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I get terrible migraines from scented candles, incense, and the odors from essential oils. The stress of breathing it if I choose to continue through a class with a scented candle makes my migraine worse, so by the time the practice is over, I'm tense and mad that I stayed. I cannot believe that teachers would impose scents on a class without checking with them first!


I have stopped attending classes at studios that burn incense. I have asthma, but the studio owners/teachers don't seem to care when I tell them it bothers me. I think YJ should run an article on the study published in August 2008 - Researchers from Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark found that being regularly exposed to burning incense almost doubled the risk of developing squamous cell upper respiratory tract carcinomas including nasal/sinus, tongue, mouth and laryngeal.

E Calderwood

When I go to a yoga class and there is insence, my nose moistens, drips, and finally runs. It makes doing class very embarassing because my eyes tear at the same time and I can not "be present."
I believe that originally insense was used in open air and our classes are hold in inclosed spaces.

Karen S.

This is a topic about which I feel strongly. I never use scent or incense when I am teaching (or practicing) -- first because I think it makes it more difficult to breathe and second, because I have no idea whether someone will like it or dislike it. I take issue with Kaivalya's comment. Just because lavender is believed to be soothing does not mean that someone will necessarily like it, OR that someone will want to smell like lavender after class. I hate when teachers use oil, scented or otherwise, on me during savasana. Teachers should first ask if anyone objects to its use and then respect that -- and think seriously about whether they are are subtly imposing a set of beliefs about what is "right' for everyone.

Pat Spallone

I am very grateful for the article outlinging the problems many people have with the use of scented products in class. I was poisoned when working in a research laboratory as a biochemist some 25 years ago, and remain highly 'sensitive' to all concentrated 'everyday' products, including what 'natural' (as they are called, wrongly) essential oils, incense, and other such products that people might easily think are safe. I liked the tone of the critique too: not harsh or blaming of anyone, just insightful and positive. Best of all, you gave alternatives which I'd never thought of as such. Beautiful! My hope is that more students and teachers will avoid using scented products in the room or personal products such as perfumes, hairsprays and other such things when anticipating class. Wouldn't it be great if public places also would resist using air fresheners (especially the more harsh, toxic, solvent lade variety) and harshly scented soaps etc. on their premises? Many thanks for bringing the problem to light.


Scent is such a wonderful tool for evoking altered states, it figures prominently in all religious traditions. Just think of those wise men gifting baby Jesus with frankincense and myrrh! It would be a real shame to eschew it because a few people don't like it. My favorite yoga studio always smelled like lavender and smelling it as I walked up the stairs would always automatically make my breathing deepen and my shoulders relax. If a teacher or studio wants to use scents, they should make it clear what their policy is - and exactly what scents will be used - and students who object can go elsewhere. There's certainly no lack of choice in the US and that's a good thing.

If you purge your teaching of everything that might offend someone, you won't be left with much to do!

I prefer to use aspects of my own home practice when I teach - and I am a "scentual" person! Students who hate it will go elsewhere and those like me who love scent will stick around.

The article might have mentioned some tips on smells that are likely to be less objectionable. I've noticed that citrus smells are easy pleasers, while heavy florals or musks are more likely to be individual. Most people like citrus and lavender, but patchouli, sandalwood and vetiver will probably turn some people off.

Carlo Ami

While I certainly appreciate the intent behind the "scent-free studio" policy, the use of some aromatic products may be worthy exceptions.
Though some scents "take one elsewhere" or are a distraction, there is at least one that I know of that helps take one more easily within. I know several people who use an Ayurvedic formula called Scent of Samadhi to help them enhance their yoga practice. It works that way for me--as kind of a calming distraction remover. It is worn in the armpits--in very small quantity. If a student does have a challenge with the use of any scent, then that challenge is an opportunity to express that in a loving way to the instructor. If the use of such a product does not bother anyone in the class then why would it be prohibited? And if someone is bothered by it, then that person's wishes should, I believe, be honored in a yoga class or any other enclosed space.


Even eco-friendly disinfecting hydrosols can affect student's sensitivity to scents, as I found out recently in my class.


Someone once told me that pregnant woman shouldn't breathe lavender, your thoughts on this?


This really resonates with me. I've almost given up trying to find a yoga class, because they all seem to burn incense and I'm so allergic to patchouli that two seconds after I walk into the studio I'm back outside with my inhaler, never to return. Please, let's have more scent-free yoga classes!

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