When it comes to mental and physical well-being, techniques associated with fostering mindfulness, or an enhanced awareness of body and mind, are essential. For instance, research has shown that techniques like yoga, a group of physical practices designed to bring the practitioner into the present while also strengthening the mind and body, and meditation, a technique used to train the mind to achieve a calm and present state, especially have a myriad of health benefits for practitioners.
But, what if there was a way to deepen a yoga or meditation practice and get even more benefit from it? With the newfound legality and widespread availability of cannabidiol (CBD)—the non-psychoactive component of cannabis that has shown potential to alleviate anxiety, relieve pain, and boost energy—there just might be.
CBD has the potential to decrease stress and anxiety, according to a growing body of research, although it isn’t exactly clear how CBD has this effect. That said, some studies suggest that CBD affects levels of serotonin in the brain, which can help address mood changes on a chemical level.
Meanwhile, yoga and meditation can also help to relieve anxiety and depression—according to some research and anecdotal accounts. After all, yoga and meditation are highly focused on taking long, full breaths, and research shows that this focus on breath “shift[s] the balance from the sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response.”
Plus, as this research in anxiety patients explores, anxiety actually makes it harder to focus or concentrate, qualities that are essential to sinking in and reaping the benefits of a yoga or meditation practice. Hence, when used together, CBD, yoga and meditation’s benefits can layer, increasing the chance you’ll leave the mat feeling relaxed and worry-free.
A big reason people seek CBD products, yoga, or meditation is pain—particularly chronic pain.
Luckily, research suggests that CBD is an effective anti-inflammatory and analgesic, fancy terms to say that CBD may reduce inflammation and ease hard-to-treat pain. One 2008 study which looked into an oromucosal spray, found that the equal part THC and CBD product “showed great promise” for treating pain. Additionally, a 2020 study in New Zealand discovered that non-psychoactive CBD presents “an opportunity” for treating pain, although the efficacy of a CBD product was context-specific.
Likewise, both yoga and meditation have shown promise when it comes to addressing pain. For example, a 2019 meta-analysis, which looked at 10 randomized controlled trials involving 686 participants, found that “yoga may relieve neck pain intensity, improve pain-related function disability, increase cervical range of motion, improve quality of life, and boost mood.”
When CBD is used in conjunction with a yoga or meditation practice it can heighten the pain-reducing benefits of your practice. This is especially the case for those prevented from getting on their yoga mat in the first place due to their pain and inflammation. CBD may help calm your pain just enough so you can complete your meditations and yoga stretches, which then brings benefits like a relaxed mindset and fresh blood flow that can further promote healing.
Plus, even if your pain is less severe and chronic and just a result of a previous workout, CBD can help, particularly by helping muscles recover. This is how athletes who publicly advocate for CBD, often use the cannabinoid.
Overall, as the Pain Research Forum reports, “painful stimulus grabs one’s attention.” Hence, if the pain is reduced through the combination of CBD and yoga and meditation, the practitioner will have a better chance of sinking into more complex poses or mental exercises and reaping the health benefits.
Aside from helping with anxiety and pain—which can distract from or inhibit a quality yoga or meditation session—CBD may impact a practitioner’s energy levels directly and indirectly in a positive way.
Firstly, if CBD reduces pain and anxiety, it may indirectly give someone more energy to face their day, including any mental or physical exercise they have planned. After all, anxiety disorders can cause fatigue and make it challenging to concentrate. Same goes for pain. As Laura Powell writes in Yoga Basics, “Combining CBD with yoga can help heal sore muscles, reduce inflammation, and give you a boost of energy.”
As for more direct impacts, some preliminary research suggests CBD might promote wakefulness due to the cannabinoid’s effect on the brain neurons in charge of energy and mood in the lateral hypothalamus. Plus, another Frontiers study showed that CBD may speed up a user’s metabolism, which may increase stamina and energy.
Yoga and meditation have a similarly beneficial impact on energy, according to a paper in Science Daily.
“There are a number of theories about why physical exercises like yoga improve energy levels and cognitive test performance,” said Kimberley Luu, lead author on the paper. “These include the release of endorphins, increased blood flow to the brain, and reduced focus on ruminative thoughts.”
Hence, when the benefits of CBD yoga and meditation are allowed to overlap, it can be just the boost a yogi needs to add more demanding meditations and yoga poses—like balancing poses and backbends—to their practice. This can ultimately lead to better physical strength, flexibility and emotional health.
As one advanced yogi states in Yoga Journal, “I have…learned how to fly, float, and meet myself at the edges of my psyche where I am most afraid, resistant, and vulnerable. I’ve done this exploring the advanced postures that come with time, patience, and practice.”
In the end, a person’s experience with CBD is very personal, and dependent on the type of product they use. And, if they choose to exercise while also taking, say, a product with high levels of psychoactive THC, they may find their motor skills are impaired, or their head is dizzy. These are obviously not good states to exercise in, for risk of injury.
That’s why it’s essential that a user try CBD—without doing any exercise or additional activities—before they start combining CBD with yoga and meditation. This is key because a) you want to know how your body reacts to CBD and b) you want to find a product that works well for you—which can take time and lots of trial and error in this saturated, yet unregulated, CBD market.
Even then, you may never know to what degree the CBD—or the yoga and meditation—is heightening your practice. Science hasn’t pinpointed it yet, either. But, preliminary research and anecdotal accounts suggest some sort of resulting enhancement overall—be it anxiety reduction, pain relief, or an energy boost—when the cannabinoid is incorporated into your yoga or meditation practice.
“I feel lifted and grounded at once,” wrote Emily Weitz, who wrote about her experience trying CBD during a gentle Hatha yoga class Vice. “Is it the CBD? The yoga? It’s hard to tell. But there’s definitely a shift, and not a trace of paranoia.”