As I underwent the 200-hour yoga teacher training course, I could sense the daily practice was instilling numerous changes in my body. Perhaps most notably, the daily physical exertion was resulting in heightened levels of fatigue. My experimentations and research into essential oils was part of my quest to find a suite of solutions which could help tackle this tiredness.
There are a number of studies into the effects of essential oils found in nature and how they affect the mind and body. The ones which are frequently referred to for treating fatigue include eucalyptus, basil, geranium, rosemary and almond oil. Some of these promote circulation of blood to the cranial region, whereas some stimulate alertness or relieve pain.
Among the first oils I tried was chamomile oil. My first impression was that it was quite strong and slightly overpowering for the nose. While chamomile is often consumed as a tea, the essential oil extracted from its yellow and white flowers may offer even more benefits, since its volatile compounds and antioxidants are preserved in a more stable form. Used in an aroma diffuser, it seemed to put my mind more at ease and released some mental and emotional tension.
I also used lavender oil, which is well known for its sleep-inducing effects. Similarly, it seemed to lift a small load off my mind and promoted restfulness. While its effects were not directly linked to fatigue reduction, the more restful sleep I had when using lavender oil definitely contributed to a general feeling of well-restedness the following morning, better performance and slightly reduced fatigue.
However, I found that the effects were still lacking. I had to trace the roots of my tiredness to target the problem more effectively. Upon reflection of my daily habits and checking in with my state of mind, it became clear that I was dealing with physical fatigue as a result of frequent practice and also sometimes shorter-than-ideal sleeping hours. With this in mind, I explored natural oils which were known for targeting muscle and joint pain.
Helichrysum, marjoram and peppermint are known for their muscle-relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties. I did not manage to use these, but the presence of these substances in many massage oils and pain-relief ointments could point to their effectiveness in relieving fatigue.
Also on the list is eucalyptus oil – which I managed to get hold of mixed in with sweet almond oil. Almond oil acts as a vitamin-rich moisturiser which helps to effectively carry other essential oils. The eucalyptus had a sharp scent which was mildly invigorating. Massaged into fatigued joints around the knees and ankles, it seemed to aid the relief of muscle tiredness, more so than when I do a dry massage or use a foam roller. My performance at practice subsequently seemed to improve (though there could be other factors linked to this). I feel like almond and eucalyptus oil used as an aromatic stimulant could enhance the massage’s usefulness insofar as self-massage is effective.
As yoga practice demands a combination of the right state of mind plus peak condition of the body, any behavioural change or diet which can aid this will be beneficial. I found that essential oils could be one such avenue to achieving this mindfulness and performance, and would definitely consider integrating it into my daily practice pending further experimentations and research.