How Scents Can Influence Our Yoga Practice and Mood

For centirues people have been using all kinds of scents in various forms to influence the mind and body. Almost every spiritual path includes the burning of incenses for different rituals: there are scents to cleanse the surroundings, to calm down, to attract money and luck, etc. From the modern scientific point of view we know that scents not only cleanse the air of bacteria, but the air actually becomes charged with negative ions that refresh and renew both our environment and bodies.

The science known to us as “Aromatherapy” is believed to be at least 6,000 years old. Burning of incense and the application of sacred attar oils can be called the oldest forms of it that still present as well as modern forms like diffusing essential oils or applying perfume. The science of Aromatherapy confirms that scent, whether inhaled or applied topically, exerts dramatic effects on our minds and bodies. So how does it work?

Brainwaves Frequency

It is well known that the brain is an electrochemical organ. Electrical activity emanating from the brain is displayed in the form of brainwaves.

Our brain can work in 5 main frequencies that are in constant motion:

  • Beta (14 – 30 cycles per second) – strongly engaged mind;
  • Alpha (7 – 14 cycles per second) – detached consciousness, relaxation and meditation, the bridge between Beta and Theta;
  • Theta (4 – 8 cycles per second) – the first stage at which we begin to dream while we sleep, state of daydreaming; it is considered a powerful, almost magical state of mind in which people can literally walk on hot coals without getting burned, or are able to heal their bodies;
  • Delta (0 – 4 cycles per second) – deep sleep;
  • Gamma (25 – 100 cycles per second) – peak concentration and high levels of cognitive functioning.


It is believed that when we are in the Gamma state, which is the state of deep meditation, we experience the most favorable brainwaves for mind and body healing.  Scientists have discovered that time spent in meditation helps to significantly release stress and anxiety and clarify the mind. What’s wonderful is that this mindfulness stays even for days after meditation session has finished. Brain hemispheres become more synchronized and function more efficiently which leads to creative thinking and enhancement of imagination. Due to the release of endorphins the state of Gamma fields can be called the state of bliss.

So what about the scent? Every smell we feel goes to our brain and “talks” to it in a certain way. Studies show that particular scents stimulate particular brainwaves more than others.

For example:

  • Alpha brain waves are stimulated by the scent of lavender;
  • Beta brain waves are increased by jasmine, resulting in a relaxed, yet alert and clear state of mind;
  • Theta and Gammas brain waves arouse in response to patchouli, musk, sandalwood, which makes them ideal aromas to use when meditating;



Frankincense, cedarwood, and palo santo are also fragrances that have been used for centuries in spiritual and religious pursuits. Of course, the ancient practitioners didn’t have any scientific basis and just picked the most appealing species, but they really worked. The same way as sick animals know what plant can cure them, we can feel which scent will be favorable for us so there’s actually no need to be a scientist. The fragrance that is the most pleasing to you is guaranteed to enhance your meditation or spiritual practice simply by putting you in a positive frame of mind.



Natural only!

Scientists have proven that in order scents have effect on our minds and bodies they must be 100% natural. Synthetic scents contain chemical structures that simply do not fit into our cell receptors so they can never produce the same effect that natural ones. Of our five senses it is only smell that links directly to the limbic system. Therefore, natural fragrances can do miracles over our bodies as the limbic system is directly connected to the parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, stress levels, and hormone balance in addition to memory.

Even if the person cannot feel the odor due to some health issues, aromatherapy will still work as the natural constituents will be inhaled and influence the brain.

Different Forms

Modern market provides different options for scent spreading and it’s often easy to get lost in the variety. Here’s a short guide how to choose the perfect form for you.

  • Incense sticks and cones are made from a variety of combustible substances that give off a fragrant scent when burned. The word “incense” is actually derived from the Latin word for “to burn”. This form gives a quick boost of fragrance making it the ideal choice when you don’t have a lot of time. Incense sticks generally burn for less than an hour and the fragrance and scent throw can be quite strong.


  • Give fast fragrance boost
  • Give stronger scent



  • Mess made by falling ash
  • Danger of burning
  • According to several researches burning incense may cause lung problems when used regularly


Recommendation: if you want to find natural incense stick of a good quality keep in mind it shouldn’t produce any smell until it’s lit. Before buying a pack of sticks sniff them and if they exude a powerful aroma don’t pick them, there’s nothing natural.


  • Scented candles are made from a combination of wax and scent oil, that when lit, diffuse aromas into the air.


  • Not only give he scent but also cast a warm glow creating cosy atmosphere in the room
  • Due to combination with the wax the smell is more complex



  • It takes about an hour for the scent to fill the space, moreover short burns considerably cut down the life of a candle
  • Again – better don’t leave them unattended


  • Reed diffusers come with three main parts; the fragrance oil, the vessel and the reeds or sticks. The sticks are made out of porous types of wood, they absorb the fragrance oil and gently diffuse it into the surrounding air, giving off a continuous stream of scent until all of the oil has dissipated.



  • Give contineous long-lasting scent
  • Flameless, so no need to worry
  • You can place them even in the most distant corner of the premises



  • Not suitable when you need a quick aromatic boost
  • You can get tired of the same smell every day.



  • Oil diffusers are maybe the newest scent devices on the market. Oil diffuser breaks essential oils down into smaller molecules, dispersing them into the air.



  • Flameless
  • Provide fast boost of scent
  • Usually have beautiful design
  • You can combine different oils to create a unique scent of your own



  • water diffuser can harbor bacteria in the liquid if it’s left sitting, which can cause health problems the next time you turn it on, so regular cleaning is needed
  • essential oils can be pricey

What Oils Are the Best For Yoga Practice

  1. Frankincense Oil – provides relaxing effect, ideal for meditation; has a very neutral smell that almost everybody will like.
  2. Sandalwood Oil – similar to Frankincense: very good for relaxation and meditative purposes; one of the best oils for focus and concentration. It reduces cortisol level, so can be used in the evening to calm down after stressful day.
  3. Rose Oil – promotes self-confidence, ideal to use in the morning.
  4. Orange Oil – activates the endorphin centers of the brain, so promotes good mood, boosts concentration and focus.
  5. Lemon Oil – has similar properties with the orange oil but a bit quieter smell; boosts energy and improves self-esteem.
  6. Lavender Oil – the most popular relaxing oil, creates peaceful environment and slows down the mind.
  7. Ylang-Ylang Oil – alleviates negative emotions and releases tension, boosts flexibility and relaxex.
  8. Peppermint Oil – improves breathing, alleviates respiratory problems.
  9. Clary Sage Oil – relaxes the mind, increases inner peace.
  10. Cedarwood Oil – a very natural smell that creates atmosphere of the forest.



The world of scents is vast and it’s only you who knows what smell will pull the strings of your soul right and when it’s better for you to use it. The only thing to remember – it should be natural and you should truly like it. Feel free experimenting and enjoy your journey!