Maybe you have decades of yoga experience under your belt. Maybe you’ve never attempted a yoga pose in your life. Maybe you’re somewhere in between. Whatever level of mastery you’ve attained in your personal yoga practice, there’s one aspect of yoga I’m willing to bet you haven’t explored: yoga enhanced with cannabis.
Marijuana-enhanced yoga classes, also known as “weed yoga” or “420 yoga,” are getting a lot of hype — but is it all simply a gimmick, or are there really benefits to incorporating cannabis into your yoga routine?
Marijuana-Enhanced Yoga: Does it Work?
The answer to this question depends, in part, on you. If you push yourself too hard, you won’t reap the intended benefits of yoga, regardless of whether you use cannabis while practicing. With or without marijuana, emphasis on proper form is critical — not just for yoga, but any physical exercise.
So how do you avoid “pushing yourself too hard”? Unless you have a yoga instructor watching your every move, you’ll simply need to listen to your body and obey the signals it’s sending you.
Incidentally, that’s the first of several ways marijuana can improve the efficiency — and enjoyability — of your yoga routine.
Most people report that cannabis makes them feel “more in tune with” or “more aware of” their sensations and the environment around them. By heightening your awareness of what’s going on inside and around your body, cannabis can make it easier to get a feel for the tension in your muscles, tightness in your joints, the rhythm of your breath, the straightness of your spine, and other signals you need to focus on while practicing yoga.
But what if pain or stiffness repeatedly prevent you from practicing yoga?
That’s another way marijuana can bolster your yoga habits. Many of my patients tell me they want to exercise and get in better shape, but are unable to do so because of discomfort or rigidity related to arthritis, joint pain, or other forms of chronic pain. (Chronic back pain, for instance, is an especially common complaint.)
Paradoxically, cannabis has been shown to decrease the perception of pain, even though many people have also reported enhancement of other physical sensations. For example, in a 2008 study published in the Hawai’i Journal of Medicine and Public Health, “Average pain improvement [among 94 respondents] on a 0-10 pain scale was 5.0 (from 7.8 to 2.8), which translates to a 64% relative decrease in average pain.”
In other words, marijuana can help alleviate the pain that stops you from getting exercise (which in turn, can alleviate your pain even more). For more on that subject, see my article on marijuana for pain relief.
Writing about her experience trying “ganja yoga” for Business Insider, Melia Robinson said that, thanks to the incorporation of cannabis into the class, she felt “unencumbered by the aches in my upper back from hunching over a computer all day.” Without cannabis, she may have felt too sore or stiff to engage in the class — and similar can be said for thousands of people who suffer from chronic pain related to an illness or disability.
RELATED: Using Marijuana For Better, More Relaxing Meditation Sessions
The mental effects of marijuana are also conducive to a better yoga workout, regardless of experience level. Specifically, cannabis makes it easier to tune out the stressors and anxieties that distract you from focusing on the present moment. (Indeed, cannabis doubles as a potent sexual aid and anxiety treatment for that very reason, as I’ve discussed in previous articles on marijuana for sexual enhancement and marijuana for anxiety.)
In her Business Insider article, Robinson said that she slipped “into a state of relaxation that I can’t normally access in yoga, when I’m too busy comparing my posture to my neighbor’s perfect form.”
Writing for health and fitness blog MindBodyGreen, Lindsay Kellner said, “Typically before I start practice, I spend the first few moments letting prior events, interactions, and feelings from the day melt away. It takes some effort… But after smoking… I dropped in more quickly and with ease.” (She also mentioned that “every sensation was exaggerated,” as I was discussing a few moments ago.)
And speaking with New York Daily News, yoga instructor Dee Dussault – the same teacher who led Robinson’s class – told the interviewer that “cannabis is mostly used to relax, and so you’re not hitting the mat with all your anxieties.”
You can see a common thread emerging in these accounts: put simply, cannabis helps you achieve the relaxed mental and physical states most people associate with (or hope to gain from) yoga. If you frequently find that you’re too stressed, too distracted, or simply too sore to explore yoga the way you want to, cannabis could be ideal for helping you overcome those hurdles.
Ask a Doctor About Cannabis for Enhancing Your Fitness Routine
Yoga is a mild, gentle, low-impact method of building strength, balance, and flexibility – all at whatever pace you feel comfortable with. That makes yoga perfect for seniors, people with physical disabilities, people who are recovering from injuries, and anyone else who wants to get healthy, but might not feel comfortable with aggressive, high-intensity workouts like kickboxing or aerobics.
Whether you are a seasoned yoga master or a complete beginner with no prior experience, you can boost the benefits of yoga by infusing cannabis into your daily or weekly routine.