Scent is so important at the yoga studio and at home—but so many candles can be filled with potentially harmful chemicals that release into the air as the candle gives off smoke. (Even soy-based ones we think are super-healthy are often loaded with chemicals!) This is especially true of paraffin-based candles, which are the most popular and least expensive (we’re looking at you, “Warm Vanilla Sugar”).
According to CNN, some of the chemicals candles expose us to include known carcinogens like benzene and toluene, other heavy metals, and paraffins. Given these facts, candles made of beeswax or soy are the best and healthiest options—if you’re going to use candles.
On the other hand, natural essential oils are an option that offer the soothing scents you crave without any of the health risks or smoke. “When we diffuse oils, the air always feels lighter, and somehow more clean than when we burn candles,” says Elena Brower, New York City-based yoga teacher and DoTerra ambassador. What’s more, according to the Aroma Apothecary Healing Arts Academy, “diffusing essential oils releases thousands of oxygenating molecules and negative ions into the air and your environment.” Negative ions have been touted to clear the air of mold spores, pollen, pet dander, odors, and even bacteria. So, if you can get a scent boost and also incorporate those healthful boosts into your yoga studio or home, it’s a win-win.
Why Scents Are So Powerful
Brower explains that over her two decades of teaching yoga and meditation using complementary essential oils, she’s found that “we can create new emotional pathways using scent, which can have a positive impact on how we process daily challenges and behave amidst confrontation.”
It adds up, scientifically speaking: According to Psychology Today, scents are processed first in the olfactory bulb, from the interior of your nose, before heading back along the bottom of your brain. This matters because your olfactory bulb has direct connections to two brain areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory: the amygdala and hippocampus. So when you take in a scent, you are instantly "transported" to a time or a sensation. Visual, auditory, and tactile (the stuff you see, hear, and touch) information does not pass through these brain areas. This may be why scent, more than any other sense, is so successful at triggering emotions—and why it can be so powerful in your yoga practice.
Brower says she changes her scents to go with the flow of the day or her mood: “In the mornings I’ll choose uplifting oils such as Wild Orange or Grapefruit, or oils that are great for focus, such as Peppermint or Eucalyptus. As the day goes on, I’ll add woods like Sandalwood, Cypress or Cedarwood, or change it altogether and blend a flowery scent such as Ylang Ylang with a more calming Vetiver.”
Better Than Candles: Your New Go-To Essential Oil Blends
So, how do you go about choosing essential oil combos instead of tantalizing candle scents to create an oasis in your home? Here, Brower shares her seven go-to blends, so you can create your own healthier alternatives to common candle scents on your own.
About the Author
Gina Tomaine is a Philadelphia-based writer and editor, and currently Deputy Lifestyle Editor of Philadelphia magazine. She previously served as Associate Deputy Editor of national publication Rodale’s Organic Life. Learn more at ginatomaine.com.