Breathing Easy: End Polluting Your Asana Practice

Real talk I am all about scentscaping. I am the type of aroma goddess that looks for ways to deepen my presence by layering scents all through my day and honestly all through my life. Imagine how surprised I was when I finally got of my yoga high horse and really touched bases with how I live in my own human body.

There are department stores I refuse to walk through. The infamous perfume aisle…ugh it is shopping purgatory especially since jewelry and makeup seem to live in the same section. I find myself either holding my breath or shopping dizzily trying to not pass out.

The overwhelming scents nauseate me. I get so ill that I often have to go outside to breathe in some air, albeit it’s often car exhaust flavored, I choose that over seconds in Bath & Bodyworks apple spritz and watermelon wonder sprayers accosting my senses.

Years ago my anger would hit the roof when my husband (now ex-husband) would light up the funkiest incense IN THE HOUSE. I was like “wooooooaaah lil buddy…nah burn those elsewhere”. To him, I was infringing on his spiritual quest. I would argue how high to heaven did he feel in the Indiana casinos with newports and cigars wafting around his penniless pockets (cause the only thing he ever won is my heart and hell he ended up loosing that too LOL).

I think about how disgusting it felt riding in the car with Mr. Charles on Saturday evening soaking in his cigarette marinated truck and having to suffer through sleeping with a smoke riddled press and curl. I can’t stand the lingering of smoke to this day.

I even have a healthy disgust for the street oils and peoples own individual body blends.

But here I was lying in a yoga class with a stick of incense moving around me in savasana and all of a sudden all that shit went out the window. Well there wasn’t really a window, or any ventilation ….but I literally accepted the association of this because Now I’M A YOGI and YOGIS rock with inhaling smoke I see (cue Christion Full of Smoke or even Mystikal Keep Smokin LOL or ooooh Bone Thugs Bud Smokers Only!)

I moved into a deep awareness of smoke indoors because of Elizabeth a sweet instructor with severe asthma. We can’t burn a thing if she is teaching and I don’t mind. The thought of triggering a moment where she can’t take a deep breath is unbearable.

But I didn’t bother to bring that reality into my classes. Indoor smoke is not spiritual IT IS DEADLY!

Burning incense, a popular cultural practice in many parts of the world, generates indoor air pollutants that may cause inflammation in human lung cells, say researchers in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

There are some serious issues that indoor use of smoke causes but this does not mean that insense are all bad. It is important to acknowledge while you used a practice before maybe you didn’t know that there may be a negative health issue that you are creating for your spaces and students. Forgive yourself friend, when we know better we choose with intention.

Knowing what you are purchasing is important. Here are some tips for choosing to keep your practice and offering as healthy as possible.

  1. Purchase low smoke incense there are three types of sticks look for hand-rolled which are higher quality
  2. ALWAYS KEEP WINDOWS OPEN if there are no windows DON’T BE BURNING INDOORS!!!  Seriously in Chicago there is an indoor smoking ban. While I wouldn’t like to see this impact yoga studios be mindful of the space you are in. Also there are other options to scent a space without smoke.
  3. Only burn a little at a time
  4. Never burn OVER SOMEONES FACE WHILE THEY ARE BREATHING IN A RESTING POSE OR NOT NEVER!  Again seems like common sense and this goes for that yummy piece of wood we love so much and any other substance that releases smoke when burned. When is the last time you stood in front of some smoke on purpose (that wasn’t a steam facial) and said oooooooh that’s good breathing?! NOT NEVER
  5. Burn before or after the class. DO NOT BURN WHILE PEOPLE ARE PRESENT
  6. Ask your students if they are allergic or have respritory issues this will help you create a fair and safe breathscape for your classes
  7. TELL PEOPLE! So if you have a wonderful class that is scented or uses scentscaping in some way tell people of this (for me in working in minority communities there is also an awareness of health issues; “In 2015, almost 2.6 million non-Hispanic blacks reported that they currently have asthma. African American women were 20 percent more likely to have asthma than non-Hispanic whites, in 2015. In 2014, African Americans were almost three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than the white population” The Office of Minority Health

It is important that AHIMSA move through our minds, hearts and lives. As instructors it is our job to be present and it is our job to be intentional. I fell prey to the yogic boundaries and forgot my reason I forgot my wisdom in a body that has rejected smoke, and scents on purpose. I forgot to listen to myself I stayed looking around for “what is yoga” from picking up habits that seem like norms but in actuality are trends. I’m not saying all incense use is bad, I’m saying choose the quality on purpose, offer the experience with transparency and look inside to your heart to ask yourself why am I doing this or inviting others to do this. Be mindful of where you purchase your things and above all when you grow into a new awareness let go of bad habits. This is a wonderful mantra for tuning into your shedding and release of things.


I’ll be sharing about allergies and essential oils in another post…until then breathe easy friends!


Mila K.


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