We know the word ‘wellness’ has been overused in the past few years. But it is undeniable that this increased focus on our mental and physical health (and how interlinked these two components are) has led to several positive movements.
Acceptance of cannabis as medicine is growing, allowing individuals to gain access to this natural and effective medical option. Similarly, the practice of yoga has become widely popular, with the Western world embracing (and sometimes compromising) the spiritual practice whose roots stem 5,000 years to Northern India.
So, perhaps it was only a matter of time before the combination of cannabis and yoga became the latest wellness trend. But this isn’t just a trend: these two practices combine harmoniously to deliver an alternative experience of yoga and meditation. Leafwell spoke with yoga practitioner, Hannah Whistler (or @hempy_hippie, as she’s known to her thousands of Instagram followers), to find out more about how she combines marijuana and yoga into her daily wellness routine.
A Daily Practice
As a personal trainer and yoga instructor, cannabis and yoga are both daily features of Hannah’s life. Living in Arizona, Hannah is a medical marijuana card holder but yoga actually came first, followed closely by cannabis. As Hannah became more interested in her health and fitness, she began working out regularly. And as anyone who’s started a regular gym routine knows, this inevitably leads to aches and pains.
One of Hannah’s friends suggested she try cannabis to help aid her recovery. From a small, conservative town in Pennsylvania, Hannah recalls that she had never considered cannabis before: “it wasn’t what we did.” The stigma hovered over the idea like a dark cloud of doubt and disapproval. It was only when she saw the medicinal benefits her friends were enjoying that she decided to try marijuana for herself, under the close supervision of those friends.
After seeing the dramatic and positive impact cannabis had on her aching muscles, cannabidiol (CBD) being a known anti-inflammatory, Hannah became interested in how cannabis may be integrated with her lifestyle to improve her health and wellness on a day to day basis. As a passionate yogi, this was an obvious area for her to focus.
For Hannah, “Yoga is the practice of connecting your mind and your body. It’s the practice of being present and the practice of being self-aware. And a practice of connection.” Hannah tends to start the day with a yoga routine and stretches throughout the day after training sessions. She reminds us: “If you feel good, you’re going to do good.” But it soon went beyond the physical benefits of yoga.
“When I started smoking cannabis, my yoga practice became more deep and more meaningful to me. The more I introduced cannabis into my life, I started to realize more of a spiritual aspect of yoga. It opened my eyes because once I got past the stigma of cannabis, it allowed me to be more open to other things as well.”
Her introduction of cannabis before her morning yoga routine led Hannah to believe that “Yoga isn’t necessarily the movement, it’s about finding that inner connectedness.” It was cannabis which allowed her to explore that inner connection and took her practice to the next level, improving her capacity to meditate and focus on her inner self, switching off from the bustling world beyond the mat.
The Trend of Marijuana and Yoga
Hannah isn’t the only person who recognises how effectively yoga and cannabis combine. Perhaps the most well known advocate in recent times is Jessamyn Stanley, who spoke to High Times about yoga, body positivity and cannabis. Jessamyn considers cannabis a self-care tool and often uses it before and after her time on the mat. For her, the plant allows deeper focus and soothes her, particularly during flow sequences and long holds.
Jessamyn has been practicing yoga daily since 2013, and tends to combine smoking flower with her yoga practice when at home. She has started to share her flows and sequences online and has generated a dedicated following of people who appreciate her positive and inclusive attitude she brings to the space. On her Instagram (@mynameisjessamyn), Jessamyn said: “CBD all day, every day, amen. It helps me with stress, and also supports pleasure by balancing the nervous system so I can experience more of what makes me feel good.”
It’s Not Called a Yoga Perfect, it’s a Yoga Practice
Whether you’re an experienced yogi or have never stepped on the mat in your life, it’s important to remember that yoga is intended to be a regular practice. It’s not a Netflix series you can binge and finish. It’s not a computer game you can complete. As Hannah says: “It’s not called a yoga perfect, it’s a yoga practice.”
One of the hardest poses in yoga, according to Hannah (and our yoga practitioners at Leafwell concur) is savasana or corpse pose. While there is nothing physically difficult about lying on your back with your eyes closed, that’s not what savasana asks of you. In this pose, you’re offered a moment of stillness and silence in which you are invited to look inward. And in the 21st century, that’s something many people have forgotten how to do.
“We live in a world that is so fast paced and so go go go go. What’s next? What’s new? The real magic and the beauty is what happens inside of us. But as a collective, we have a hard time hitting pause.”
And this takes time to perfect, Hannah acknowledges, recognising that she still has days when it’s hard for her to connect to her inner self. But cannabis goes a long way towards putting that connectivity within reach.
“When I smoke before I meditate, I don’t think about what I’m going to have for breakfast or Joe from work, or whatever. I don’t think about those things. So for me, cannabis helps to turn my brain off. I have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) so for me, the sitting still part is really hard. But I think my body knows that is something I need. The cannabis helps reel me back and contains my thoughts. I feel more grounded.”
And this won’t necessarily happen the first time you combine cannabis with yoga. Cannabis doesn’t hand you the golden key to enlightenment but it does quieten the noise and settle your body in such a way that a true connection is more attainable. But this doesn’t come immediately. You still need to practice. “It’s like a muscle. If you’re not practicing self-awareness and you’re not practicing rest, you won’t know how,” Hannah reminds us.
A Holistic Approach to Yoga and Cannabis
As someone who is part of the health and wellness industry, Hannah had some valuable insights into the different ways she was using medical marijuana to improve her day to day life.
Pain management and ADHD are the two main reasons she takes it. Cannabis reduces her muscle soreness after hours in the gym as a personal trainer. And when it comes to her yoga practice, reducing the ‘noise’ from her ADHD puts her in the right mindset to do the inner work.
Beyond this, cannabis also helps her eat. “Eating is hard for me. Sometimes I get nausea and cannabis takes away the nausea and helps me eat and induces hunger.” It can also be useful on days when she feels anxious as it helps to settle her nerves.
Everybody is Different, and Every Body is Different
Just like everyone has a different yoga practice, everyone will choose to dose and take cannabis in different ways. And that’s as it should be. Jessamyn Stanley started the hashtag #everybodyyoga to celebrate the diversity of bodies practicing yoga around the world. She also reminds everyone that dosing will be different for everyone and that it takes time to find what works for you.
Hannah has the added insight of having worked in a medical marijuana dispensary in the past. During this time, not only did she see some of the remarkable transformations enjoyed by medical marijuana patients, but she was also able to try out a number of strains and ingestion methods to find what worked for her.
“Concentrates is my preferred method. I’d been smoking flower for a long time before that. I mostly do concentrates although I do enjoy edibles. But I think edibles are tricky because they are completely different. They have a longer onset, they last longer and the experience can be more intense. It’s good for high pain management so that’s typically when I take edibles.”
Hannah also added that she tends to do CBD tinctures most days, another thing she has in common with Jessamyn. And when it comes to people interested in introducing cannabis to their yoga practice, she recommends products high in CBD.
“If you know what condition you’re looking to treat or what symptoms you’re looking to treat, finding the right strain is the way you want to go. For me, I like sativas because it helps to counteract my ADHD. Personally, I like more ‘uppy’ sativas. But I like indicas at night.”
And she wisely reminds us: “you can always take more but you can’t take less. Slow and steady wins the race.” Leafwell strongly agrees with this!
Does Cannabis Integrate Well with Yoga?
As with many things in life, there are various schools of thought on this. There are now a countless number of cannabis-yoga classes and retreats that combine the two. Others remind us that there are schools in India that have been doing similar things for hundreds of years. Some prefer to keep the two separate, and others are against mixing the two entirely, claiming that cannabis can cloud the mind over time.
Those who enjoy mixing cannabis and yoga – whether together or separately – may feel that cannabis can ease aches and pains, help overcome negative internal and external stimuli, and increase their connectedness to nature. There is little doubt that many medical cannabis patients past and present have used cannabis to help reduce physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pain.
These are things yoga and meditation can also help with, so it’s no surprise that people have combined the two. Added to this is the fact that cannabis use has been used in Hindu rituals for thousands of years, and the connection becomes even more intensified. Whichever approach you choose to take towards yoga, for many the most important thing is that you bother practising it in the first place, whether it’s with or without cannabis!
The Similarities Between Meditation and Marijuana
You know, perhaps meditation and marijuana aren’t so different when you consider the final words Hannah left us with:
“Don’t compare yourself. In your yoga practice, in your cannabis use, in anything. I think a lot of people struggle with comparing themselves and judging themselves. Be true to yourself and don’t compare yourself to others because your journey is yours and yours alone.”
Whether you’re on a yoga journey or a medical marijuana journey, or a journey which involves the two, it’s your life and only you know what is the right decision for your own health and wellness.