Yoga and cannabis – Relief and release

by Kayla Johnson

As legalization, medical or recreational, begins to really build momentum and spread across the country, cannabis is beginning to find its way into more and more aspects of life. There’s cannabis beer for happy hour in some states, cannabis cafes and coffee shops are popping up in others, and it’s even started to branch out (badum-tssst) into the health and fitness world. Cannabis consumers are turning to their favorite strains before they hit the gym or the pavement, and afterwards to help with their recovery.  For those who hike – a packed vape or edible can be a great way to help you wind down and relax as you enjoy nature. For the yoga practitioners, it’s a match made in heaven. 

Kendra Guthrie has been practicing yoga for seven years, and teaching for almost five of those years. The Tulsa-area resident, like many of us throughout the country, grew up in the era of heavy, nationalized campaigns like ‘Just say No’ and ‘D.A.R.E.’. “These campaigns had convinced me that cannabis was evil long before I had the ability to reason, or the data to make an informed decision,” she says.  An opinion that, given the limited and biased information available to her, could have been strengthened by the loss of her mother in 2008 from an opioid overdose, after a lifetime of struggle with prescription drug addiction and mental illness. However, in 1998, her father suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI.  His journey to recover took over a decade and when he stayed with family in Colorado while undergoing progressive treatments he had access to cannabis for the first time. “Every time he lit up, he was my dad again,” she says,” It was cannabis that offered him the gift of neurogenesis, and watching my dad regain his personality as he regained his memories created a paradigm shift in my relationship with cannabis.” Guthrie describes it as a ‘beautiful experience’. “Partaking and communicating allowed my dad to process and tell his story naturally.” By reconnecting the pieces of memory, she says, he progressively healed those lost pathways in his mind. As with most things that have unwarranted stigma attached, the enemy of stigma is knowledge, especially since the reefer madness mind frame continues to linger heavily, even in states with legalization in place. “We fear what we don’t understand.” When she turned her attention to her education, she made sure to select the coursework that “aligned academics with my personal pursuit of truth, “ from criminal justice courses to philosophy.  She made every effort to understand cannabis. The final blinder that fell away came from her forty page thesis over An Evaluation of The War on Drugs, after which she graduated with her degree. “Learning about the history of drug laws and mass incarceration for a personal choice sent me on a journey that smashed all perceptions of what I’d been misled to believe.” Diving so deeply and fully into cannabis in her studies has given her a significant perk, especially considering today’s epidemic of false information. “I don’t just feel this way about cannabis. I’ve arrived to a well-informed and deeply studied conclusion about this healing plant.” While in the middle of her degree, she also began noticing a change in her yoga practice.  Yoga assisted in bringing memories to the surface.  In Guthrie’s case, anxiety, PTSD and pain bubbled up, stemming from traumatic abuse as a child, and her first marriage to an alcoholic. These emotions can be paralyzing, but Guthrie credits cannabis with helping her face it head on. “It never bypassed the healing that was happening; it was more like a trumpet mute – it just turned the volume down, and tamed the trauma to a manageable level.” Beyond the benefits for her mental health as she worked to release those past traumas are the improvements physically. “Movement comes fluidly when I consume before I work out, and it alleviates the nerve, muscle and joint pain I live with.” Fibromyalgia, IBD, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and other nervous system disorders plague Guthrie’s family, and she views yoga as preventative healthcare,.  Guthrie hopes to keep pain reduced or managed as she ages. With cannabis, that freedom to move comes even easier, meaning poses can be deeper, and the benefits richer. Realizing the benefits of cannabis combined with yoga, Guthrie founded Elevate, offering practices at different locations in the Tulsa and Broken Arrow area, and in addition to leading traditional sessions, she now offers sessions with the option to medicate in a safe space, allowing others to find the same freedom and focus from cannabis to improve their own wellness as she did. “Ganja Yoga classes create an accepting community and it’s a vital component to countering negative stereotypes.” To ensure all attendees of the classes are at ease and comfortable, Guthrie keeps water, CBD and hot tea on hand, helping to promote an environment of discovery and healing. “Combining yoga with cannabis offers enhanced relaxation and pain relief to those who find discomfort or unease in their physical or public practices, and offers stillness to the restless individuals who struggle to relax.” Though there remains opposition to the legalization and use of marijuana, medical or otherwise, as people continue to use cannabis before their physical activity, they’re beginning to build up the positive association of cannabis being a ‘healthy habit’, rather than something to avoid for health concerns. “When we offer practices that enhance the benefits of cannabis in a positive way, we all win.” 

Cannabis isn’t just for those who fit into the ‘stoner stereotype’ any longer, and by continuing with incorporating cannabis with our healthy lifestyles and habits, we can overcome that stereotype with our actions. “Being a productive, successful and grounded human being is one of the easiest ways to overcome any negative stereotype.” Despite being practiced for thousands of years in different parts of the world, there’s always someone somewhere who’s trying yoga for the first time, just like there’s always someone who’s trying cannabis for the first time. “Whether it’s cannabis or yoga, start low and slow,” Guthrie suggests,” For cannabis, explore the method of consumption that appeals to you most, and start from there, and it’s a good idea to have an established relationship with cannabis before consuming and combining with another activity.” As for yoga, it’s important that you walk in with no expectations. “Yoga isn’t a competition, it’s YOUR personal space. Don’t focus on how the people around you are doing, focus on showing up, breathing, and trying. The more you practice, the more the benefits begin to multiply, both on and off the mat.” For the yoga beginners, Guthrie suggested a few tips to help your first few classes go smoothly until you’re more acclimated and comfortable with yourself and your limits.  Just breathe 

Bring water and a mat 

Wear comfortable clothing, nothing tight enough to slide up, and nothing too baggy, so your instructor can see your form and alignment. 

Know that everyone else in the room is feeling self-conscious or like the least flexible person there.

Keep breathing

The combination of cannabis with yoga is the perfect marriage of wellness and health with a dash of spirituality. Both enhance your self-awareness, and both help you release, rather than hold on to, what’s hurting you, physically or mentally. One of the most important building blocks of a yoga practice is your breath, and even more when cannabis is involved. Inhale the good, exhale the bad, and let yourself let it go. 

For more information about Elevate, visit www.kendraguthrie.com for details about class information and more.

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