We are still decoding history as fast as the evidence we have found thus far allows us to.
However, there are two things we are certain of…
- Yoga is an ancient practice.
- Humans have been using plant based medicine for centuries.
Both have played an important role in human history in regards to developing the mind and body. Medicinal plants and yoga have also assisted us in getting in touch with our spiritual selves along the way. However, there are some closer links that can be made between the two.
In this article, we will be looking at both yoga and herbalism and how they work together.
What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice that focuses on the mind, body, and soul. Yoga is an exercise that targets your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being all at once.
It is 1 of the 6 orthodox philosophical schools of Hinduism! Considering how old Hinduism is (over 4,000 years old) we can truly grasp how ancient and sacred yoga must be.
This practice consists of bodily movements/stretches, mental focus, breathing techniques, and more! Yoga is loaded with benefits.
What is herbalism?
Essentially, herbalism is the study of the therapeutic/medicinal use of different plants, which is often used in a specific form of alternative medicine.
You could say herbalism is where the concept of ‘medicine’ was birthed. Used in ancient traditions, the power of this knowledge is still used today. Archaeological evidence indicated that using medicinal plants dates back to the Paleolithic age, which was approximately 60,000 years ago!
However, written evidence of herbalism dates back to over 5,000 years ago to the Sumerians!
How do they go hand in hand?
Now that we have a better understanding of what is yoga, what is herbalism, and how ancient they both are, let’s make the links and draw the connections!
In this section we will be going over the 3 main paths of yoga that we can see in the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita; Karma, Jnana, and Bhakti yoga.
Let’s see how we can correlate herbalism to the three primary branches of yoga!
1) Karma Yoga (also known as the yoga of action)
This type of yoga studies the three Gunas; tamas, rajas, and sattva.
These influence our attitudes, experience, and behaviours which help us interact with the powerful beauty of the Earth’s cycles, connecting us to each of these guans.
The way we can connect herbalism to karma yoga is by keeping a garden and being in tune with the Earth’s cycles. A herbalist will understand the growth process like no other.
Understanding the growth process of plants and herbs will help in understanding the growth process of oneself, which can be done via Karma yoga as well. These two understandings mirror each other.
2) Jnana Yoga (also known as the yoga of wisdom)
When studying Jnana, we learn about the 5 elements and the way our bodily system operates.
We use the 5 sacred elements to indulge in a deeper understanding of our own bodies rhythms in all aspects. Jnana is about expanding your mind in all directions and embodying an ever-growing state of wisdom.
Herbalism allows us to sharpen our minds/senses via the use of plant based medicines. Using herbs during a Jnana practice can be extremely beneficial and grow your understanding of the mechanics of the mind and body.
3) Bhaju Yoga (also known as the yoga of devotion)
We can directly link plants to the Bhaju practice. Plants so effortlessly devote each day towards the sun and embrace the open elements of the Earth 24/7.
These intelligent organisms always find a way to adapt in order to thrive and embody life, even under the most adverse conditions!
When we work with plants, we begin to understand them and see the pure essence of life they host. When gathering or working with plants/herbs, we can get a ‘contact sense’ of the cycles/wheels of life.
To practice Bhaju is to be a plant. Bhaji is all about connecting with the cycle of life and devoting every day to living out a pure existence. Both herbalism and Bhaju remind us of the shared sacredness of life, connecting us to our deepest roots!
Top 3 herbs for yoga!
Ashwagandha is a well-known herb that falls into the adaptogen category. Essentially, adaptogens are plant based medicines that help your body adapt to stress.
This class of medicinal plants are unique as they have different effects on the mind/body depending on your current mental/physical state! You could say they ‘adapt’ to your current state when taken.
That being said, Ashwagandha can either relax or energize you, depending on your needs. This is the perfect herb to incorporate into your yoga practices as it detects what you are needing at the moment by reacting with the current state of your mind, body, and soul. You could say this herb naturally optimizes your needs for you!
Are sustainable plants with hundreds of helpful cannabinoids. 2 well-known ones being THC (psychoactive) and CBD (non-psychoactive).
THC is a great way to reach a ‘higher’ state of mind (pun intended), however, some don’t necessarily enjoy the feeling of the THC high. That is where CBD comes in handy!
You can get similar benefits from CBD, only without the high. Cannabinoids work directly with your central nervous system, acting as powerful and natural relaxants. Taking CBD is a great way to stay mentally clear whilst reducing stress/anxiety by relaxing your entire body.
Humans host over 800 cannabinoid receptors across our bodies, allowing cannabinoids to affect your entire body, giving you the extra help to unwind and fully immerse into your yoga practice.
Ginseng is a slow-growing plant used in herbalism. This plant can offer a lot to us and our practice.
Ginseng is suitable for just that. This plant can increase the natural production of energy in the body, helping you with more intense yoga practices. Not only does it get your body moving, but it also promotes strong cognitive function in the brain, which can help improve overall brain health.
With its strong anti-inflammatory effects, it also works with fighting off infection and boosting the immune system, promoting consistent health so you can practice at your highest abilities.
All 3 of these herbs are great to have so you have a variety of different herbs to work with that will inevitably assist your yoga practice. Herbalism and yoga are some of the oldest knowledge we still apply today. The only difference is that now we have science on our side to prove the benefits of these medicinal plants and how they can affect our yoga practices and life in general in various areas.
Of course, there are more than these 3 herbs that can assist you in your practice. If you are into yoga, I urge you to try these three plant based medicines and experiment with more! Thanks to our wider understanding of these medicinal plants, we can truly optimize our yoga practice(s). It is time we return to our roots via plants and flow.