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Ganga Yoga

Is Marijuana Part of Your Practice?

Is marijuana the secret key to unlocking your spiritual aspirations - or better yet, an effective tool for deep physical relaxation? On the eve of legalization in Canada, it`s important to join the debate on practicing yoga while you’re high.

The two main active ingredients in marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)  and cannabidiol (CBD) and together they have a constellation of effects on the body. THC is responsible for the psychoactive symptoms of being high through activation of the pleasure centres of the brain.   With just a little THC on board, subtle shifts in the brain’s firing will affect sensory perception, relationship to time, memory formation, learning and judgement.  Ganja yoga converts often report a more intense relationship to both their breath and body when practicing while high, which is likely caused by increased sensory perception.  

Interestingly (at least for yogis) when researchers identified the chemical produced by our own bodies that binds with the same receptors as THC, they named it anandamide (Sanskrit for extreme joy).  

CBD is the chemical that medical researchers are hot for.  This component has no psychoactive effects, but animal studies have demonstrated a wide range of potential benefits including; antiemetic, anticonvulsant, antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumoral, and anti-oxidant properties.

Yogis can be pretty polarized when it comes to using marijuana to aid their practice.  There is no doubt that practitioners have used marijuana historically – there is ample evidence that humans have been cultivating and using this plant for thousands of years.   However it would be a mistake to think that recreational marijuana use today is a clear reflection of past trends.  A great illustration of this is to reflect on THC content past vs. present.  Recent reports indicate that through the selection process some plants have double or triple the THC concentration that they had 30 years ago.  These high levels of THC can be linked to hallucinations, anxiety, panic, or paranoia.   Frequency of use is another interesting facet. It would have been counter-productive for our ancestors to impair their judgement and reasoning on a daily basis – but the modern recreational pot user often supports a daily habit.  

Finally, there is increasing evidence on the effects that marijuana has on the developing brain (up to 25 years old).   Users in this stage of life are more susceptible to the negative side effects of using this drug, which might include a disruption in the ability to learn, psychotic episodes, mood disorders and schizophrenia in those with a genetic predisposition.  

If you’re considering practicing while you’re high, know yourself and arm yourself with knowledge.   The goal of yoga is freedom, which is grounded in our physical bodies and experienced in the present moment.  Ideally, all that we do will support our ability to tolerate and experience each moment whether painful or pleasurable.

Tracey Soghrati BSc., BSc.N, RN, RYT is a yoga therapist, educator and mom.  You can find her at www.soghratiyoga.com