Yoga is an important health and wellness practice for many people today, providing both physical and emotional benefits.
Some people also find yoga to be a deeply spiritual practice, connecting mind, body and soul.
If you’re thinking of using medicinal cannabis for a specific health condition, you may be wondering if it’s safe to combine cannabis and yoga.
You might have heard about cannabis-infused yoga classes popping up in the United States, where recreational cannabis is legal in most states.
Or you might have read that cannabis and yoga have been infused since the beginning of recorded history.
Yoga was first recorded in the Vedas, ancient Indian religious texts, more than 5000 years ago.
The same texts say that the gods created cannabis for all mankind to enjoy and list it as one of five essential sacred plants.
While there are no clinical studies looking specifically at cannabis and yoga, we can take guidance from other relevant research.
Medical cannabis has been found to help relieve pain, inflammation, joint stiffness, spasticity, anxiety, stress, and even improve mobility.
It’s also said to assist with relaxation and achieving “flow state”, the feeling of being completely immersed in and focussed on a particular activity.
These benefits alone suggest that cannabis and yoga aren’t only compatible, but they may also be complementary.
As always, it’s essential to talk to a doctor and, in some cases, a mental health professional before integrating cannabis into any physical or meditative practice.
What follows is a guide to the potential benefits of combining cannabis and yoga and using medicinal cannabis safely in your practice.
Before we get started
This article is written specifically about medicinal cannabis that’s been accessed with a prescription from your doctor.
At the time of writing, that’s the only way to obtain and use cannabis legally in New Zealand and Australia.
With prescription cannabis products, you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of cannabinoid blend, dosage, and quality.
It’s the safest, most effective, and of course legal way to consume cannabis for health and wellbeing.
Also, we’re not advocating for the use of cannabis for yoga.
This is simply a guide for medicinal cannabis patients who would like to continue their yoga practice safely and, potentially, with some added benefits.
The potential benefits of combining cannabis and yoga
Yoga is a deeply personal practice that often comes with a level of introspection not found in other physical activities.
For this reason alone, you should take care when incorporating medicine into your practice, particularly one with potential psychoactive effects.
That said, you may find that medicinal cannabis pairs nicely with your yoga practice.
Whether you practice yoga to help with stress, muscle tightness, joint stiffness, mobility, or simply to feel good, medical cannabis may enhance your experience on the mat.
It all depends on the type of medicinal cannabis you’re taking (more on that below).
Cannabis for stress relief
If you do yoga to help manage stress, medicinal cannabis may provide you with greater relief.
Studies have found that, in particular, is effective at reducing anxiety, sometimes immediately after taking it.
Therefore, if you’re using a CBD-based medicine you may find that it augments the stress-relieving effects of your yoga practice.
Cannabis for pain relief
Pain relief is one of the main reasons why people use medicinal cannabis in New Zealand.
Anyone who’s done yoga knows that some postures are more painful than others.
You may find that medicinal cannabis helps to make your yoga practice more enjoyable by relieving pain.
Both CBD and THC have been found to help with pain, so you’ll need to talk with your doctor about getting the right blend and dosage.
Cannabis for joint stiffness
Joint stiffness is a common ailment, particularly as we get older.
If you’ve got a medical cannabis prescription for joint stiffness or arthritis, you may find the benefits carry over to yoga.
Yoga can be demanding on the joints and medicinal cannabis may help you to loosen up.
Studies have found that topical CBD and a THC-CBD blend may help with joint pain and inflammation.
Cannabis for motivation and enjoyment
Research in the United States has found that people regularly combine cannabis and exercise and say it significantly enhances motivation and enjoyment.
If you’re struggling to find the motivation to head to yoga after a busy day at work, you may find that medicinal cannabis helps you to have a more positive experience that keeps you coming back.
Yoga, cannabis and the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
Research has found that exercise activates the ECS and tells our cells to release more of the body’s natural cannabinoids.
This makes us feel good and supports the body’s natural balance. It’s even been strongly linked to the phenomenon known as “runner’s high”.
It’s highly likely that yoga produces similar effects in the body.
A 2020 study found that participants on a four-day yoga and meditation retreat had significantly elevated levels of endocannabinoids in their system.
The participants also experienced improved focus and happiness and reduced depression and anxiety for at least one month following the retreat.
The authors said the activation of the ECS and release of endocannabinoids in the body potentially explains the self-reported health and wellbeing improvements.
The cannabinoids in cannabis have been found to act in much the same way as our body’s cannabinoids and may produce similar benefits to yoga.
The links between yoga, cannabis and the ECS haven’t been studied specifically.
But it stands to reason that pairing yoga with medicinal cannabis may be doubly good for your ECS and help your body to achieve homeostasis.
How to combine medicinal cannabis and yoga safely
Whether you’re practising yoga alone at home or in a group class, you should be able to use medicinal cannabis safely.
You just need to be aware of what’s in your medicinal cannabis, the dosage, and how you’re using it.
The main thing to be aware of is that medicinal cannabis products containing THC may have a psychoactive effect.
Other side effects include dizziness, disorientation, slower reaction times and coordination issues. All of these things may make some yoga postures challenging.
However, you may find that THC-based medicines are effective for treating your health condition.
In that case, just take some time to become familiar with how the medicine affects you.
You could schedule your yoga sessions an hour or two after taking your medicine.
You might find that you enjoy feeling a slight buzz during your yoga practice.
If you’re using THC cream or balm topically for a skin condition or muscle or joint pain, then you shouldn’t experience any intoxicating effects.
One other thing to be aware of is that THC can induce anxiety in some people.
Therefore, if you are taking medicinal cannabis for anxiety or depression, you should be careful about entering a meditative, introspective state during yoga.
Before integrating cannabis into your yoga practice, you should talk to your doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
One thing that goes without saying is you shouldn’t drive to your yoga class if you’re using a high-dose THC medicine.
You should be safe to use CBD-based medicinal cannabis in your yoga practice.
CBD is not intoxicating and won’t produce a “high” feeling.
It may even enhance your yoga practice by reducing anxiety and relieving pain and joint stiffness.
There are many other cannabinoids in cannabis, but THC and CBD are the two main ones that you need to be aware of.
Cannabis meets chaturanga
Yoga and cannabis are similar in that more people are discovering they can both have remarkable therapeutic benefits.
If you’re thinking about using medicinal cannabis for a specific health condition, I hope you’re feeling confident that you can safely integrate it with your yoga practice.
Relevant research suggests yoga and medical cannabis may have synergistic effects and help to support health, wellbeing, and balance.
As always, if you’re getting a medicinal cannabis prescription from your doctor make sure to mention that you’d like to continue with your yoga practice.
They’ll be able to provide you with patient-specific advice about the optimal blend and dosage for your health condition and lifestyle needs.