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Helpful Tips on How to Choose, Burn and Properly Use Incense

in In Class, YD News

Yoga studios: they smell of a rare musky mix of tea tree oil, sweaty armpits and stinky feet! Mmm, deeeep inhale. There’s only so much burning incense can mask. And we’ve been in classes before where incense was burned all yoga long without a sip of ventilation, which we hesitate to admit had us longing for eau du body odor. This brought the incense issue to our attention and brings us to our recent informal poll with the simple question: do you use incense?

This triggered a multitude of varying responses from ‘hell no!’ to ‘absolutely!’ to ‘yes, but I never inhaled.’ Reasons not to use incense include allergies, asthma or it gives you headaches. No bueno. Of the responses there was about a half and half mix of yeses to nos, and those who said yes shared that they burned incense at home but not in class, or used it before class but not during.

While the concern for potential health dangers of burning incense remains, it is so widely and traditionally used in practice and ceremony we asked connoisseur, Kaivan Dave, founder of his own company myInsens, to weigh in on the smoky subject and give us some tips for the incense inclined and curious.

What is your experience with incense? 

KD: I have been around incense most of my life – growing up in a very religious family where it’s “mandatory” to burn incense during prayers, while meditating and performing yoga has taught me a lot about incense; but by no means does that make me an expert.

When it comes to incense, due to the lack of education, people are misinformed about what they are burning or what they are buying.

Is that why you created myInsens?

Incense has been around for a very long time, yet there is not a single type or brand that consumers associate with. I saw an opportunity to create a household brand by educating people about incense, being transparent about the ingredients and by making sure, as a brand, we fulfill our social responsibility while doing so.  The company has been in business for little over a month but my team and I have been working hard on this project since November 2011.  I have spent over five months in India learning about the art of making incense. (See more of Kaivan’s and the myInsens story here)

What are some tips you would suggest for choosing incense and properly using it?

  • To all the Yoga studio owners, if you have students who are allergic to incense, we highly recommend using incense early in the morning, between classes and after the last class. This way, you can still create the positive atmosphere without disrespecting anyone.
  • Quality does matter! If you pay a $1 for 15 Incense sticks – there is a high possibility that those incense sticks will be dipped into alcohol, perfume and in many other different chemicals.
  • If you buy quality incense sticks, they should each last for approximately 45-55 minutes.
  • When you burn an incense stick, often it sends out a slightly different aroma than the sample incense stick that you probably tested/smelled.
  • When you are burning incense, leaving the window open slightly or placing the incense holder/burner close to the window is highly recommended so that the room has ample circulation.
  • Also highly recommended is using hand rolled incense over any other type.

What about the potential of incense to be harmful?

I am asked quite frequently if burning incense is harmful to the body. Short answer: No. I have personally been around incense for the past 26 years and my family has been using for decades. We have used many different types of incense and I am sure that most of time they did not even know what was in there –I can say that we are all doing okay health wise and our health has not deteriorated due to burning incense. Incense is used widely throughout the world by Monks, Priests and Swamis and is considered to be relaxing to your body.

Here are few tips if you are worried about inhaling the smoke from burning incense:

  • Use a type of incense that causes less smoke when burned.
  • Do not burn it completely at once. Burn it in intervals.
  • Ventilate the room and let fresh air in while burning incense.
  • Burn the incense outside on your deck or porch where there is ample air circulation.

[We hear an air ionizer is helpful, as well.]

When to burn? Kaivan has few more tips on what day/occasions you may want to burn incense:

  • Everyday early morning to bring in all the positive energy and help you start your day with a positive vibe.
  • During meditation or yoga, because it will help you focus on your mind with its relaxing scent.
  • During a BBQ, put a flower scented incense stick outside in the porch. This will help with eliminating foul odors and strong food smells.
  • During winter, you can put one or two incense sticks in the fireplace along with the woods to get that soft scented smell around your house.

He’s offered that if you have any questions or need feedback on incense feel free to reach out to him at Kaivan@myInsens.com. We also invite you to leave them in the comments below.

What are your thoughts, practices, tips for using incense? What are your incense alternatives?

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3 comments… add one

  • Chris

    There’s no Incense in Yoga !

    Burning Incense Sticks in Yoga-classes is a purely Western-fantasy.

    Only good-hygiene and good ventilation will get rid of any unpleasant odors in Yoga-studios.

    The Yoga-Institutes in India that I’ve studied at all had large, open, airy windows, whirring ceiling-fans, and whirring wall-mounted-fans for proper ventilation. So, there was no odor whatsoever, pleasant or unpleasant, in the Yoga-classes.

  • I use an aromatherapy burner – beeswax candle to ionize the air, and choose oils as appropriate to the season, class, people (it helps that I’m a qualified aromatherapist). Today it was lavender and cypress in plain filtered water. For me I like benzoin in rose water.

  • I wasn’t sure, but a while back, I set out to inform. Whenever I came upon an instructor in Yoga Classes in Boston
    waving a stick of incense during savasana or a studio burning several sticks brightly, rather than simply no longer patronizing the studio or instructor’s classes, I sent them a polite email with the research.

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