How Essential Oils Can Enhance Your Yoga Practice

By Melissa Cairns

I LOVE essential oils. Seriously. I’ve turned into the Rain Man of essential oils, spouting information into any willing ear.

I used to think essential oils were just nice smelling oils you burn in an oil burner to make your room smell nice, my Ganesh was I wrong! So, let’s talk a little about these magical elixirs and how they can enhance our yoga practice both through physical health and emotional wellbeing.

Firstly, what are essential oils and why is everyone going bananas for them?

Essential Oils are the volatile liquids that are distilled from plants (seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, fruit etc.) Essential Oils embody the generating, protective and immune-strengthening properties of plants. In fact, whether you apply them topically (on your skin), ingest them (eat in food, drink in liquids or put drops under your tongue) or inhale them (diffusing or smelling direct from the bottle), Essential Oils have the potential to affect every cell of the body, blood and brain within 20minutes and then be metabolised like other nutrients.
What’s also particularly exciting is how Essential Oils affect our limbic brain, otherwise known as emotional brain. Our brain’s limbic system governs our emotional responses and sends different chemical messages for the different emotions we experience. This in turn causes a physical response. For example, “stressed” is an emotional state that generally causes the release of extra adrenalin and cortisol. Those chemicals trigger physical reactions such as increased heart rate, changes in breathing, digestive upset, perspiration and so on. When used in aromatherapy (inhaled), there is evidence that essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream and then trigger the limbic brain. This is mostly due to the amount of blood vessels in the lungs that take up the oils and then circulate them throughout the body, including to the brain.

Now for the yoga…..


Whether you are focusing on a specific Chakra, peak pose, physical theme or a personal intention for your yoga practice, there is an oil for you! For example, Peppermint (The Oil of a Buoyant Heart) & Geranium (The Oil of Love & Trust) are excellent oils for balancing and opening up through the heart Chakra which also correlates directly to back bends such as Urdhva Dhanurasana, Shalabhasana and Dancer’s Pose.
If I’m about to try something like an inversions workshop or arm balance workshop I want to go in with ‘beginners mind’ adopting feelings of playfulness and courage. My go to oils for these intentions are Wild Orange* -The Oil of Abundance, Creativity & Release of Limiting Beliefs and Ylang Ylang* – The Oil of the Inner Child, Play & Joy.
Tip: Apply a few drops of your chosen Essential Oil (or oils if you want to get creative and blend!) with 5ml of carrier oil directly to the corresponding Chakra or souls of feet. Alternatively, add a few drops of your favourite essential oils to some filtered water in a spray bottle and spritz across your chest before practice.

Breathe and be Calm

In times of stress, anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed Yoga is our opportunity to return to ourselves, to breathe, move mindfully and centre ourselves. Breathe. Easy Air* – The Oil of Breath. This essential oil blend invites us to let go (breathe out) and receive (breath in). This blend imbues us with the courage to fully open and embrace life through breath.
I read somewhere recently how important it is to be Self Centred. That’s not meaning to be selfish, it means to be centred in one’s self. Centred, reassured, calm….. Lavender. Lavender Essential Oil activates our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), meaning it moves us from a state of ‘fight or flight’ to a state of calm and centred. As the Oil of Communication, Lavender also connects and balances our Throat Chakra.
Tip: Diffuse Easy Air* during your yoga practice to open up your airways and breathe with more ease. Put a drop of lavender oil on your temples or eye pillow just before you lay down to support a more restorative Savasana.

Yoga Beyond the Mat

Yoga is not just our asana, it’s how we chose to be in this world. I know that in order for me to be at my best, I need to take care of myself and not just for the hour and a half I am on the mat. Here are some ways I use essential oils to support my health:

Muscle relief; Ice Blue* Essential Oil blend rubbed directly onto sore or tight muscles & joints

Digestive Support; A few drops of Lemon* Essential Oil in my water to aid and support good digestive health

Skin Moisturiser; A few drops of Lavender & Frankincense Essential Oils into my Organic Rosehip Oil for a non-toxic, skin nourishing, moisturising face serum (seriously good!)

Immune Support; A few drops of On Guard* Essential Oil into my Dandelion Tea for liver and immune support

• I mix Easy Air* Blend with coconut oil to rub on my chest and sinuses when I have a cough or am feeling congested.

Headache Relief; When I have a headache, instead of reaching for the paracetamol, I rub a few drops of Peppermint & Lavender Essential oils on my temples and base of hair line – seriously, it works wonders!

Meditation; Frankincense all the way! I diffuse this or rub on soles of my feet for my meditation practice. Frankincense is The Oil of Truth and enhances practice of meditation and prayer by promoting spiritual openness and let go of lower vibrations no longer serving us.

Creativity & FUN! I also like to blend oils for emotional support and non-toxic perfume or diffuse to make my house smell incredible (minus the chemicals). This comes down to personal taste and flare so get creative, experiment & have fun!

*Please note that all essential oils, properties and applications in this post are in reference to doTERRA Essential Oils. doTERRA are third party tested Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) Essential Oils, meaning they are 100% free of chemicals pesticides, fillers and nasties. This is what makes them safe enough to put on, in and around our bodies.

Join Melissa Cairns & Dee Howard, Essential Oil & Health Educators, for an interactive “Intro to Essentail Oils” workshop at Yoga Flame Moonee Ponds on Saturday the 5th of August 12noon-2pm. During this class you will have the opportunity to smell, experience and learn all about essential oils and how they can support your physical and emotional health all while enjoying delicious raw treats and refreshments made with essential oils. Limited seats so register for free today – ( you will need to scroll forward to August 5th) 

  1. Jo

    Hi can I be put down for the essential oils workshop on 5/8 please cheers Jo Wallace ?