On Sunday, March 18, I attended a workshop at breathe entitled “Chakras, Essential Oils, and Your Yoga Practice” hosted by Cyndi Weis, the owner of breathe and essential oil enthusiast. I’ve attended her yoga classes before, often on Friday afternoons, where she lets students sample different oils in order to guide their practices for the day. I’m intrigued by the oils’ different functions, so I decided this workshop would be a nice introduction to the topic. As an added bonus, all proceeds for the event went to the SEVA challenge to raise money for women and children in India who have been victims of sex trafficking. Who can’t love yoga that’s dedicated to a cause?
The workshop itself did not feature a yoga practice, but instead was a lecture by Cyndi explaining what our chakras are, their connections with the mind/body, what oils might go well with each chakra, and how you can integrate this information into your yoga practice. She did offer the disclaimer that these oils were her associations with each chakra, and that they may vary from person to person. She also explained some of their primary uses (e.g. lavender for calming, peppermint or citrus for energy, earthy ones like spruce for grounding, etc.); most of the oils we sampled were blends of three or more single oils.
So what are essential oils, you may ask? They come from different plants and can be any part of the plant, including its leaves, twigs, roots, and resins. When you buy essential oils, you are getting oil made from the plant—not perfume grade “fragrances” that rely mostly on synthetic chemicals. Essential oils are incredibly potent! For instance, just one drops of peppermint oil can be about as strong as 26 cups of peppermint tea. Another interesting fact about them is that their biochemical make-up is similar in structure to that of human blood. (Weird, right?)You can apply the oils topically (one drop on the hands to spread on different parts of the body like the bottoms of the feet, back of the neck, rims of or behind the ears, wrists, or different chakras). You can also inhale them, place them in a diffuser, put one drop into a full water bottle, or blend them into gel caps to take orally. My favorite method is placing a drop of oil on my hands to breathe in and then apply it to the neck or chest or behind my ears.
I don’t want to go into too much detail on chakras, since I’m not really an expert on them (“novice,” remember?). Essentially, chakras (“discs”/“wheels”) are different points of the body which can guide physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your body and mind. You can find out more here, for instance, or Google it. I’m going to give a quick run-down of the oils we used, which were all made by Young Living Essential Oils (you can find each one on their website for full ingredients). I scribbled notes like a madwoman during this workshop, but I may have missed some info at one point or another.
1st Chakra/Muladhara: We used “Valor,” which includes spruce, rosewood, blue tansy, and frankincense. Since this chakra deals with grounding and stability, we placed this oil on the bottoms of our feet. This one is great for a yoga practice with many poses emphasizing stability in the feet (such as warrior poses).
2nd Chakra/Swadhistana: Since this chakra resides in the pelvic area, it is often associated with emotion. We used an oil called “Release,” which I’m pretty sure I’ve tried in Cyndi’s Friday class. Somehow, we tend to store pent-up emotions in this area of our bodies, so hip openers like Supta Baddha Konasana or pigeon are a great way to relieve this tension. “Release” included ylang ylang, lavender, sandalwood, blue tansy, and geranium.
3rd Chakra/Manipura: This chakra resides in the lower torso area and relates to our self-definition and ego—for instance, how we see and define ourselves. The oil we used was “Believe,” which is made with balsam fir, rosewood, and frankincense. To me, it didn’t smell bad, but it reminded me a bit of the smell of lumber. Because this chakra is near your core, twists in yoga are a great way to ignite this area in your practice.
4th Chakra/Anahata: This is your heart chakra, associated with—you guessed it!—love. This chakra resides in the center on the spectrum of the seven chakras, so from here we go from the more tangible aspects of the body to the more spiritual ones. Asanas such as chest openers and backbends are excellent for opening this chakra. The oil we used this time was “Forgiveness,” which was a blend of at least 15 different oils, including lavender, rosewood, ylang ylang, bergamot, lemon, geranium, and more. Frankly, I thought this one was too busy with all those ingredients and didn’t really smell all that great. Others in the workshop really liked it, though. It depends on your personal tastes, really.
5th Chakra/Vishuddha: The name for the throat chakra actually translates to “the poison-releasing place,” which I thought was interesting. Qualities like communication, self-expression, and finding your own voice all come from the 5th chakra. The oil used here was “Clarity,” which I think was my favorite; it’s made from rosemary, basil, cardamom, jasmine, lemon and peppermint, among others. Cyndi also mentioned that “Clarity” is great to place on your forehead if you have a headache. I liked this one because I could really see how the peppermint could make you feel more alert. Poses emphasizing a flat back aid in opening this chakra; fish pose apparently works as well.
6th Chakra/Ajna: Even if you’ve never dealt with chakras, you’ve probably heard of your “third eye” before. This is the point just above the space between your eyebrows that allows for visualization and perception. We used “Dreamcatcher” for this chakra, which is made with ingredients including juniper, bergamot, tangerine, anise, ylang ylang, and black pepper. The juniper and citrus scents were particularly strong in this oil, and I would have to say this was my second favorite scent. Child’s pose is a good asana for centering your third eye.
7th Chakra/Sahasrana: The final chakra resides at the crown of your head and deals with your consciousness. Lying in Savasana or doing a headstand are great ways to focus on your 7th chakra. The oil used for this chakra was “White Angelica,” which included angelica, melissa, sandalwood, spruce, geranium, myrrh, and others. This is apparently a good oil for “creating an aura” of protection around yourself, especially if you have to deal with an unpleasant person or situation.
I don’t own many essential oils, just lavender, bergamot, and now peppermint. I can tell from using “Clarity” that the peppermint oil really improves mental alertness. Mostly, I enjoyed hearing Cyndi speak on these topics; learning in this environment has definitely reaffirmed my commitment to exploring my yoga practice more throughout the year (and beyond).