Yoga Studio

What Incense, Scents & Essential Oils Do Yoga Studios Use?

Walk into any yoga studio, and you will notice a pleasant aroma enveloping the room – this is the smell of incense and essential oils. As a new yoga studio owner, you might wonder “what incense, scents and essential oils do yoga studios use?” because using incense and essential oils can create a unique experience for your yoga students. 

So, what incense, scents, and essential oils do yoga studios use? Yoga studios that use incense tend to use Japanese or Tibetan-style incense. The standard essential oils found at yoga studios include rose oil, lavender, frankincense, sandalwood, patchouli, peppermint, lemon, orange, and cedarwood. 

Yoga studios smell so good because of the scents, incense, and essential oils they use before and during classes. The incense used has a unique odor, and the essential oils affect all the senses as you enter the yoga studio. 

In this article, I will cover some essential topics related to incense and essential oil usage at yoga studios:

  • Incense vs. essential oils for yoga studios
  • Incense buying guide for yoga studios
  • Why essential oils are popular in yoga studios
  • Health benefits of essential oils
  • Top 10 essential oils for yoga classes
  • How to apply essential oils in your yoga studio

This post is part of a series of guides and articles providing in-depth information about how to start a yoga studio. Head to the main article to find a list of articles and guides covering the topic.

Incense Vs. Essential Oils For Yoga Studios

Incense sticks are those burning sticks that your yoga teacher lights up once in a while to set the mood of the room. They can burn for hours at a time, and the smell envelops the whole room. You can also find them outside of yoga studios, as many martial arts studios and related practices also use them. 

Despite the popularity of incense, essential oils are the healthier choice. Here are a few reasons why:

  • According to research conducted at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, burning incense is harmful to the lungs
  • Essential oils are a much lighter olfactory experience, which can add to the calming aura of a yoga session. 
  • It only takes one drop of essential oil to fill a room with scent. 

Incense Buying Guide For Yoga Studios

Incense for yoga studios

If you’d prefer to buy incense over essential oils, here are a few tips to help you do so:

Buy Pure Incense Sticks For Your Yoga Studio

The sticks you buy should be 100% pure — no dipping in essential oils, aromas, or perfumes. Pure sticks can burn for two hours at a time, and the scent can linger in the room for hours. Moreover, they don’t produce excess smoke, which is a common problem with oil-laced incense sticks.

Don’t Buy Incense Sticks That Smell When Not Lit

The incense you buy shouldn’t produce any smell until it’s lit. To test this, pick up incense sticks at your local store and sniff them. Do they exude a powerful aroma? If so, you should avoid them. The best quality incense sticks won’t smell until you light them, and then will begin smoking once lit. 

Additional Tips On Buying Incense For Your Yoga Studio

Here are some extra tips that will help you buy the right kind of incense for your yoga studio:

  • The incense should produce a mini “cloud” that envelops the yoga room and sets the ambiance for the studio. 
  • If you’re at the store, you can’t tell how the incense will smell in your studio because it smells different when it’s lit compared to what you smell it dry. 
  • When you’re at the store, smell the incense package to make sure it doesn’t smell too strong unlit. If it smells, this means the smell will be overpowering for your students. You want to buy incense which doesn’t smell at all while it’s packaged, but only exudes a subtle aroma when lit.

Warning: Do not position the incense smoke in the direction of the students. They will inhale pure smoke, and this is harmful to the lungs. The effects of incense should come into effect once the scent spreads and mixes with the air, allowing it to disperse throughout the room. 

Why Essential Oils Are Popular In Yoga Studios

While incense used to be popular in yoga studios, it’s now less commonly used due to the dangerous properties of smoke. The smoke repulses many students, and they prefer natural-smelling essential oils.

Essential oils are potent concentrates extracted from flowers, roots, stems, and more. They’re 100% organic, and they can enhance the mental and emotional wellness of your students. You can also use these oils to improve your skin, relieve sore muscles, and improve spiritual wellness.  

The main benefit of essential oils is that they enhance the studio environment without being a health hazard.

A full bottle of essential oil will last at least a month with daily practice. If you’re a yoga teacher, you might go through more bottles than the average student, depending on how often you apply it.

Health Benefits Of Essential Oils

Essential oils are increasingly becoming the source of aroma in yoga studios. 

Unlike incense, which is deemed unhealthy, essential oils have healthy properties, and you can use them safely outside the yoga studio environment. 

Here are a few of the primary health benefits of essential oils:

If you don’t believe the benefits, you should try out essential oils at your home before you integrate them into your yoga studio classes. Essential oils can also enhance your bonding experience.

I recommend buying ten separate bottles and trying out which scents you like. It should cost you under $200 to try out all the most popular essential oils, and identify which one resonates with your tastes and mood. 

You can test out the oils by applying them on the mat and seeing how long they last. They don’t leave stains, and the oils can be sprayed and diffused.

Different essential oils have different uses. Students will react differently to the various essential oils because the different properties incite different reactions. 

Example: Certain oils can relieve headaches, while other oils can relax students and promote better sleep.

Essential oils are hard to extract and rare, which is why they come in tiny bottles. However, that also means they’re very potent. Studios only require 1-2 drops of essential oils to make the studio smell great.

Warning: Certain essential oils can be applied directly on the skin, while others should not be, as some oils can cause an allergic reaction. 

If you make it a common practice to apply oils directly to your students, pick oils that don’t cause allergies. In any case, it’s much safer to use the oils on the mats or spray them around the room instead of directly applying the oils on the students’ wrists.

Top 10 Essential Oils For Yoga Classes

Essential Oil

The following is a list of the top 10 most popular essential oils for yoga classes. 

Most bottles cost $10-20 on average, and the choice comes down to the teacher’s taste and what they’re trying to achieve with the classes. 

Note: If you want the safest oil, you should go with Frankincense. If you want a more robust oil, you should go with Orange oils, as they release the most potent scent.

1. Frankincense Oil

  • Benefits: Relaxing.
  • Average Price: $10-20/bottle.

Frankincense is the most popular essential oil for yoga studios. It’s suitable for any yoga studio as it has relaxing properties and is ideal for meditation purposes. Frankincense is the go-to oil for a neutral, light smell that everyone likes. 

2. Sandalwood Oil

  • Benefits: Focus/Concentration. 
  • Average Price: $20-30/bottle. 

Sandalwood is similar to Frankincense as a general-purpose oil that is ideal for relaxation and meditative purposes. Sandalwood has properties that help students relax and engage with the yoga practice. It’s one of the most effective essential oils for promoting focus and concentration during the exercise. 

Sandalwood is also ideal for relieving stress, making it the best oil for night practices. If you have students who come cranky after work, Sandalwood will relax them and reduce their cortisol levels. I grew up in south India, where sandalwood is abundant, and I absolutely adore the smell of sandalwood.

3. Rose Oil

Rose Oil
  • Benefits: Higher self-image. 
  • Average Price: $10-20/bottle. 

Rose oil is very popular as a perfume due to its rich and powerful scent. It’s is ideal for morning classes because it exudes an aroma that improves students’ self-confidence. 

Rose oil is associated with flowers and love, and it can help your students connect in the studio and open up to new lessons. If you teach during the morning hours, you should consider using rose oil for your sessions.

4. Orange Oil

  • Benefits: Wonderful smell. 
  • Average Price: $20-30/bottle. 

Here’s a big surprise: orange oil smells like orange. 

There’s a reason people love the taste of raw oranges and orange juice: it smells lovely! 

Sprinkle a few drops of orange oil onto the mats, and your students will feel a pleasant smell that uplifts their mood. Orange is known to boost concentration and focus because it directly activates the endorphin centers of the brain.

5. Lemon Oil

  • Benefits: Increase energy at the studio.
  • Average Price: $20-30/bottle. 

Lemon oil has powerful aromatic properties similar to that of orange oil. However, it’s more geared towards teachers who prefer a lighter smell. 

Lemon oil can boost the energy of your students and improve their self-esteem, which makes them concentrate better throughout the lessons. If you want to increase the energy of the room, lemon should be your go-to oil.

6. Lavender Oil

Lavender Oil
  • Benefits: Relaxing/meditative. 
  • Average Price: $10-15/bottle. 

Lavender oil has relaxing properties, and many yoga studio owners use it for meditation purposes. 

Lavender carries the same spiritual benefits as Frankincense and Sandalwood oil because it helps students relax and creates a peaceful environment for practicing yoga. If you want to slow down the tempo of the room and enhance the relaxing atmosphere, Lavender oil is your best bet.

7. Ylang-Ylang Oil

  • Benefits: Reduce anger and stress.
  • Average Price: $10-20/bottle. 

Ylang-Ylang is a secret of many yoga teachers who teach advanced students that struggle with specific asanas. If you have a more demanding base of students who struggle often, they may get frustrated and angry. You need something that helps them alleviate their negative emotions and effectively release their energy. 

Ylang-Ylang is known to release tension in the body, making it ideal for boosting flexibility and improving exercise performance. To relieve the stress in your body, apply some Ylang-Ylang, and let your spirit guide you.

8. Peppermint Oil

  • Benefits: Improves breathing. 
  • Average Price: $10-15/bottle. 

Peppermint oil has a more minty taste, and that’s why many people use it in chewing gum and tea. It also has a strong effect on the neck, and it can also alleviate respiratory issues, making it ideal for meditation and yoga practice. 

Yoga is not only about asanas; it’s also about your breathing technique, and specific techniques require a lot of breath control and strength. If you struggle with respiratory issues, or you have students that you want to teach breathing techniques to, consider using Peppermint oil for your classes.

9. Clary Sage Oil

  • Benefits: Relaxing. 
  • Average Price: $10-15/bottle. 

Clary sage oil comes from beautiful purple flowers. It’s ideal for relaxing yoga sessions and increasing your inner peace. If you want to set a relaxing environment, give Clary sage a try.

10. Cedarwood Oil

  • Benefits: Natural scent
  • Average Price: $20-30/bottle. 

Cedarwood can enhance your connection with nature and allow you to experience a perfect mind-body connection. It contains powerful earthy properties that exude a forest scent and is one of the best essential oils to recreate an authentic yoga experience in the closed studio environment. 

How To Apply Essential Oils In The Yoga Studio

There are many ways to use essential oils in your yoga classes. You can apply them on the skin, spray them in the room, diffuse them, or even use them for cleaning purposes.

Applying on the Skin

Don’t use essential oils on students before consulting them in case of an allergic reaction. However, if you’re sure students are not allergic to the properties of the oil, you can apply them directly onto your student’s skin. This way, your students get the maximum effect and can fully relax while they’re practicing yoga.

If you’re using the oils for yourself, you only need a drop, and you’ll feel the scent for the rest of the day. Simply apply it to your skin and smear it around. You should use the oils on areas such as the neck, wrist, behind the ears, the temples, or the forehead.

If you do choose to apply it to students, you should dilute the oil for safety purposes. To dilute the oil, you’ll need a special carrier oil that can blend with the primary oil. 

Coconut and almond oil are the best carriers for essential oils. Teachers most commonly apply the oil on students’ wrists.

Warning: For students with sensitive skin and conditions like eczema, use patch testing to determine if they’re sensitive to the oil. Apply a small amount on their hand and give them a few minutes. If they don’t feel anything, it should be safe to apply in more significant amounts.

Applying Essential Oils With DIY Sprays

If you don’t want to apply straight from the essential oil bottle, you can purchase them in spray versions or make your spray. You can also mix multiple scents in one to create your unique mix, or you can make a spray using your favorite scent.

Here’s the process:

  1. Take an empty spray bottle and fill it with water. 
  2. Take your essential oil and drip 10-20 drops directly into the bottle. 
  3. Mix it up and let it rest for 24 hours. 

You will then have a spray that you can disperse throughout the yoga studio that won’t stick to your mats.

You can also use your DIY spray as a cleaning spray for the mats if the essential oil contains cleaning properties.

Applying Essential Oils With Diffusers

essential oil diffuser

Diffusers are becoming the primary method for aroma dispersion in yoga studios because the diffuser can be activated or deactivated whenever the class starts. The average diffuser costs $50, making it affordable for all studios.

The diffuser takes a bit of your essential oil and launches it in the air, enveloping the whole room in the scent. These machines also mix the oil with water to humidify the room, which is essential for yoga studios. 

Alternative: Essential Oil Candles

The main alternative to incense and essential oil bottles are candles that burn with essential oils. The manufacturers coat these candles in essential oils, and they emit a strong scent as they burn.

Most essential oil candles are affordable and provide a great alternative to bottles full of raw essential oils or harmful incense. The oil will come in touch with the flame, which means you must pick out candles made from non-toxic materials.

Warning: Use Caution With Essential Oils

Essential oils can enhance the environment of your yoga studio, and they’re a much safer alternative to incense. However, you should still exercise caution when using them. 

If you want to use them undiluted, only apply one or two drops on your body. If you’re using them for cleaning, make sure to dilute the oils, or they can leave stains on your mat.

Here are a few extra essential oil safety tips:

  • Be careful with the amounts you apply in your diffuser or candle if you’re not using them by hand. 
  • Excessive use of essential oils can affect students suffering from breathing issues such as asthma. 
  • Certain students might be allergic to the properties of specific essential oils. Make sure to consult with your students to verify that you can use these oils.
  • If you apply the oils on your students, dilute them with water or a carrier first.

To conclude, yoga studios use a variety of incense and essential oils to affect the ambiance and aroma of the yoga studio. Many yoga studios are switching to essential oils from incense due to health benefits. Still, both are viable ways to make your yoga studio smell great.

This post is part of a series of posts providing in-depth information on everything you need to know to start a yoga studio. The other posts in this series include:

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About the author


Naz Ahm is the founder of StudioGrowth and has spent a decade growing start-ups and venture-backed companies. He writes about sales, marketing, and growth, especially in the fitness and wellness industry.

Naz has an MBA from IESE Business School and started his journey in the wellness industry when he set-up an on-demand wellness business. Naz currently resides in London, U.K.