elevated state of mind. Other traditional incense materials such as juniper, cypress or sage have purifying or space-cleansing properties, while in Indian yoga, sandalwood is classically described as the ‘scent of the subtle body’, being used to awaken the kundalini energy. Aromatherapy and yoga therefore make the ideal partnership, especially when the benefits of both disciples are combined together in all sorts of creative and therapeutic ways.