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. The 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?