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The scents of yoga

This ancient practice should be a total sensory experience, according to Urban Ashram Manila, and the studio has chosen special fragrances for this purpose


URBAN Ashram’s studio

Yoga has been extolled for its benefits not just on the physical level, but also to practitioners’ total well-being, which should explain its fast-rising popularity among urban dwellers. It’s “meditation in motion,” as one yoga instructor puts it, underscoring the centuries-old practice’s benefits to mental health.

When Urban Ashram Manila (UAM) was being set up, the people behind the studio aimed to make yoga a total sensory experience. First, it tapped award-winning designer Kenneth Cobonpue to create the furnishing and lighting of its studio—the first one in Kapitolyo, Pasig, and in July this year, at the new and larger outpost in Bonifacio High Street, Taguig (call tel. nos. 6619642, 3779642, 0917-8819642).

UAM was designed to be like a sanctuary in the metropolis. Ashrams or religious retreats were traditionally built in secluded areas, but “not very many of us can or are willing to spend years studying in an isolated valley,” points out Maricar Holopainen, director and teacher at UAM.

The hallway

“And yet, yoga is such a great gift that we wanted a facility that would allow city dwellers to find sanctuary, peace of mind, and a place to study without having to trek anywhere. The facility is built with solid environmental principles while ensuring that members have a great, healthy place to practice.”

The first studio in the country to be listed with the Green Yoga Association as environment-friendly, it uses only organic toiletries in the shower and locker areas (by Rituales and Zen Organic), and cleaning materials (Messy Bessy). The studio is designed such that natural lighting and ventilation are sufficient throughout most of the day, while it uses inverter air conditioners in the lounge areas, and T5 and LED lighting in the nighttime.



UAM has chosen Adora, the stylish department store in Greenbelt 5, Makati, to provide it with aromatherapy essential oils for its studio diffusers. From Adora’s curated and exclusive selection of brands, UAM picked Bungalow No. 9, the maker of unique candles and room fragrances imported from the United States and Europe, which uses powerful reed diffusers.

URBAN Ashram Manila reception at Bonifacio High Street

“We wanted UAM to be a complete experience,” says Holopainen. “Adora, more than anyone else, understands this—that life is a sensory experience, and that this experience can be enhanced and tailored.”

“The right smell plays a very important part in creating a desired ambiance, working both on the conscious and subconscious level, to relax, energize, or revitalize,” Holopainen explained aromatherapy’s role in yoga.

“Scents should be subtle, not overpowering or annoying. Urban Ashram was very careful in choosing the appropriate scents, and Bungalow No. 9 products have a whole range to find the perfect combination for our members, and to help set the right mind frame for the practice of yoga.”

Holopainen says specific scents can be beneficial to achieve target moods.

Bamboo essential oil, she notes, regulates the body, and enhances stamina and energy level. Orange essential oil, meanwhile, has a rich, fruity scent that lifts the spirit while providing a calming influence on the body. Orange brings peace and happiness to the mind, while the fresh, citrus aroma of grapefruit is energizing and uplifting.

For UAM, they chose Bungalow No. 9’s Grapefruit & Thyme for the lounge “as they are soothing.” The tart, citrus scent, Holopainen adds, is “balancing, refreshing, cheering and purifying.”


There’s also Lemongrass and Sage, chosen for its sweet and mind-clearing aroma. The combination of the two herbs is “cleansing, purifying, energizing and strengthening.”

For the locker area, they picked the “sensual, refreshing, uplifting and warming” scent of the spring and summery Bamboo and Orange Blossom.

Responding to the stance of other yoga practitioners who say that a yoga studio must be absolutely free of fragrances, however subtle or seemingly innocuous the scents, Holopainen says, “If the scents are objectionable and overpowering, then they are certainly are not welcome. However, scents can enhance and complement the experience of the yoga practice.”

She adds, “Throughout history, scents and spirituality have always been intertwined. Think of gentle incense in temples, flower petals being used in ceremonies, as well as the soft scent of candles being used therapeutically for healing and calming.”

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Tags: Urban Ashram Manila , wellness , Yoga

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