Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for cosmetic purposes as well as for their spiritually and emotionally uplifting properties. So it was only a matter of time until essential oils arrived into the modern yoga class.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated, aromatic, liquid plant essences typically derived from herbs, flowers, and trees. The oils contained in the seeds, bark, roots, resin, flower petals, rind and leaves are a part of the plant’s natural defense against disease, predators, and weather.

Don your lab coat and safety goggles for a minute. This quote is from  the US National Library of Medicine.

“They (oils) are stored in special cells, ducts or glandular hairs that are distributed among the flowers, leaves, bark, stems and roots of a plant. A single oil may contain hundreds of constituents that are molecularly aligned in exactly the right manner to trigger a number of responses in the human body.”

Uses of Essential Oils

Essential oils can be diffused, sprayed, and topically applied. Diffusing allows a small mist of particles to uniformly circulate through the air filling it with the aroma of the essential oil. Spraying can cover a wider area and disperse more of the oil, ideal for cleaning and disinfecting.

Finally because essential oils are fat soluble they can be massaged into your skin. When applying to your skin, it’s recommended to use a high quality essential oil diluted in a carrier oil such as almond or coconut oil.

And this is a good place to drop this disclaimer: These statements made in this blog have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products discussed are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.


If you’ve taken yoga asana class in a studio, you’ve probably experienced the teacher spritzing lavender in the air, or on a face towel, during final relaxation. Lavender accelerates the relaxation effect by reducing stress and boosting mood and emotions.

Beyond its relaxation effects, lavender can also be used to soothe and cleanse cuts, lessen skin irritations (like bug bites) and burns, so it’s a great oil to keep on hand.

And a bit of trivia regarding lavender: it takes 27 square feet (or 35 pounds) of lavender plant (lavandula angustifolia) to make one 15mL bottle, and depending on where you purchase the quality and price can vary.

Reserve the higher quality lavender for home use and look to a more available brand for diluting in water and using during yoga classes.

Tea Tree

Between hands, sweat, and feet touching a yoga mat, it’s a petri dish of bacteria. Keep mats clean and fresh-smelling with mat cleaner made from essential oils. Most of the recipes I found included Tea Tree oil (also known as Melaleuca) + another fave-smelling EO like lemon, lavender, or Peppermint diluted in distilled water and witch hazel.

When combined, the witch hazel plus tree tee oil and another essential oil packs a powerful anti-bacterial, anti-microbial punch. This spray is idea for disinfecting and can be applied to mats and chairs or sprayed throughout the room before and after yoga class.

Lemon Oil

Lemon oil can be used for relaxation such as rubbing some on your hands and inhaling the fragrance for relaxation and relief of anxiety. It also has the ability to help you concentrate and focus.

Lemon oil can also aid digestion, soothes a sore throat and ear infections, helps fight allergies, and eases and prevents cold sores. It also freshens breath, can be used as a disinfectant and as an additive to homemade cleaners. It’s a great essential oil to diffuse during yoga classes.


Frankincense was referenced in the Bible as one of the three gifts brought by the wise men to baby Jesus. However this all-around “king of oils” list of usages is mighty impressive.

When using in Yoga, Frankincense boosts mood and energy and relieves stress. It’s also a great oil to use for meditation as it helps to stimulate and elevate your mind.With its comforting properties that help the mind to focus, use it for centering and visualizing. You can rub it on the bottom of your feet to ease nervous energy.

Frankincense also promotes clear skin and is ideal for “mature” skin by lessening wrinkles, age spots, scars and stretch marks while also moisturizing. It is known for helping with improving eyesight and eye health by topically applying it around the eye (being careful not to get it in the eye). AND it works on insect bites. (Mosquito bites beware!)


Peppermint is ideal for bringing more peace and balance into your life. Researchers at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia found peppermint diffused into the cars of commuters decreased their anxiety and fatigue. Other uses for peppermint oil include reducing nausea and relieving headaches, improving concentration and focus, easing tummy troubles, and boosting energy.

People are also experiencing relief from joint and muscle ache with this fresh, minty oil. You can use peppermint oil in diffusers, a couple of drops in the bath, and for massage then feel your stress fading away. Let the soothing aroma of peppermint keep you calm and focused during the crazy times of your life.


When you think of chamomile, you might think of tea and its relaxing benefits, but the oil is a powerhouse of uses and benefits just like lavender. Chamomile has a sedative quality that makes it ideal for reducing stress and anxiety. Use a few drops of this soothing oil in a diffuser to take the edge off. You could also combine 1-2 drops in a carrier oil and massage it into your skin to help relax muscles.

It’s also gentle enough to use on children.

quality vs quantity

Like any product there are products that are “okay” and products that are “better.” You’ll want to look for essential oils that have the highest level of purity. That means oils that haven’t been diluted, cut, or adulterated. This usually means you’ll spend a little more, but the quality and efficacy will also be higher.

Young Living and doTerra are two brands with high ratings for their oils. Rocky Mountain Oils is another one I’ve heard recommended by a couple of sources. Your local holistic market will carry essential oils, with some probably being a better quality than others.

resources is a good resource for personal testimonials. You do have to register, but it’s free and they don’t spam you. I’ve also curated information about the different essential oils on this Pinterest board.

how to use essential oils in yoga