(From Halsa’s Health Blog – full article here)
While you may not consider yourself to be a formal practitioner of the ancient art of aromatherapy, you most likely have benefited at some point from the power of scent to alter mood, to recall memories, or even to reroute undesirable thought patterns. While scent may be more subtle than the senses we seem to chiefly use (like sight or hearing), our sense of smell has a profound influence on our minds. The reality is that the sense of smell is actually directly connected to the brain. In fact, the olfactory sense is, of all the five senses, the one most acutely linked to memory and recognition. If you’ve ever caught a whiff of a smell that instantly took you back to some other time or place from the past, you can probably understand why this is true.
So how can aromatherapy have any influence on the practice of yoga? Well, as it turns out, these two ancient sciences have quite a lot in common, as we will see when we compare the two. When therapeutic essential oils are used during yoga practice, it can increase the effectiveness and benefits of both.
Ayurveda – Ancient Indian Wisdom
Aromatherapy has its roots in the Indian Ayurvedic tradition, and while it has changed and evolved over the centuries, the central principles remain the same. Ayurveda is a way of seeing the whole person. The physical body is only one part of the whole. According to Ayurvedic wisdom, there are seven chakras, each located on a different region of the spinal column, and each corresponding to its own nerve plexus and endocrine gland.
When these chakras are in alignment, then prana, or life force energy, flows freely and promotes wellness, but when the chakras are out of place, then prana is inhibited, and can cause illness and emotional or mental anguish. In conjunction with the chakras, each person is also a manifestation of some combination of the three doshas, or temperaments (a concept not unlike the four humours of the ancient Greeks). The three doshas can be described (very briefly) as :
Vata—changeable, flitting, airy
Pitta—driven, strong, fiery
Kapha—unmoving, slow to change, heavy