Reconciling the Mind and Body with Yoga and Weed
Taking the view that our mind and body are far less separate than canonically believed, we can intuitively resonate with notions like, “your body is an extension of your mind” or “your heart is informed by your entire being.” The mind/body connection is stronger than we allow ourselves to believe. We know on some level, as it is not difficult to accept that neurological disorders such as chronic depression affect physiological processes just as physiological distress can contribute to depression. With this in mind, it is understandable why individual’s prone to anxiety can experience manifestations of mental distress as tensions stored within the body. Varying from person to person, sore and stiff muscles in the hips, back, shoulders or legs crop up when unprocessed emotion or unresolved worry creates an atmospheric anxiety that feels impossible to escape. Being someone who has mediated a generalized anxiety disorder in the past, and currently grapples with it in the absence of medication, it is deeply apparent to me that anxiety, while feeling spontaneous, without purpose and unavoidable, carries an energy that needs to be realized, released and reflected upon.
Yoga practice in the West carries a multitude of interpretations, both critical and supportive, in public discourse. The spiritual dimension can be seen as appropriate while the physical exercise approach is criticized as a distortion of yoga’s true purpose. Depending on who you talk to, yoga is the best or the worst phenomenon that a.) must be embraced for collective healing or b.) should disappear into the esoteric realms from which it came and stop bothering us. A consensus is far out of reach. And yet, going beyond these caricatures, we should remember the incredible power of contemplative thought, movement, and stretching. There is a plethora of yoga styles and practices available, all of which could be tried and tested with an open mind. What is important, however, is the act of setting aside 1-2 hours in the day to do nothing but move and think. Exercise evangelists echo this notion. But notice that the unique property of yoga practice lies in its insistence that you remain consciously engaged in the act of tuning your mind to your body and your breath to movement. This particular form of mind/body synchronization gives you the mental space to process thoughts and work with the ones you keep arriving at. For creative people, the time spent moving with intention can grant new insights and epiphanies to be noted and used when the time comes. Furthermore, deep breathing, twists and stretching release tensions in the body, affording a new sense of physical and mental clarity and flexibility.
Yoga and mental health have a complicated relationship. For individuals recovering from an eating disorder, hatha or yin yoga is often recommended in the later stages of recovery to facilitate a reconnection between mind and body. Eating disorders exacerbate the disconnect between body and mind as the individual views his/her body as a physical obstacle; something to be overcome. Yoga practice can work with this distortion and attune the mind to the mechanisms of the body with forgiveness and patience. Without overstating the healing potential of yoga, I want to suggest that the vast restorative power of yoga extends to guide individuals with depression, anxiety, sleep and mood disorders through reconciling the mind and the body. Integrating an hour of meditative contemplation can work wonders to free up mental space and liberate the body from persisting tensions.
To jumpstart this process of uncovering the layers of unexamined meaning and significance in your life, I also want to suggest using weed to initiate the practice. Weed expands the boundaries of awareness and is known to open doors of perception with ease. Integrating weed into your yoga practice, in my experience, has allowed me to more carefully identify areas of tension in my physical body and experience a heightened understanding of exactly what my body needs in order to manage and release tension. This goes for the mind as well. Often, yoga instructors will encourage you to set an intention before the practice begins. While being fairly abstract, this practice gives you a template, inexact and malleable, with which you frame your thoughts and actions for the next hour or two. For example, an intention I use when I’m experiencing high levels of perceived inadequacy is to love everything and everyone around me fully. This recenters my mind and body and allows creeping thoughts of failure to dissolve.
Recognizing that the body is simply an embodied spirit, that the body and mind interact in a complex, dynamic way and cannot be examined in their separation, frees us to explore methods to expand our conceptions of self. Paying attention to how the body and mind interact is one way to make sense of their existence in the first place.