Burning Incense, Incense during Yoga practice

Burning Incense During Yoga Class

While scent can be an excellent means of invoking a certain mood, it’s not something everyone wants in their yoga class. The use of essential oils and incense have both been an integral part of many a yoga class over the years. As yoga becomes more popular and widely practiced amongst a variety of different people, classes sans scent are becoming the new norm.

Not everyone wants to smell incense throughout their yoga class. And while burning incense during class was wildly popular during the 60s and 70s, the use of it began to wane soon after. While there are still some teachers that will use incense during class (often to set a mood and clear energy), the practice is becoming decidedly less common.

While scent can invoke a positive reaction in some people, for those with sensitivities to certain scents, it can do the exact opposite. For example, a scent that makes one person feel calm can make the next feel anxious and uptight.

Scent can also prove to be a serious distraction. We come to class to move away from distraction and focus on connecting body and mind. When there is a scent in the room that doesn’t agree with our senses however, it can feel all but impossible to focus on the sequence of poses we’re breathing through.

There’s also something else. A growing body of research is showing that burning incense can pose some serious risks to a person’s health. Burning incense on a regular basis can actually increase the risk of cancer in the upper respiratory region. And even if incense isn’t causing health risks this serious in everyone that’s exposed to it, many people find that the smell of incense causes headaches and irritation of the eyes and throat.

Many yoga studio owners and yoga teachers have caught onto this and have begun to modify the way they use scent in the studio. Few burn incense, and those that do adhere to the practice of scent, essential oils are used far more commonly. And students are most often asked beforehand what they prefer.

Burning incense during practice might be for some, but the world of yoga is wide and not everyone resonates with this aspect of yoga. Setting the “mood” in a space during practice doesn’t have to come from burning incense. A simple chant like “ohm” or focused intention on creating a space is simple enough. Yoga is after all, an internal practice that isn’t dependent upon anything else but a person’s willingness to surrender to their own unique vibration. 

What is your opinion on burning incense during practice?