February 13, 2014

Listen Up Yogis: Incense Is Not Yogic.


Editor’s Note: I’m incensed. That said, check out Shoyeido Japanese Incense and other natural incense companies, or make your own!

Everyone knows that I am only an average yogi and not uber-yogic.

I do all sorts of unyogic things, such as wear matchy outfits, shave (almost everywhere) and bathe regularly. And I don’t smoke, anything.


So it will come as no surprise to you that I cannot stand incense.

I thought that we would already be past the incense craze of the 1960s. I am probably one of the few people on this site who can remember the smoke-filled rooms with whatever was burning in the 60s and 70s.

But apparently, no. I have entered at least a dozen yoga rooms this year where the incense was so thick I could not breathe. And by thick, I mean present.

Furthermore, I happen to be in the one percent of the population who is actually allergic to most variations of the stuff. My lungs shut down upon contact. I have fainted from the reaction. I have had to crawl out of rooms with my mouth on the floor trying to gasp fresh air.

You don’t have to be allergic, however, to have an adverse reaction.

Here is a study by the University of North Carolina that states that being around incense is actually as bad as, wait for it, smoking cigarettes!

Are you shocked? Surprised? Why? I am an English major and so, as my engineer husband reminds me on a regular basis, not that smart about physics. But even I know that when you inhale smoke your lungs probably don’t care which kind it is.

Smoke by any other name, is smoke. According to the World Health Organization, there are even lingering chemicals left in the air after the incense has finished burning, notably, benzene, which are really effing bad for you.

Here is a story about monks, sweet, gentle, meditating monks, who are getting cancer by the dozens because, wait for it, they have been breathing in incense.

 “New research suggests that long-term exposure to burning incense presents a danger to the respiratory tract, including increased risks of nasal/sinus cancers and malignancies of the tongue, mouth and throat.”

Delightful (waving arms to indicate sarcasm here). I did very un-scientific research on Google where I searched, “Is incense bad for you,” and 11 million stories came up. I’m guessing, other people are concerned as well.

As one who practices yoga for good health, and not to get cancer, or inflammation of the lungs, I beg you yogis: Please stop burning the incense! Yoga is about the breath, so let us breathe.

If you want to clear a room, try a bracing mixture of vinegar and water. If that does not sit well with you, try opening a window to flush with air. I use fragrant oils that sit in a pot, and an infuser allows the scent to disperse slowly.

There are lots of options that don’t include smoke and benzene!

Thank you—rant is over.

You can go back to your meditation now, but please, do it with oil, not incense.

Relephant reads:

A Ritual to Release the B.S. ~ Sarah Alvarez-Tostado

5 Peculiar Things that Could Change Your Life.

Just Breathe: 6 Quotes to Reconnect Us to Breath. ~ Kerrie Shebiel


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives


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