Why CBD With Yoga Might be the Best Idea Ever This trendy new supplement won’t get you high, but it will take your yoga practice to an entirely new level of chill. So many of us experience (at "There was more space without the sudden pressing thoughts that might pop up after a heady joint."
Why CBD With Yoga Might be the Best Idea Ever
This trendy new supplement won’t get you high, but it will take your yoga practice to an entirely new level of chill.
So many of us experience (at minimum) a steady hum of low-grade anxiety as we move about our days. And who could blame us? Our schedules are jam-packed, we’re chasing career goals, tending to our personal relationships, juggling finances, and (if we’re lucky) squeezing in a little time to pursue our hobbies and passions.
These ever-constant feelings of anxiety not only hinder our productivity, they steal our pure, unfiltered, in-the-moment joy. It can be a challenging beast to tame, which is why so many people have been turning to a yoga practice as a way to calm down, go inward, and let go. All eight limbs of yoga, specifically asana and meditation, not only soothe in the short-term, but they also teach practitioners skills for checking in rather than checking out, and addressing anxiety with a calm bravery.
But yoga isn’t the only tool in our coping tool belts. With the increasing legalization of marijuana and hemp-derived products across the country, the stressed-out among us are exploring new ways to cope with anxiety. If the word “cannabis” brings to mind terrible-tasting brownies, it’s time to take another look at a now-booming industry. Although bakeries are now whipping up marijuana-infused cookies, gummies, drinks, and even baklava, there are also companies working to spread the gospel of hemp-related products without the high.
It all comes down to CBD, a cannabinoid compound found in the cannabis plant. Although CBD shares some similarities with THC, hemp’s better-known cannabinoid, there is one big difference: CBD has no psychoactive effects and won’t get you high. What CBD does deliver on, however, is a calming, gently relaxing vibe that has truly been known to make a difference in anxiety sufferers.
Bringing CBD Onto the Mat
If the words “calming and gently relaxing” are sounding a lot like your favorite yoga practice, that’s no coincidence—as many yogis are discovering, CBD products and asana practice go together like bolsters and yoga blankets: Two great ideas that are wonderful alone, but totally dynamite together. Because using CBD won’t get you high, it’s entirely safe and acceptable to use during a yoga practice or any other regular activities. Benefits of using CBD include:
- Pain relief
- Relief from anxiety and depression
- Relief from overthinking
- Decreased inflammation
- Increased mood
CBD is a natural fit for a restorative-style or gentle yoga class, but it can also enhance your experience in a more upbeat, quicker-paced flow-style or vinyasa class, especially if you’re prone to a wandering mind. How often have you been in a yoga class and thought, “I am supposed to be zen! I just wish I could silence these thoughts!” It’s hard to automatically turn off your overthinking brain simply because you’ve hit the mat. CBD helps.
It can also aid those with sore joints and muscles. Here’s how: The different cannabinoids in hemp, such as CBD, work in different ways with the cannabinoid receptors in the body, located throughout the endocannabinoid system. This is the same system that triggers your brain when you’re experiencing pain. When taking CBD, it interacts with the ECS and encourages it to produce an increased number of natural cannabinoids, which help to balance the system and produce an anti-inflammatory response. Therefore, helping to relieve those post-asana sore muscles.
CBD can also help to prolong the savasana feelings of bliss after you leave the mat. When we are feeling good, our brain naturally produces and releases a neurotransmitter called Anandamide. In Sanskrit, ‘Ananda’ means ‘bliss’, which is why Anandamide is aptly named the ‘bliss molecule’. Like all neurotransmitters, Anandamide is fragile and breaks down quickly in the body, which is why it doesn’t produce a perpetual state of bliss. It’s been found that CBD suppresses the enzyme that breaks down Anandamide. Thus creating longer lasting effects from the naturally occurring Anandamide in our system. In other words, that blissful feeling you get from your flow session can be enhanced even more by incorporating CBD into the mix.
(As a yogi and author of this piece, I found using CBD to be particularly great during my home practice. While I’m usually distracted by my cell phone, to-do list, and passing thoughts, my home asana routine has become a lot more focused and intuitive when taking CBD.)
How to Get Started
To nip any assumptions in the bud (had to!)—no, it doesn’t need to be smoked. CBD products can be applied to the body as a salve or ingested via tinctures or soft gels. Dana Boyce of Ananda Hemp suggests starting with a 10-15mg dose and increasing with comfort level and familiarity.
So which one is right for you? As a general rule, tinctures begin acting faster than softgels—about 15 minutes, on average. They have a mild hemp flavor that fans describe as earthy. If you’re looking to minimize taste, softgels might be a better fit, although you’ll want to note the difference in acting time: they take a little longer to reach the system, around 35 minutes on average. T he salves can be a beautiful part of a self-care routine, and are particularly nice when applied after a shower, before or after yoga, or just before bed.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that CBD isn’t a miracle “cure” for anxiety. (And BTW — neither is yoga!) As Ananda’s Boyce explains, “I always tell customers to not go in with expectations. Take the product consistently for a week and see if you feel any different.”
Consistency is key here; sporadically taking CBD when you feel like it, or remember, won’t yield the beneficial results of a regular regimen. (Again, noticing any parallels with your yoga practice?)
Have you tried CBD products with your yoga practice? What did you think?
In partnership with Ananda Hemp
Ananda Hemp offers information on how to incorporate hemp extract into your daily practice. Ananda Hemp believes that Mother Nature is the best architect for health and wellness. Their full spectrum products are derived from Kentucky-grown and produced medicinal hemp. Ananda Hemp strives to cultivate a sustainable crop that produces solvent and pesticide-free whole flower extract that complements your ongoing journey to wellness.
This Is What Happened When I Did Yoga on CBD
A 65-year-old woman in a Prius pulls up beside me blasting Enya. Clearly, I’ve arrived at CBD Yoga.
In New York State, the debate over recreational weed is on the table, with gubernatorial hopeful Cynthia Nixon and her running mate Jumaane Williams setting it as a centerpiece of their campaign against incumbent Andrew Cuomo. But so far, stories of “high tea” and “green yoga” are generally relegated to the Left Coast (and more recently, Massachusetts and Maine). New Yorkers, however, are finding a new and ambiguously legal way to enjoy some of the benefits of the cannabis plant.
CBD yoga isn’t a novel concept. The connection between cannabis and yoga can be traced back to the practice’s ancient Indian roots: Cannabis is referred to in the Vedas as one of five sacred plants, and images of the Lord Shiva with his chillum are ubiquitous.
When I walk into Jolie Parcher’s CBD yoga class in Amagansett, NY, a chimney of smoke rises from a hunk of burning sage and a sitar player is seated cross-legged, strumming away. As we settle onto our mats, Parcher explains that CBD oil might make us feel a little more relaxed, allowing calming sensations; it could also alleviate pain in the muscles or joints, allowing us to move with more freedom. Then she instructs us to turn our palms up if we want to receive the oil.
I swish the tincture around in my mouth and swallow, then lie back on a bolster and let the sound of the sitar carry me away. It’s been an intense summer—travel and family and work, work, work. It had been a while since I’d found space on my mat.
My thoughts begin to stretch out, like traffic on a busy road slowly thinning. I begin to linger on the space between the cars. It isn’t necessarily the CBD that’s relaxing me—it’s likely the yoga, a body meditation of sorts. Many who study the effects of CBD, though, argue that it enhances that mind/body connection.
“CBD elevates consciousness and puts you in deeper touch with your body,” says Lou Sagar, founder and CEO of The Alchemist’s Kitchen, a New York City-based company that specializes in herbal remedies. Sounds a little bit like getting high. And as the gentle yoga class unfolds and the distinct flavor of weed lingers on my tongue, I’m not quite sure where the yoga ends and the CBD begins.
Parcher, who’s owned her yoga studio in Amagansett since 2000, is an aromatherapist who regularly brings plant extracts into her teaching. Other oils come out during our practice—Parcher delivers peppermint oil to rub on our bellies and cedar oil to inhale in meditation. The CBD feels not like an outlier, but instead like one of a thoughtfully curated bouquet of oils selected to get us all in the zone.
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That’s the sensibility of the Alchemist’s Kitchen, which grows cannabis plants in Upstate New York strictly for CBD, then extracts oils and makes balms, capsules, and tinctures for healing purposes. CBD (cannabidiol) is derived from cannabis, but it doesn’t have the psychoactive effects of THC, the compound people are usually seeking if they want to get high. “We have a farm in upstate New York which is licensed for hemp and CBD, not THC,” Sagar tells me. “Now the whole plant can be grown with lower levels of THC.”
This is a new direction for growers, who, for many decades, had been breeding cannabis with progressively increasing levels of THC. “For a long time, people wanted lots of THC and dramatic impact,” says Mitch Earleywine, professor of psychology at SUNY Albany and author of the book Understanding Marijuana. “That often happens with the prohibition of any drug. So growers bred the ones that had the most impact and got less and less CBD each generation.”
The only way to legally sell CBD in states like New York—where weed isn’t yet legal—is if it has .03 percent or less THC in it—not nearly enough to get you stoned (a microdose is considered to be about 5 mg THC). Sagar sees it as a non-toxic remedy for some of the most common ills in our society, like chronic pain management and anxiety.
Earlywine tells me that CBD has indeed shown promise in early research as an anti-seizure medication, an anti-inflammatory, and a potential sleep aid. “It also looks like CBD doses can be good for pain in a subset of folks,” he adds.
“Is CBD the silver bullet that’s going to fix everything?” Parcher asks. “No. But it’s a tool.”
In class, we hug our knees into our chests and Parcher encourages us to imagine “creating space” on the inside. I spend long moments moving my thigh bone around in my hip socket, discovering places where I was unknowingly gripping. The inward exploration is both physical and mental. There is space, for me, without the sudden pressing thoughts that might pop up after a heady joint, and none of the twitching to-do list that flips on after a cup of coffee. Just a little more space.
The reason CBD might create a different reaction from THC, my experts tell me, is that the two interact with different receptors in the brain. THC, explains Earleywine, is a partial agonist of the CB1 receptor, which means it binds to that receptor and causes it to fire differently. CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t affect that receptor at all. The effects of CBD are outside the brain, in the body, he says.
It’s time for savasana. With each strum of the sitar, I visualize my brain waves. CBD oil, peppermint, and sweet cedar mingle in my body. Parcher lifts my feet and swings them side to side, then props my legs over a bolster. I settle back, into my mat. I feel lifted and grounded at once. Is it the CBD? The yoga? It’s hard to tell. But there’s definitely a shift, and not a trace of paranoia.
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