The Growing Popularity of Cannabis YogaUsing cannabis on the yoga mat is trendy, but is it actually a good idea?
Yoga and marijuana have remarkably similar soothing, energizing, and spiritual effects on the human body. So it comes as no surprise that yogis over the years have been combining the two. Over the last decade, dedicated “cannabis yoga” classes have begun popping up in every state where recreational weed is legal. It may sound like a lot of fun, but is combining marijuana and yoga actually a good idea? In this article, we’ll look at how cannabis affects yoga practice, and how to decide if this trendy combination is right for you.
Marijuana and Yoga: Divine Combination or Spiritual Antithesis?
At first glance, marijuana appears the perfect physical and mental complement to yoga. After all, weed can increase circulation, relax the respiratory system, relieve pain, heighten feelings of awareness and connection with your body, and slow or silence the distracting chatter constantly running through most people’s heads. Weed can make group yoga classes feel infinitely easier for individuals who suffer from social anxiety. For those who struggle with finding the motivation to make it to class, mixing yoga and cannabis may lend just enough of an incentive.
Records of cannabis and yoga being paired together date back thousands of years, including within intricate ceremonial rituals in the Tantric and Kundalini schools of yoga. The Vedas (books of ancient Hindu scripture) describe cannabis as one of the five sacred plants, believed to be the dwelling of a guardian angel. However, the practice of Ayurveda, which originated in the Vedas and is closely tied to the practice of yoga, discourages the combination of yoga with psychoactive substances.
Ayurveda’s stance against practicing yoga while high
Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic health practice centered around creating a balance between the body, mind, and spirit, discourages mixing yoga with recreational marijuana. Cannabis has its place in Ayurveda as a medicine. However, when used for entertainment or distraction, Ayurvedic practitioners describe cannabis as a tamasic substance. This means a drug taken to escape from one’s pain or emotions – essentially masking symptoms instead of putting in the work of real healing.
Ayurvedic practitioners are leery of the altered mental state marijuana imparts, believing that looking to external sources creates the illusion of peace or enlightenment, bypassing the real-life, moment-to-moment process of finding these things within oneself. Physically, Ayurveda regards cannabis, particularly when inhaled, as overly drying to the Vata Dosha – which governs the primary energy and lifeforce of the body. The pesky side effects of this imbalance (including dry mouth, coughing, and respiratory discomfort) can also compromise the quality of your breathing – an important component of yoga.
How Cannabis May Affect Your Yoga Practice
Yoga and cannabis both have remarkable effects on the body’s own endocannabinoid system. Many yoga practitioners feel that marijuana and yoga each enhance the benefits of the other, including relief from pain, reduced inflammation, improvement of depression and PTSD symptoms, reduced stress levels, and an overall sense of well-being. But just as each person experiences yoga in their own way, there is a wide spectrum of ways that cannabis may affect your personal yoga practice – for better or for worse.
THC and Yoga
Practicing yoga while high can be an incredibly enjoyable experience – or a distinctly uncomfortable one, depending on your tolerance level. The strain and delivery method you choose will also make a difference. Cannabis yoga doesn’t have to involve getting high enough to melt into your mat. Even a small amount of THC may be enough to enhance your practice. However, not everyone does well when mixing marijuana and yoga, and some individuals would be better off abstaining before class.
Advantages of combining THC and yoga
- Mental chatter and distraction tend to clear out, helping to achieve a deeper meditative state
- Heightened focus and self-awareness
- A heightened sense of connection and sensation within the body
- Deep relaxation and release of stress held in the muscles
- An overall sense of well-being, oneness, and peace
- Quite simply, it’s fun and feels good.
Disadvantages of combining THC and yoga
- Compromised coordination and self-awareness
- Risk of overstretching the muscles
- Impaired focus and distractability
- Anxiety and/or paranoia
- Dry mouth
- Respiratory irritation from smoking or vaping compromising the quality of breathwork
- A distracting case of the munchies or a fit of giggles striking in the middle of class
Yoga and CBD
Non-psychoactive CBD (cannabidiol) products may be the perfect way to impart most of cannabis yoga’s benefits to people who can’t tolerate, or choose to avoid the high associated with THC. CBD has become popular and easy to come across in recent years, and there are a wide variety of delivery methods beyond smoking and vaping, including edibles, tinctures, topical creams, and salves.
Advantages of combining CBD and yoga
- Effective pain relief. Many chronic pain sufferers credit CBD with relieving their symptoms enough that they can even practice yoga at all.
- Relaxation of tension-filled muscles, allowing for deeper movement and stretches
- Faster muscle recovery and relief from post-yoga soreness
- Reduced levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone”
- Relief from racing thoughts, anxiety, and overall stress
- A clearer mind and increased focus
- A heightened sense of connection with the body
- Uplifted mood
- Combining CBD with a bedtime yoga sequence may help insomnia sufferers drift off easier.
Disadvantages of CBD and yoga
- The most common disadvantage of mixing CBD and yoga is drowsiness, which can lead to impaired coordination and difficulty focusing.
The Rising Popularity of Cannabis Yoga Classes
If you want to make cannabis a part of your own yoga practice, you’re no longer restricted to getting stoned and doing asanas in your living room. An entire subset of marijuana-infused yoga classes is rising in popularity, everywhere recreational weed is legal. Weed-friendly yoga studios are popping up across North America, offering in-person and online stoned yoga classes (private or in group settings). Some studios even offer training courses for aspiring cannabis yoga teachers. The dynamic potential of pairing cannabis and yoga has also inspired several books on the subject.
If a cannabis yoga class hasn’t yet cropped up in your city, marijuana-themed yoga retreats are an option for your next vacation, ranging from simple weekend camping trips to truly luxurious weeklong experiences. Many of these cannabis yoga retreats are designed to be highly spiritual, healing-focused experiences, while others include cannabis yoga as part of a vacation package including other weed-friendly adventures and activities. Women-only and couples-focused cannabis yoga retreats are popular offerings.
If you’re ready to give cannabis or CBD-infused yoga a try, we recommend the following yoga studios and retreats:
Canna-Veda sessions with ZVEDA’s founder, Joanna Matson, are designed to bring your physical, mental, and emotional states into balance through a customized synergy of Ayurveda, cannabis, yoga, and other holistic modalities. Located in White Salmon, Washington, ZVEDA Botanicals creates their own organic, hand-crafted extracts, oils, and tonics, including CBD oils, salves, and tinctures. Joanna’s teaching style merges several styles of yoga, including online yoga classes through Yoga Samadhi.
yogaRIOT’s HighVIBE: Cannabis Flow classes are an uplifting and relaxing experience for all the senses. This 2-hour Portland, Oregon cannabis yoga class starts with a smoke session, travels through a calming vinyasa practice in a warm studio with ambient music, and winds down into an extended savasana, enhanced with aromatherapy and mayo-fascial release. And you’re invited to stay and socialize over post-class kombucha.
Weed and Yoga: Things to Consider
- While some people can (and surely do) discreetly use marijuana before “regular” yoga class, it’s generally inappropriate to attend a regular yoga class high. You may end up disrupting the flow of the class, and it may be difficult or even unsafe for your teacher to advise you in this state. Seeking out in-person or online instruction specifically tailored to cannabis yoga is wise.
- Stick with marijuana strains that are already familiar to you, so you’ll know what effects to expect.
- Be mindful of the delivery method. If you tend to experience dry mouth or respiratory irritation when you smoke or vape weed, edibles may be preferable. However, it’s very easy to accidentally overdo it with edibles, so always start with a very small dose.
- If you’re new to combining cannabis with yoga, always err on the side of caution. Don’t push yourself too hard. Consider starting with a slower-paced class to feel out how yoga and marijuana combine for you, personally.
- Consider your true intentions in pursuing cannabis yoga. Are you seeking true enlightenment and a pure mind-body connection, or just looking to make your exercise regimen more fun or less painful? Yoga is a deeply personal exercise, and you are more likely to get what you need out of it when you approach your practice intentionally – whether or not you choose to incorporate cannabis.
Ultimately, the choice of whether to practice yoga with cannabis is a personal one. Some yogis prefer to keep their practice as pure as possible; some embrace the sensual spaciness of practicing yoga while high, and others rely on marijuana to make a yoga practice physically possible. It is advisable to consult a cannabis yoga instructor before you begin any type of practice under the influence.