Yoga that is complemented with essential oils enhances a practitioner’s experience and heightens his/her awareness, says Roshni Sundaram, who teaches Mello Yoga’s Wednesday evening MY Gentle Flow/Restore with Essential Oils classes.
The oils elevate your senses and take your practice to a different level,” she says, and Mello Yoga owner Lisa adds, “This sets me apart from other places.”
Restorative yoga – which incorporates shorter “flow” time and less intensity than other yoga classes – is meant to fill students with a heightened sense of inner calm and self-reflection; and the oils (which Roshni places gently on everyone’s palm at three different times during class so students can inhale and apply topically) are used to accelerate and amplify that experience.
“In class, I talk about why we use oils in yoga or even outside in our routine lives and I’ll offer up different ones – some for grounding, some for inspiration, and others to relieve stress or soothe muscles. I change it up each week and talk about the need to release and let go to allow the body to process what’s gone on during the day,” Roshni says.
Lisa adds, “Oils open up your breathing passage. Each one has its own healing property. They’re 100% therapeutic.”
The Restorative with Essential Oils class, which takes place every Wednesday from 7-8 pm, is a perfect wind-down for a busy day.
“I’m not trying to energize people or boost their confidence at 7 pm,” Roshni laughs. “I’m guiding people toward holding onto all the good that came from their day, and letting go of the stuff that wasn’t.”
Lisa and Roshni have been friends for many years, and when Lisa presented Roshni with the idea of blending oils – which she has used on herself for her own yoga practice and on her family for many years – with a restorative-type class, Roshni was hesitant. She had never taught restorative yoga before.
She always offers oils at the end of her power yoga classes, but the idea of teaching a restorative class – where teachers hold silent space for yogis to reflect and go deeper – scared her.
“During power yoga, I demonstrate more, I give more instruction, I show proper anatomical alignment,” she says. “During a restorative class, you don’t talk as much. You’re not trying to encourage students to have their best day, you’re trying to wind them down and prepare them for a good night’s rest with a clear mind.”
Finding the balance between talking enough and not enough, between maintaining silence and filling it, was tricky, but Roshni figured it out and has done an amazing job, Lisa says.
“‘You’ll get to share your passion for plant-based wellness with essential oils and give people a nice midweek stress-relief class,’ Lisa told me,” Roshni recalls. “She said, ‘You should try,’ and I said, ‘This is so out of my comfort zone.’”
But Roshni stepped up, and Mello yogis have loved it: “I feel as though I am providing a mindful space where people can be quiet with themselves and I can lead them to reflect on whatever it is that they might be going through.”
Essential oils are so powerful that not only does Roshni walk around the room during restorative class to dab them on the palms of those in it, Lisa also diffuses oils during class, soaks cool washcloths in them to place on practitioners’ heads after class, and uses them to clean the studio. At the end of class, people spray an essential oil-infused plant-based cleaner on all materials – blocks, mats, bands, etc. – to get them clean.
“It’s a non-toxic way to clean and maintain the studio,” Lisa says – and this is just another element of Mello Yoga that makes it stand out from the rest.
“We emphasize breath work so much in yoga that it becomes imperative to provide a clean space for students that is also free of harsh chemicals from typical cleaners,” Roshni says. “When you open the door, you immediately perceive a calm vibe. Lisa used a lot of natural material to create her studio; bamboo floors, minimally processed wooden furniture and cubbies. The natural materials take in the smell of the oils.
As Roshni explains, oils are very powerful because “when you breathe them in, the scent molecules directly reach the limbic system of your brain, which processes emotions and maintains body homeostasis. You can use smell to trigger certain responses in your body (for example, staying calm, staying focused, letting go of certain emotions, etc.). But just like yoga or other self-care practices, it is consistent use that will yield amazing body and mind transformations!”
And at Mello Yoga, they are definitely consistently used. Roshni jokes that essential oils seep from the studio walls.
“It’s a very sacred space,” she says.
Lisa adds, “When people come here, I want them to say, ‘I’m here. I have arrived. I am home.’”