A Journey: Moroccan Scents and Their Uses for Yoga Retreats
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Morocco is a sensory explosion! There is so much beauty in all that you see and experience. It’s really true that setting foot in that country almost immediately captures your senses and mesmerizes them.
These sensory experiences can vary greatly. From a bustling market-place beneath ancient archways and billowing canvases, to a tranquil courtyard, with water-features and expertly manicured lawns and hedges, to an animated conversation with locals over fresh mint tea, whilst sitting on rich colored tapestry. There is uniqueness in all that you see, touch, smell, taste and hear, which makes the destination a perfect setting for meditation and mindfulness.
Photo credit: Taste.com.au
The Unique Fragrances of Morocco
Arguably, the most memorable of all the sensory experiences of Morocco is that of smell. This comes from the marketplace, where spices are sold in enormous pyramids of color on the roadside. The smell of spices can hit you like a force of nature on a hot afternoon! These spices are then used in Moroccan cuisine, known to be mouth-wateringly delicious and loaded with cumin, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric and cayenne. You can admire in the photo above a traditional tagine, a term that you may already be familiar with due to its international popularity, and which refers to both the container and the prepared stewed food inside of it.
The distinctive smell of Morocco also comes from gardens and homes, where locals cultivate exotic plants and intricate garden designs as an expression of their Islamic heritage and philosophy. These are meant to be fragrant and calming, and to guide us into contemplation and gratitude.
Vivid and memorable smells also emanate from the Hamam (traditional ‘baths’ - or ‘spa’), where natural olive-based soaps are used, incense is burned and people come to cleansed and massaged, pampered and enlivened.
When experiencing Morocco as a destination for a yoga retreat, the sensual gift of smell takes on even more relevance! There are some quintessential Moroccan scents that are beneficial to yogis and compatible with an intuitive and enriching yoga practice.
We love to integrate essential oils into our yoga classes and yoga retreats in Morocco, so here is a helpful outline of the ones we use and why.
Rosewater is used extensively in Moroccan cuisine, especially for desserts and treats. Prized rose varieties are grown in Morocco. As an essential oil, we would integrate this into a practice focused on opening the heart - a session with plenty of chest openers and back-bends. Its lovely, in this instance, to offer people the opportunity to dab the oil on their chest and throat area before the yoga class begins, and the teacher for the yoga retreat can also apply it in some yoga postures during the class. Rose oil also has many health benefits and uses, including its use as an antidepressant, antiseptic, blood purifying agent, and its use for easing menstruation discomfort.
Lemon juice, rind and essence is used in both savoury and sweet dishes in Moroccan cuisine. Many famous tagine (cous-cous based casserole) dishes are made with preserved lemon, or finished off with a flourish of freshly grated lemon rind. As with cooking, the effect of lemon essential oil scent is uplifting! Lemon used in a yoga class can be a fantastic way to raise the energy of a yoga retreat, and assist people in detoxification and system-cleansing. It’s also a great idea to use lemon essential oil in an oil burner during a class whilst on a yoga retreat. The other health benefits of lemon oil include immune-boosting properties, sleep regulation, a soothing effect on asthma, and easing the metabolic discomfort.
Allspice originates in the Caribbean Islands, where it is known as Pimento, but due to the international spice trade, from the 17th century onwards, it has found its way into many Middle Eastern and North African recipes. It is a heady and distinctive aroma, like a mix of clove, cinnamon, cardamom and pepper all rolled into one powerful impression. It is an essential ingredient in Ras el Hanout, a famous Moroccan spice mix. In a yoga class it can be used as a calming and sensual addition to the end of a class, especially at the start of a yoga retreat when people arrive fatigued and stressed. If the yoga teacher dabs a little allspice on the forehead and temples of a student, allspice can aid the relaxation experienced in savasana, or ‘corpse pose’. Apart from de-stressing benefits, allspice can also assist as an antioxidant, and an antiseptic.
Looking for a way to escape the ordinary and have a truly exotic experience? Morocco is a great yoga destination for reconnecting to yourself and to a mesmerizing world you never knew about.