Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Yoga is a physical and mental practice that requires total focus on one’s mind and body. Cannabis is a plant with various intoxicating and psychoactive compounds that, when ingested in various ways, can allow users to more fully access one’s mind and body. So, it should come as little surprise that there are a growing number of teachers and practitioners who are increasingly integrating cannabis and yoga in order to achieve a certain kind of mental and physical wholeness.
“One of the main benefits of combining weed and yoga is that cannabis—when the dose is correct for the person, the ingestion method [is correct], and even the strain is correct for the person—really does facilitate relaxation,” explains Dee Dussault, the founder of Ganja Yoga in San Francisco and one of the first people to publicly combine teaching yoga with consuming cannabis. “It really does facilitate getting out of the head and quieting the ego concerns of what has already happened in the past and what may happen in the future. It puts us more into the sensation of being embodied. Pain relief is part of that, too,” she says.
Stacey Mulvey, the founder of Marijuasana, a Colorado-based, cannabis-centric yoga company that produces nation-wide pop-ups, a 200-hour yoga training course and a variety of cannabis and yoga educational resources, says that both yoga and cannabis help us achieve balance in our endocannabinoid systems.
“Cannabis activates your endocannabinoid system, which is a newly discovered system of the body,” Mulvey says. The endocannabinoid system, which was discovered by scientists in the 1990s, is a molecular system that appears to regulate homeostasis in the body, though much is still unknown about it. The overall idea is that, for our biological functions to properly work, our bodies must be in a physically and mentally balanced state. The endocannabinoid system works with various other systems—circulatory, regulatory, nervous, et cetera—to keep the body in homeostasis. Cannabis, Mulvey says, acts as a supplement to the endocannabinoid system.
Mulvey adds that practicing yoga actually achieves the same thing—practitioners often come to yoga, whether consciously or not, to alleviate some sort of discomfort, whether that be mental or physical or both.
“With yoga, when we are practicing and we start to feel blissful or calm, like that feeling we get when we are into that flow state, that’s the endocannabinoid system that you’re feeling on a physical level. Cannabis and yoga pair so well together because they’re both working on the same physiological stuff, like grounding or material within the body,” she says.
Integrative Cannabis Into A Yoga Practice
It’s heady stuff, but it makes theoretical sense. Rather than just idly puffing away before settling into poses, though, both Dussault and Mulvey offer what they consider to be basic guidelines for those looking to integrate cannabis into their practice.
- Stick to slower yoga practices, like Hatha or Yin. This is especially important for those new to either cannabis, yoga, or both at the same time. Dussault cautious that, though it increases circulation, THC can raise blood pressure and allow for impaired physical judgment and possible poorer alignment, so it’s wiser to stay at a slower pace to stay safe.
- When looking for specific cannabis products to aid in certain practices or poses, the answer exists, it just may not be as obvious as one thinks. “Identifying individual strains for individual poses isn’t realistic. But we can look at terpenes and use them similar to the way people use essential oils,” Mulvey says. Terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons that naturally occur in the essential oils of many plants and other organisms, like certain insects. Terpenes are what makes an orange peel have that distinctly citrusy smell that differs ever-so-slightly from the terpenes that make up a lemon’s scent. With cannabis, terpenes are responsible for the difference in smells between strains–why one strain displays hints of pine and another more floral, like lavender, for example. Picking out various strains that display a certain terpene like linalool, for example, which is said to be calming, can be a useful way to integrate aromatherapy science, cannabis, and a yoga practice.
- For those curious about using cannabis during yoga but aren’t sure about the intoxication factor, CBD could be a great option to try. “It’s so cool,” Dussault says. “There are these non-intoxicating cannabinoids other than THC, like CBD. It’s a great place to start for anyone who’s curious. CBD fights pain in a different way than THC does. So, it’s actually good to have a strain or a topical or a tincture that has a little bit of both in it. They pair together—it’s called the entourage effect. But you can have low enough THC that you’re not getting that intoxicating feeling while still getting the benefit of the entourage. It’s like a band that the performers are helping each other.”
Cannabis and yoga are a natural fit, Mulvey says. “It’s one of those things when people are like, well, why would you do that with yoga and cannabis? It’s like, why wouldn’t I? The more you learn, the more you can go into the crossover and the compatibility. Cannabis and yoga really are made to go together and it’s like kismet—they’re soulmates, in a way.”