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  • Writer's pictureDebbie McCulloch Hopkins

Yoga and Cannabis - A Match Made in Moksha

In a somewhat troubled time in history there are actual truly wonderful changes and discoveries to celebrate every day which benefit humankind and this planet we depend on. These changes have the potential to be physically, spiritually, and emotionally beneficially transformative. They have the ability to heal ourselves and our earth. Of these, the two that I find most fascinating are the legalization of hemp at the federal level and cannabis at the state level along with the benefits of a regular yoga practice. Of these, they both have the

ability to lead us toward liberation or moksha. And I’m not the only one embracing these. There are reasons why both cannabis and yoga have become billion dollar businesses.

Cannabis and yoga are natural responses to the crazy billion dollar world of the western medical Wall Street model run amok. Western medicine with its thousands of highly beneficial aspects heavily tipped the scales by becoming a corporate driven entity who’s only mission is to seek board approval. So much of what we interact with is rushed, manufactured, over processed or synthetic leaving many of us to seek a return to simplicity, the natural and organic. One reason is because health care is practically unaffordable in the richest country in the world. However, according to the laws of science and karma, everything looks for balance or a return to homeostasis from the smallest molecules inside and outside of our own physiological bodies, to the entire planet and in my opinion the universe.

There are many who profess to be the purest of yogi and have passionate opinions on either side of the cannabis issue. The anti-mind altering yogi’s believe that to ascend towards enlightenment we must rely upon and generate that energy from our own source; that we must be free and clear of any outside chemical help to expand consciousness. Others point out that according to ancient Vedic texts cannabis has always been a part of the yogic tradition which allow a glimpse into something much larger than our own ego driven selves. Like everything else out there, it is all subject to one’s own interpretation.

Nevertheless, cannabis is here to stay. My prediction: It will very soon no longer be a federal crime to possess and grow this amazing plant. Among the widely known benefits of cannabis is how it helps in the treatment of glaucoma, and pain management. It also stimulates appetite and decreases the nausea that often accompany many cancer treatments. In fact this natural plant has revealed it’s ability to decrease the inflammation that may cause other diseases such as fibromyalgia. Due to its federal illegality categorized as a schedule one drug, there are very few gold standard double-blind research studies confirming it’s benefits here in the United States. Despite that, there is much respected peer-reviewed research produced almost daily throughout Europe. In this blog we will be keeping you informed of and point you towards the latest evidenced based research as it becomes available.

There are no two ways around it, cannabis is a reality. It is here to stay. Yoga teachers and therapists are now seeing and will be seeing more clients who are using some part of the cannabis plant to help them with a myriad of other conditions including anxiety and depression, PTS. As such, just as it is a nurse’s and other medical professional’s duty, it is also the yoga therapist’s responsibility to learn about the endocannabinoid system and to keep judgement aside.

So yup, not only are we missing out here in the US in the research department because of the plants prohibition status for nearly the last 100 years, but in that time there has been an overwhelming rise in disease caused by conditions created by inflammation at the cellular level. Nearly every disease is implicated; cancer, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, epilepsy and these diagnosis barely scratch the surface of what can be treated with cannabis. This rise in disease is theorized by neurologist Ethan Russo MD to be caused by what he coined, Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency or (ECD). Dr. Russo posits that hemp was once consumed by all mammals either by prescribed medicine or due to the proteins and other animal by-products naturally infused foods we ate. Cows and chickens for example provided us with meat and milk products we consumed after they ingested feral hemp in the pastures and roadsides they grazed. Cannabis prohibition put an end to that. Sure there are many other plants that provide the phyto-cannabinoids we need to boost our own endocannabinoid system (ECS), like herbs such as rosemary and basil. The problem with this however is that you would need to consume a small room full of rosemary daily to get the equivalence of a very small amount of cannabis.

Turns out that our body craves cannabinoids. Scientists recently discovered within us a thirteenth bio-physiological system they call the endocannabinoid system ECS. Simply enough all that this ‘thirteenth system’ wants to do is help the other 12 systems such as your neurological, endocrine, skin, skeletal, muscular, respiratory, and digestive biological systems find homeostasis or balance in the body starting at the cellular level.

Not all cannabis will get you high! There may be up to 600 compounds in this natural plant, 400 that are known. The two most well known are THC and CBD. Delta 9-tetrahydrocannibinol or THC is the psycho-active compound that alters the mind. CBD or cannabidiol is the compound that works on the body. The cannabinoid receptors are further delineated into CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are found mostly in the brain, central and peripheral nervous system. CB2 receptors are located in all the organs. It is becoming understood however that to get the best effect from cannabis you need both CBD and THC present to work synergistically. In the world of cannabis as medicine this is known as the entourage effect. At this writing, for CBD to be purchased legally (and it is legal in all 50 states) it can contain no more than 0.3% THC.

We will further explore strains and how they typically help certain conditions, plus how to find CBD products and medicinal cannabis that use best growing practices. But just like in yoga, every body is different and there is not always one asana pose, or pranayama breathing pattern that works for all- there is not just one strain that can help an individual. It may take trial and error. We will also discuss methods of administration; inhalation styles such as smoking vs vaping, bud vs oil, or ingestion using edibles, topical use, as well as understanding onset and duration of each. When assisting in choosing a strain, the nurse or yoga therapist should consider the whole bio-psycho-social aspect of each client and the energetic quality or constitution they typically present. Special attention towards responsibly following all the yamas and niyamas or restraints and observances (do’s and don’ts) with using cannabis should apply. This blog will cover the very latest in cannabis and yoga therapy research to keep you up to date. Together they can lessen pain and suffering and perhaps help us find balance and freedom in our everyday lives. Cannabis and yoga have the potential to transform western medicine for the better and together with the western medical model, cannabis and yoga both hold powerful medical potential and should be used compassionately and wisely.

Debbie McCulloch Hopkins


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