CBD's potential to centre us makes it a balanced addition to a well-lived life. Since its rise in popularity (by 2023, it's been estimated that the EU CBD market will have reached 1.4 billion) CBD has been capturing quite a few hearts. CBD has been known to bring balance to almost any routine at any time of the day (think: pipetting a few CBD oil drops into your coffee to start your morning feeling well-balanced) and many have reported the balancing effects that this fascinating cannabinoid has. However, there's an added quality of CBD, which makes it ever-versatile: CBD can even accompany a yogic lifestyle.
And a yogic lifestyle doesn't necessarily have to be a completing a complex quota of pretzel-like twists every day, never touching fast-foods or alcohol, and, in general, preaching to everyone about how great you feel all the time. Actually, a yogic lifestyle can hold a simple set of values. Best described as a conscious re-shaping of attitudes and lifestyles and essentially becoming more in tune with thoughts, feelings and emotions- a yogic life can be as simple as going through the everyday motion feeling calm, settled, and balanced. A simple set of values, indeed, but challenging to put into practice.
Much like mindfulness, a yogic lifestyle simply requires being more present and observing your thoughts. And, of course, such a lifestyle must contain some yoga: it can be one restorative Hatha class a week, for a relaxed dose of quiet contemplation, or it can be an ashtanga sequence a day to get you sweating and centred. Whatever routine works for you, what connects all variations of yoga are that each class promises the opportunity to reap balance, comfort, inner strength, and presentness.
A yogic lifestyle urges all human beings to apply the introspection typically found on the mat into life. In this article, we're taking a deep dive into the philosophy behind yoga, and how combining yoga with CBD might be the best decision you ever make to find your own personal sense of balance.
What Is Yoga?
Before we delve into the ever-growing belief that CBD could be the perfect accompaniment to your yoga practice, and indeed, your yogic lifestyle, it's essential we understand the origins and intentions behind the practice. Yoga comes from India, it's estimated to be 2000 years old (although it's almost definitely older, speculated to have truly begun in 3300-1900 BCE), and it comes from the Sanskrit word Yuj, which means 'to yoke' or to 'unionise'. Despite being introduced to western civilisation in the 19th century, yoga is definitively a product of ancient India; if yoga means 'to unionise', it is less about flexibility and gymnastics, and more about uniting every physical movement with internal awareness and meaning. Yoga is truly successful when it can be practised off the mat and into the everyday.
Many people in the west start with yoga as a quick, effective workout or stretch. Yet, as time goes on, and as the practice develops, so does one's lifestyle: yoga is notorious for beginning with the physical and gradually developing into something spiritual. Since a yoga practice always ends with a meditative 'corpse pose' known as savasana, commonly incorporates breathwork and pranayama into every practice (to varying degrees), and often accompanies chanting, it's hard not to appreciate the deep history around each part of your routine. Yoga is versatile, can be practised anywhere, by anyone, and when combined with proper breathwork and stretching, can hold the potential to release built-up trauma in the body. Many have reported that restoration on the mat most definitely extends to lifestyle changes.
The Origins Of Yoga
The practice of yoga originates from the Vedas of ancient India, and was initially hailed as yoga asana (poses). The Vedas are the oldest Hindu texts, relayed in Sanskrit- it is crucial, then, to understand that the practice of yoga has origins in Hinduism (and later extended to influence Buddhism) and should be treated as sacred, respectfully. However, anyone, of any religion, can practice yoga.
Most yoga practices today draw on Patanjali's 'Yoga Sutra’, which was the original guide book of yoga asanas. Written what is estimated to be at least 1700 years ago, the ‘Yoga Sutra’ outlines the eight limbs of yoga. When followed, it was said to lead to a healthy, fulfilling life. It was said that the aim of the ‘Yoga Sutra’ was to ‘inhibit the modifications of the mind’- essentially to still the mind using the body.
The Eight Limbs
Patanjali defined yoga as eight components, also known as ashtanga. We recognise this, now, as a strict set of rules illustrating the path for a yogic lifestyle.
These were ethical vows which focused on non-violence, truthfulness, chastity, non-stealing or coveting, and non-greed.
Similar to the Yamas, niyama includes a set of virtuous behaviours. They’re more habits and behaviours, requiring more action and effort. These include persistence, purity, clearness of mind, acceptance of others as they are, contentment, self-reflection and study, and contemplation of the higher-power (Ishvara/ God/ Spirit/ Unchanging Reality)
What we know of yoga, today, are a series of movements which we call asanas- some are more difficult than others. In Patanjali’s guide, however, an asana is a ‘motionless and agreeable form’. Also known as a meditative posture, an asana is a position which one can hold for a long time, with a pleasant disposition and relaxed state of mind. Patanjali, at the time, came up with a few recognisable postures which fit under this definition (including savasana, dandasana, padmasana and virasana). Over time, asanas have developed into a wide range of poses with varying degrees of difficulty. Each asana’s aim still remains the same, though: perfect posture, and a still mind.
Prana (energy) and Yama (stretch/ restrain) is a series of breathing exercises which many people believe to encompass what yoga truly is about. There’s a range of pranayamas which are said to incite the flow of energy within the body and clear away any blockages. Some important ones are practised regularly, especially during the Kundalini variation of yoga. Breath suspension (in and out), breath of fire, alternate nostril breathing, and skull-shining breath are names for some of the many pranayamas which draw on Patanjali’s rules.
Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses)
Prath (against) and Yara (food/ intake) is a retraction of sensory intake. Pratyahara practice is stated to be one which closes the mind to sensory pleasures. From the breakdown of the word, we can assume one main sensory pleasure for Patanjali might have been food! Of course, sensory pleasures would also have included sexual release, and any other processes of relaxation or non-discipline.
Meaning concentration and focus, this limb focuses on keeping the mind focused on one thing at a time. Essentially, stopping the mind from jumping from topic to topic.
A considerable part of modern yoga relies on the practice of meditation, hence why savasana exists. Dhyana means contemplation; rather, it is observing one’s thoughts without judgement. Dhyana is intended to complement Dharana- when one thought is picked, it is then meditated and reflected upon. Any stream of conscious thought must be solely focused on the topic and, at the same time, observed objectively, as a stream of conscious thought.
Sounds hard? Well, it is!
Meaning oneness, or a ‘trancelike state’, Samadhi is the state of being one with everything. Essentially, Samadhi is a concentrated focus on a topic (during mediation) that the mediator becomes one with that very topic. The thought process must be so potent that it fuses with the person doing the thinking.
Again. Very hard to do. But, then again, no one said the proper practice of yoga was easy! And, while certain limbs are hard to achieve, the point of yoga is to try, without judgement, to follow your best instincts, and, essentially, do what’s best for you. As time has advanced, yoga has re-shaped its foundations to include all genders, adding a deeper variety of techniques and accommodation to differing lifestyles.
Yoga and CBD
So, where does CBD fall into all of this? Well, the aid of a balancing agent, such as drops of CBD in your morning latte, or a quick vape while walking the dog, can render this process taking yoga from the mat to everyday life more seamless. Just as yoga uses physical movement to calm and centre the mind, so CBD may promote balance too.
Therefore, using CBD alongside your yoga practice is undoubtedly possible. Since CBD promotes balance, taking a few drops before a yogic practice (especially an in-depth practice which requires opening up the body and holding deep, long stretches) might pair very nicely. Combine the physical effects of pure yoga with the sense of balance CBD can bring to your life, and you’re well on your way.
The Effects Of Stretching
Since CBD centres, it can go hand-in-hand with maintaining the yogic mindset you need to continue practising every day, eventually being able to hold longer stretches, accessing those connective tissues while maintaining this connection between the body and the brain.
Many yogis have reflected upon the idea that trauma and history can build up in tissues and muscles within the body, manifesting as tightness, dull aches, and pains. This storage of trauma can also manifest into low immunity and general malaise. When we consider how some stretches can cause feelings of anger, hopelessness, agitation, or even sadness (to the point of tears) we can better understand why more attention is going into understanding the mind-body connection. As yoga teacher and studio founder Ana Forrest explains to her students, quoted in Yoga Journal: 'you're going to hit what's stored in there. Let it come up and be cleansed... It's a gift of the yoga’.
With CBD's potential to balance the self with a gummy, vape, or a few drops of oil under the tongue or in a smoothie, you could enter your yin/ Hatha/ yoga class already prepared. Since the job of yoga is to silence the mind and to access deep emotional and bodily release via stretches and holds, beginning your practice already balanced may help to access deeper stretches, aiding a more robust personal escape and, ultimately, effortlessly using the mind to sink deeper into the body. Talk about a mind-body connection!
Pranayama and CBD
Pranayama (yogic breathwork) can also be paired with CBD, as deep breathing exercises may pair well with CBD’s potential balancing effects . In many instances, pranayama has been said to be the most important form of yoga, said to cleanse the body from the inside out by clearing out blockages in the body and mind.
In a range of instances, pranayama is believed to allow the breath to enter and leave at full capacity, counteracting anxiety and stress. Since the body responds to stress-induced triggers by short, shallow breathing, it makes sense that controlling, suspending, and inviting breath in and out of the lungs relaxes the mind. This aids meditation, as controlled breathwork typically requires full concentration, so the mind has less time to wander off. Studies have shown that controlling and manipulating the breath in pranayama has helped decrease certain mental imbalances.
Taking CBD before doing pranayama will potentially balance you. Much like taking CBD before a yogic routine, a few drops of CBD prior to pranayama may just allow you to feel balanced. At the same time, the effects of the yoga will have you delving deeper into hidden parts of the mind, allowing for profound stillness. An interview with psychologist Joan Shivapita Harrigan affirms this: she states that ‘anytime you work with the body, you are also working with the mind and the energy system—which is the bridge between body and mind’.
Is Yoga and CBD The Best Combo?
Both yoga and CBD have stood the test of time, and have risen to the most incredible heights of popularity. If you do choose to try this duo, and you suddenly find yourself shedding a tear (or two) halfway through a deep stretch?
Good for you.