Is incense a yogi’s best friend or an enemy to health?

You smoke the leaves of a tangerine tree: as if you are looking into the distance from the top of a mountain in autumn.
You smoke osmanthus: as if you are contemplating the writings of ancient books, and the laws of the ancients themselves appear before your eyes.
Dong Yue - The Book of Incense, 17th century

      Incense came to yoga from Hinduism, where they are burned to this day during religious rituals (yagyas and pujas) - and this is not surprising, because yoga is a part of Indian culture, just like religion. Many yogis use incense to address patrons, egregors of practice - the deities of the Indian pantheon. But in fact, incense is not an exclusively Indian thing, they are also used in other religions of the world: Christianity (incense is the oldest incense) and Buddhism, for example.

In general, incense probably existed before all religions - after all, fragrant (or not so) fire smoke from different “sticks” was part of the life of primitive and later primitive man. In the future, smoke - including narcotic plants, but not only - was used in shamanism. Gradually, religions almost everywhere replaced paganism and shamanism, but ... the use of fragrant smoke remained! What is so interesting about it that people have been doing it for thousands of years, like yoga?

In fact, burning incense sticks (including Indian and Tibetan ones) and not even religious people at all! - after all, they simply, objectively speaking, smell pleasant and so help to create a pleasant atmosphere of peace and joy in the room. So, on the other hand, incense is also an air fragrance , cheap and easy to use - but more or less natural and harmless? - this is a must see.


Is incense a yogi’s best friend or an enemy to health?

If you “dig” a little deeper, then incense is not just a full house of fragrant smoke and a little self-hypnosis “for peace and success in business”: after all, incense often contains (presumably) natural substances that are really useful (or, if you are unlucky - harmful) to health. Incense has long been widely and successfully used in Ayurveda, traditional Chinese, Tibetan and other types of ancient medicine . But the use of incense - which is included, for example, in the mandatory training course of a monk from Shao-Lin! - study for YEARS, under the guidance of an experienced mentor, a doctor ... Not our case, right? Therefore, let's leave aside for a moment the traditions of Indian Purna yoga (where it is difficult without sticks for ritual reasons), because the question of the benefits or harms of the components of the "stink stick" in terms of health comes to the fore for us.

First, of course, the "bad news"!


  • It is necessary, if possible, to avoid inhaling the smoke of "chemical" incense, which is widely used in India, because. they smell strongly, powerfully, and - there, in Asia itself - are ridiculously cheap. Often, these "sticks" have lurid, tasteless packaging and sometimes unusual names that would be more suitable for a toilet air freshener ("brandy", "coffee with milk", "surf", etc.). Such sticks contain not only the actual "stick" - a wooden rod, the smoke from the combustion of which contains the same substances as firewood in the stove (including CO2), but also artificially synthesized substances, poison for our body. These sticks usually have "heavy" aromas, if you try different incense, you will gradually give up on these. If your goal is not to drown out the smell of cow dung and rotting garbage from the street, as is often the case in India, then is it worth using "heavy artillery"? With Evian mineral water on hand, you are unlikely to drink bright yellow Pinocchio? Although, the taste and color. (POSITIVE: Usually expensive and “branded” (Sai Baba Ashram, Auroville, etc.) Indian, as well as Tibetan (according to Tibetan medicine, i.e. 100% of natural ingredients), Nepalese (Sang and cheaper "Tibetan" sticks) and Chinese (baseless) sticks and spirals.)
  • Scientists have found that too much smoke, even natural, indoors is definitely harmful. Usually there is a rule - no more than 3 sticks per room, but for some chemical incense even this will not work - even 1 "super-stick" can "stink" the entire hall and literally suffocate those involved. However, according to the sensations, such moments are usually determined quickly. And from the point of view of "chemistry", the smoke of cheap incense can contain polyaromatic hydrocarbons, carbonyl compounds, toluene and benzene - all this, with prolonged exposure, can cause cancer. In general, follow a simple rule: if the smell begins to "put pressure on the brain" - it's time to "turn off" the wand, or even completely abandon the use of this type of incense, at least indoors. (POSITIVE: Many sticks that are even "super smelly" indoors are perceived much better outdoors. They can be burned without harm to health when used outdoors.)
  • If you use (especially Indian) incense without measure, then the whole room “stinks” with them for a long time. The author of these lines “at one time” stank of his apartment so much that the smell of “India” could still be heard from the entrance to the entrance (“there is a yogi’s apartment somewhere here” - perhaps other residents might have thought). Do you want all your clothes and upholstered furniture to smell like an Indian flea market? You decide. (POSITIVE: If you smell strongly of exotic incense, other yogis will recognize you from a mile away and praise you for your "pleasant aura"!)

The BENEFITS of incense are no less significant:

  • Some incense are distinguished by a weak psychosomatic effect - i.e. are able to unobtrusively regulate the state : invigorate, calm, or promote concentration. This is important and beneficial for any yoga practice! Such incense, of course, is not addictive in the medical sense. That is, it is a safe way to modulate your state the way you want: for example, “burn lemon sticks” in the morning to cheer up, and in the evening - relax with the smell of patchouli, create a romantic mood with sandalwood or rose, or meditate “on a juniper wave ". This is normal and not dangerous (assuming the sticks are saturated with natural fragrance oils and not synthetic fragrances!). Examples of beneficial, natural incense ingredients: sandalwood, lavender, bergamot, jasmine, saffron, juniper, sweetgrass, lemongrass, citrus aromas. oils, wood oils (fir, pine, cedar), and others.
  • Properly selected incense harmonizes vital energy (prana or "qi") and through this health in general: they make up for the missing or, conversely, remove the excess of some energies, manifestations, tendencies in the human body. And it, as we know from yoga, is “multilayered”, has not only a dense physical, but also a more delicate “pranic” “layer”, which also responds to the components of natural incense. Like practicing yoga! - and on any other impact: information, food, drinks, and medicines! In this aspect, incense is a medicine - or a poison if you have chosen and used them incorrectly. Everything is good not only in moderation, but also in due time: for example, some “sticks” are good for a cold, others are good for a heat, others are good for depression, and fourth if you need to calm your mind, and so on. In the East (Tibet, China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, etc.) since ancient times, entire branches of medical science have been created dedicated specifically to treatment with the help of incense.

Evgenia Korsakova, specialist in external procedures of Tibetan medicine, student of Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo, Geshe Rinchen Tenzin, Dr. Nida Chenantsang:

“In Tibetan medicine, medicinal compounds or their components are often used as incense, which the patient takes orally. It is believed that this enhances the effect on the disease. The most famous of these is Agar 31. This Tibetan medicinal incense consists of 31 herbal ingredients collected in the Himalayan region. Chief among them is Aqualaria Aloga, which is widely used in Tibetan medicine. The incense is handmade in the traditional way in strict accordance with the Tibetan Medical Tantra. Includes aloe, flowers of various herbs, saffron, red and white sandalwood, sapwood resin and others. It has a positive effect on: pain in the upper body; dry mouth and tongue, rapid breathing, irritability, depression and insomnia, muscular or nervous stiffness, tightness of the limbs, pain in the waist, hips, bones and joints due to a nervous disorder. How to use: light one stick and inhale its smoke for a few seconds, then switch to normal use. In other words, if you are tired, stressed, had a hard day at work, when you come home in the evening, light Agar 31 on a stick, inhale its aroma 2-3 times, and you will feel how your fatigue and stress dissolve ... "

Thus, we see that properly selected incense perfectly complements yoga practice and enhances its beneficial and harmonizing effects!

And, finally, no one has canceled the “Pavlov’s dog reflex” ... Many yogis have noticed that as soon as you light your favorite “stink stick” (any, even the most harmful!), you get up (or sit) on the mat - so the practice immediately and “will do”, but this is the main thing for us ... Regular and vigorous exercise is a matter of habit, it is a fact - and incense can be the starting point, the “on button” of this good habit. But, as in other techniques, it’s good not to be lazy in using sticks, understand this issue, and do everything right - for health and success in Yoga!