Cannabidiol, CBD, is often used for inflammation, chronic pain, anxiety, depression and sleep issues, among numerous other conditions. Many people feel a greater sense of mental and physical ease when they regularly use a high-quality product at the right dosage, and, increasingly, research backs up people’s personal experiences of relief.
And yoga is — well, it’s yoga.
Originally from India, it has undergone many permutations on its journey westward while garnering increasing celebrity. People practice yoga because it’s good for body, mind, heart and spirit. It’s a way to become stronger and more flexible, to ease the aches and pains of a sedentary life as well as a very active one.
It’s also a means to practice mindfulness, or moment-to-moment awareness that leads to lower stress and greater productivity. Many people find that practicing yoga helps them feel centered and connected to something greater than themselves.
You may have heard of Ganja Yoga and 420 Yoga, styles that encourage students to consume cannabis before, or during, the practice. Combining cannabis and yoga is not as new, or as strange, as it may seem.
There is a place in the yoga tradition for using mind-altering substances, including cannabis, to open a window into deeper consciousness. And Ayurveda, India’s traditional medicine, historically has held cannabis in high esteem.
According to Dr. Seeta Narsai, an LA-based Ayurvedic doctor, “one of the names for cannabis in Ayurveda is Sarva-Rogini which means “curer of all diseases.”
Classes like Ganja Yoga are offered in the ten legal states and the District of Columbia. Usually, students are taking a form of cannabis that includes enough THC to produce psychoactivity. In other words, they’re getting high.
But for those in states like North Carolina and South Carolina without a legal, adult-use market, or for those who seek the benefits of cannabis without the high, CBD and yoga can be a synergistic blend. Essentially, the benefits of a good yoga practice and a high-quality CBD oil have many overlaps; combining the two heightens both.
Benefits of Infusing Yoga with CBD
Perhaps the most tangible benefit is relief from pain and inflammation. While yoga certainly helps with this, sometimes pain and inflammation prevent people from being able to practice in the first place. CBD can provide a window of relief that in turn facilitates a satisfying yoga practice. It’s also possible that CBD helps lessen the user’s experience of pain, as well as the actual physical source of pain. Before and after stretching and strengthening, a topical CBD applied to aching muscles can help with recovery, and potentially spare practitioners the post-yoga soreness.
Quieting the mind’s many competing thoughts and to-dos is a goal for many yoga students that may also be aided by CBD. Because it’s been shown to provide some relief for both anxiety and depression, CBD can provide a platform of calm from which to explore your inner depths. And in this go-go-go world, couldn’t everyone use a little relief from overthinking?
Anandamide (part of the body’s endocannabinoid system) gets its name from the Sanskrit word, Ananda, which means bliss, or divine joy. While no longer an everyday spoken language, the terms you may have heard in yoga class, like Virabhadrasana (Warrior pose) and Pranayama (breathing exercises) all come from this 3,500-year-old Indian tongue
Many people find that CBD is the perfect accompaniment to a gentle yoga class that allows them to explore the subtle sensations in their bodies while remaining mostly in a seated or reclined position.
Restorative yoga, where props such as blocks, blankets and bolsters are used to support the practitioner in long-held postures aimed toward deep release and relaxation, is another style that dovetails well with the calming effects of CBD.
Yin yoga is a third style (though not for the beginning student) that involves long holds in deep stretch postures and slow transitions. Others find that CBD supports them well in a much more active yoga practice, such as Vinyasa Flow or Ashtanga yoga.
CBD and Relaxation
In any case, the fact that CBD is used as a sleep aid speaks to the fact that it can help yoga practitioners access even more ease in final relaxation, also known as Savasana.
The brain releases a fascinating little neurotransmitter named Anandamide when we’re feeling relaxed and content, like at the end of a good yoga practice. Nicknamed the “bliss molecule,” Andandamide quickly dissipates in the system, leading to a usually short-lived experience. But CBD has been shown to suppress the enzyme that breaks down the molecule, potentially leading to a more prolonged and elevated experience.
Additionally, some people find that CBD heightens physical sensation and helps them breathe deeper and more consciously—all goals in yoga.
acky Damon is a yoga teacher in Williamsville, N.Y., who finds that, with topical CBD and essential oils, “the results of a relaxing yoga class are amplified, especially for students who are experiencing pain in their practice.”
She has offered CBD and gentle yoga classes several times and finds that her students report a deep level of relaxation, as if their nervous systems more readily shift from the “fight or flight” response so common in everyday life to the “rest and digest” response many people seek from yoga. Some of her students incorporate CBD on their own now, even when participating in yoga experiences, she says, “that are not specialized CBD classes.”
Consuming or applying CBD a half-hour to an hour before practicing yoga may yield the best results. If taken orally, it helps to hold the CBD oil under the tongue for a minute or two to increase absorption.
Quality also matters. Use a lab-tested CBD that’s derived from a clean growing process.