Alternative medicine and wellness trends frequently get combined in unique ways, as people continue to seek out holistic lifestyles as a balm against a modern world that can be overwhelming and unhealthy.
A good example would be aromatherapy techniques used as an aid for meditation or a spa that pairs acupuncture services with detox teas. So how about taking yoga, one of the world’s most popular forms of exercise, and pairing it with cannabis, one of the world’s most popular recreational and medicinal substances?
Yoga and Cannabis
Yoga is, without question, one of the most accessible and enduring wellness activities. Yoga has a language, a culture, and a global industry all its own (much like cannabis) and yet it’s a form of physical exercise (and meditation) that is accessible to persons of all backgrounds and fitness levels.
Marijuana consumption, meanwhile, is slowly shedding all its lazy ne’er-do-well tropes. Thankfully, using cannabis is no longer associated with going into a sort of cartoonish psychosis, or a near-vegetative state. Today, you’re more likely to find cannabis use associated with its continually growing list of medicinal benefits.
Cannabis can help with everything from anxiety to inflammation, and researchers continue working to uncover the full therapeutic potential of powerful compounds like THC, CBD, and cannabis-derived terpenes.
Yoga and cannabis are, in many ways, a natural pairing. They have a lot of overlapping applications, such as how each can be used to reduce stress and manage pain. By stacking these effects, the therapeutic benefits of yoga and cannabis complement one another greatly.
The idea of using a psychoactive substance before trying to exercise may seem counterintuitive to some, especially to those who are unfamiliar with the actual effects of cannabis versus how it’s still often portrayed in the media. And to be clear, including cannabis products as part of an exercise routine is definitely not for everyone. But many who’ve tried high yoga have discovered firsthand how cannabis can improve your yoga practice.
The History of Cannabis and Yoga
The historical connection between cannabis and yoga is actually very strong and spiritually significant. This can come as quite a surprise to people who see their only connection as tangential and modern, which is to say yoga and cannabis nowadays can both be strongly associated with western “new age” wellness spaces. But that misconception misses the mark by thousands of years.
The Beginnings of High Yoga
Cannabis and yoga-like practices have both been sacred parts of Buddhist culture in India for so long that there is no easily identified origin for the link between the two. Rather than saying Buddhists discovered high yoga at some point in the development of Buddhist culture, it is more accurate to say that marijuana and yoga have both been present in Buddhism for so long that finding a particular point in history where the two first came together is almost impossible, if not entirely irrelevant.
Scholars believe that cannabis use in India and prototypical versions of what we now know as yoga originated in the same broad era, thousands of years ago. Yoga and cannabis were both used as aids for meditation and spiritual connection. The link between cannabis and yoga is therefore inextricable, historical, and deeply culturally significant. It is certainly not anything that was manufactured by “new age” interests as a marketing gimmick.
The link is so ancient, in fact, that there is a Hindu religious parable wherein Shiva (the god of both destruction and yoga, coincidentally) recovers from grievous injuries by consuming cannabis. Cannabis has also featured prominently in certain Hindu religious rituals across the generations.
Kama Sutra, Yoga, and Cannabis
The Yoga Sutras are a historically significant document dating back to about 400 CE. There are 196 Sutras in the Yoga Sutras, and you can think of each Sutra kind of like an individual hymn or parable. The Kama Sutra is perhaps the most famous transportation of the term “Sutra” to the Western pop culture lexicon, but the Yoga Sutras are arguably just as culturally significant. The Yoga Sutras are where we first find the main principles of yoga that are still followed and reflected on by yogis to this day.
One such principle is related to the use of “herbs” to liberate the meditating mind from the self-defeating limits it has imposed upon itself. Scholars and religious leaders today disagree on whether that Sutra actually refers to cannabis, but the evidence is strong. Consider, for example, that some holy men of this tradition still use cannabis in their prayers, ceremony, and yoga practice.
It will forever remain a matter of personal interpretation, as the author is long gone. The Yoga Sutras are credited to Patanjali, a prolific and extremely significant (but also somewhat mysterious) literary figure from that era of history. For this work, he is sometimes referred to as the Father of Yoga.
Many of the modern yoga poses we know and practice today (i.e., “Hatha Yoga”) were developed later on by Tantrics in the 7th century. Tantric religious and cultural practices were formed as a hybrid of particular branches of Hinduism and Buddhism. There is a historical record showing that elements within these religious cultures used cannabis regularly.
Cannabis and Yoga: Recent History
In more recent days, the rollback of marijuana prohibition in many places across the United States has allowed for renewed interest in (and experimentation with) the cannabis-yoga connection. Modern-day programs combining yoga and cannabis date back to at least the early 2010s, and have gone by a variety of titles including Ganja Yoga, 420 Yoga, etc.
These structured programs typically combine an accessible, entry-level yoga class with a small dose of cannabis. The purpose is not usually to “get high,” but to enhance awareness, expand the limits of one’s mental state, and to feel present in the body. Students in most programs are encouraged to aim for the smallest dose possible while still achieving these therapeutic benefits. Other programs strictly use CBD products, eliminating the psychoactive element altogether.
The purpose is the same as it always was: to celebrate the spirit and expand yoga’s meditative possibilities through cannabis. Today, however, routines combining cannabis and yoga are backed by decades of research and science as to the health benefits of each. The focus of cannabis-themed yoga programs is usually self-awareness, mental and physical presence, deep meditation, and those sorts of exercises, rather than any type of strenuous physical workout.
Yoga Practice and CBD
One of the most effective ways people have found to combine yoga and cannabis is through the use of CBD products, as it provides a less intense experience in terms of mental state and emotions. A yoga class incorporating CBD can be a great starting point for someone who doesn’t have much experience with marijuana but is curious about adding cannabis to their yoga routine.
CBD-only programs are popular in situations where the yoga instructor wants their students to enjoy the stress relief, muscle relaxant, and anti-inflammation properties of cannabis while remaining clear-headed and avoiding that heady THC high. (CBD programs are also popular in those states where products containing THC remain illegal.)
If you’re not interested in taking organized classes, no worries. Incorporating CBD into your home yoga routine is the simplest, safest way to experiment with yoga and cannabis. While a guide is always a great idea when trying a new type of yoga, it’s fairly safe to experiment with CBD without an instructor holding your hand. CBD is a rather forgiving substance compared to its psychoactive cousin, in the sense that even if you accidentally take too much you most likely will never experience the unpleasant side effects of over-indulging in THC (paranoia, racing heart, disorientation, etc.).
Incorporating Cannabis Into Your Yoga Practice
The best way to first experiment with doing yoga while high is to find a qualified yoga instructor with good reviews, a studio that feels welcoming to you, and plenty of experience conducting cannabis-themed yoga classes. Not everyone thrives in a classroom setting, however, and that can be especially true when it comes to something as personal and meditative as yoga.
If your yoga practice tends to be more private, there are still steps you can take to combine yoga with cannabis (or CBD-only supplements) in a safe and effective way. Start by purchasing the cannabis or CBD product of your choice. If you’re new to cannabis, visit a reputable dispensary and ask the staff for assistance choosing something to meet your goals. Let them know that you’ll be using cannabis as part of a low-impact yoga workout, whether you want a significant psychoactive element (to “get high”) and whether you have any particular therapeutic needs relating to muscle relaxant or anti-inflammatory properties. You also need to let them know how you’d like to consume your product.
Smoking remains the classic method of cannabis consumption, and CBD can be smoked or vaporized in flower form just like other types of cannabis. The smoke of various herbs is a major component in countless spiritual and religious traditions throughout the world, but the health-conscious yogis of today are also sometimes hesitant to inhale fumes.
You can also find CBD and THC doses in convenient edible gummies, and even in topical preparations like salves and lotions. Edibles are recommended for beginners because they’re easy to consume and you can closely control your dose.
How to Plan for High Yoga
Plan your yoga session so that you are consuming your cannabis around a half-hour before getting on the mat. Newcomers should start with a small dose, no more than 10mg, and increase as needed in thirty-minute increments (with the exception of edibles and oral products), until you feel comfortable and ready to do yoga.
Keep in mind that different methods of administration will result in different onset times. A fast-acting tincture, for example, might have you feeling effects almost immediately, while edibles are considered by some to be a slower and “sneakier” high. Take it as an opportunity to meditate on the importance of patience, and don’t cause yourself to take too much by being in a rush to get started.
Consistency is important, just like it is for your yoga and meditation practice in general. Find a product and dose that works to enhance your experience and stick with it. When used effectively, cannabis can improve your yoga practice by helping with:
- Pain, especially pain caused by inflammation
- Tense or overactive muscles
- Focus issues
- Relief from anxiety and negative thought patterns
- General enhancement to mood/sense of well-being
- Increased sense of connection to one’s own body
Getting Started with Yoga and Cannabis
If you’re ready to try doing yoga while high, remember to take it slow at first. Start by trying some restorative yoga with blankets and blocks to promote relaxation. Save the standing asanas for when you feel confident cannabis isn’t going to interfere with your balance or posture.
If you’re using cannabis to promote sleep, couple it with Savasana (Corpse Pose), which helps:
- Calms the central nervous system, aiding the digestive and immune systems
- Quiets the mind and reduces stress
- Reduces headache, fatigue and anxiety
- Helps lower blood pressure
- Promotes spiritual awakening and awareness of higher consciousness
This resting pose takes your yoga practice to a place where you can completely let go… and coupled with a relaxing strain, who knows? You might have discovered the perfect way to find your Zen.