Getting High On Yoga


#1

With the popularity of shows like Weeds and the prevalence of drug addiction in our world, both prescribed and unprescribed, its safe to say that people are looking for a way to get “high.” In fact, The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of HHS have sponsored several national surveys to track drug use trends and found that in the past decade drug use from the age of twelve onward has increased by over 12%. You read that right, prepubescent girls and boys are looking for a way to cope with this crazy world we live in, and often choose drugs to do it. There is, fortunately, a method of raising our energy, feeling “high” without the residual downside of most drugs, and without the addiction that accompanies most pharmaceutical and street remedies alike. Put simply, its yoga.

Yoga may seem like an odd solution, but it has a remarkable effect on our bodies and minds. Many of us look to get “high”, to escape the drudgery of every day life, to run from the gapping hole we feel as we become disenchanted with reality or forget the nature of our true Self. This Self, often referred to as the Soul, houses an infinite amount of natural energy because it is connected to a larger, universal source. Some call it God. But let’s put that word aside for now, and just look at this psychological need for elevation from a purely physical perspective.

We all have an innate desire to feel good, and to avoid pain. We long for a taste of ecstasy and we go after it using food, sex, drink, drugs or any substance we think will help us arrive at a pleasurable state. Let’s look at one substance, for example, marijuana, to understand its effects on the brain and body. The active ingredient in Marijuana, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabino), affects the brain on several levels. Though many users experience different reactions to Marijuana, it has a relatively universal effect on the brain. THC binds with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, causing reactions through the body. The distribution of the receptors, which react to THC in each person, is relatively uneven, so some people experience a massive loss of function while others are less affected. Regardless, most people report a sensation of feeling happy, or at the bare minimum, unaffected by life’s usual discomforts.

Before we continue, let me assure you this is not an article written either for or against any drug, whether legal, illegal, pharmaceutical or natural. Many drugs have a positive use in our society, but they also have some unpleasant side effects. THC for example, will bring its most profound short-term effects to its user within ten minutes and wear off within about three hours, however, however, it tends to linger on within the body. THC is a fat-soluble substance and will accumulate in fatty tissues in the liver, lungs, testes, and other organs. Two days after smoking marijuana, one-quarter of the THC content may still be retained. It will show up in urine tests three days after use, and traces may be picked up by sensitive blood tests two to four weeks later. Why is this a problem? THC affects memory and learning ability. It limits the capacity of the brain to absorb and retain information. Further, Chronic marijuana smokers are prey to chest colds, bronchitis, emphysema, and bronchial asthma, and marijuana can also delay the onset of puberty in young men and reduce sperm production. When pregnant women smoke pot, they run the risk of having a baby with reduced birth weight and some studies point to developmental delays in children of marijuana users. With all the positive feelings that marijuana produces, there are a bevy of side effects which one might deem undesirable, including:

• Diminished short-term memory
• Impaired perception
• Loss of concentration and coordination
• Impaired judgment
• Increased risk of accidents
• Loss of motivation
• Diminished inhibitions
• Increased heart rate
• Anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia
• Hallucinations
• Damage to the respiratory, reproductive, and immune systems
• Increased risk of cancer
• Psychological dependency

Without going into a similar discussion of other drugs commonly used, including alcohol, and their residual effects after the “high” has worn off, let us continue our inquiry into the human need to get “high.”

Abraham Maslow discussed the human need for self-actualization in great depth. His is a theory of psychology based on a paper written in 1943 called A Theory of Motivation. Briefly, people broke down our needs into basic or what he called “deficiency needs” which must be met before we develop the will to fulfill needs at a secondary or higher level. Once our deficiency needs are met, we strive for constant betterment. Maslow described physiological needs, which are the literal necessities for our survival such as air, water, food, clothing and shelter. Next come our safety needs, which include a predictable, orderly world in which perceived unfairness and inconsistency are in control. Most of the world is still struggling to meet needs at the most basic level. If you are living on two dollars a day and don’t have any shelter, you aren’t worried about having a savings account, job security, or an insurance policy.

Our next set of needs is based on love and belonging. This includes friendship, intimacy, and family. All our social connections provide fulfillment (or a lack thereof) of our need to belong and feel loved. Loneliness, and depression are often the result of not having this level of need met.

Following love and belonging is the need to be respected and have self-respect. Maslow calls this the need for Esteem. Finally, Maslow describes Self-actualization. This is the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything one is capable of becoming.

Later, Claire Graves expanded on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs by describing Spiral Dynamics. The underlying idea of Spiral Dynamics is that human nature is not fixed: humans are able, when forced by circumstances, to adapt to their environment by constructing new, more complex, conceptual models of the world that allow them to handle the new problems. An important property of these models is that each new one includes and extends all previous models. These conceptual models are organized around vMemes: systems of core values or collective intelligences, applicable to both individuals and entire cultures. The term vMeme is used in spiral dynamics for a core value system, acting as an organizing principle.

In the modern world, structured as it is, there is ample opportunity for a human being to be denied one or more of her basic needs. This leads to a grasping for an artificial substance to fill the perceived gap. A need is temporarily perceived as filled while using a drug, but often the absence of whatever true missing aspect of life is exaggerated when the drug wears off. Yoga practice is one of the few systems that address a need without the accompanying side effects.

To be more specific, sustaining poses such as sarvangasana (shoulder stand) stimulates the release of hormones in the thyroid and parathyroid. A natural squeezing of the glands occurs as the blood pressure builds and the glands produce more of their hormone. This results in increased cell metabolism.

The physical body depends on these chemical reactions, such as creating energy from the consumption of glucose, in order to operate. When the posture is done there are increased levels of hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin, to name a few, released in the blood stream. Therefore, we are providing the body with the needed chemical nutrients essential to sustaining a working internal environment. These hormones are normally released due to the managing eye of the hypothalamus or the ingestion of food. With the posture, you have a hand in this otherwise subconscious process. Just this one asana (posture) leads to increased feelings of well-being and homeostasis in the body. Every posture in yoga has a correlative effect on the endocrine glands and their proper functioning.

This does not eliminate the necessity for what Maslow calls “deficiency needs.” We still need food and water and air and shelter. What yoga does provide; however, is a way to feel the higher states of need-fulfillment without resorting to illicit substance. It may be assumed that every human being has a tendency to actualize himself – to become his potentialities. This need is so strong, in fact, that even when we are missing some of the lower rungs on Maslow’s ladder of need fulfillment, we try to fulfill our desire, fumbling horribly along the way. The use of alcohol, drugs, sex, etc. that do not lead to the originally sought-after goal of self-actualization, are just fruitless attempts at bandaging the wound of the human psyche.

To attempt to self-actualize with poor choices and substances that do not really address our true needs is also human. It is a groping in the dark for something to stop the pain, but yoga provides an actual remedy. It is not an hyperbolic statement. Yoga is a means to actualize the Self. Adepts and sages called this Enlightenment. Modern psychology calls it something else, but it is the Universal need to feel connected to all others, to feel a sense of Oneness and Individuality simultaneously. It is our need to be “high.”

Christina Sarich http://www.yogaforthenewworld.blogspot.com


#2

Thanks for this. This is really helpful, informative and inspiring.


#3

While drug use has increased by 12%, yoga practice has increased by 20%. More and more people are turning to the practice and to meditation as the alternate drug. As Roxy Music put it ‘Love is the drug I’m looking for’. It’s all good. Thanks for writing this.


#4

I enjoyed reading this and would like some help with one part that puzzled me. It is as follows:

To be more specific, sustaining poses such as sarvangasana (shoulder stand) [B]stimulates[/B] the release of hormones in the thyroid and parathyroid. A natural squeezing of the glands occurs as the blood pressure builds and the glands produce more of their hormone. This results in increased cell metabolism.

If this is accurate to the word then Sarvangasana would be contraindicated for those people with hyperthyroid while being indicated for those with hypothyroid. And yet this particular pose is advocated for both. Why?


#5

To YogiDiva, I agree with your article. Yoga has given me a new life. I do have an issue with Yoga Teachers when they ask if we’re ready because they’ve had their coffee or their … (legal otc drink stimulant)- It just sounds hipocritcal. To Inner Athlete I have the hypothyroid and shoulder stand gives me headaches- but an awesome shoulder stretch.


#6

Thanks for sharing reminded me of a discussion I had many moons ago with a friend, excerpt follows: Funny how reading back through old writings confirms the state of flux I?m in.

I?ve had lengthy discussions about the philosophy of life with several individuals, but none have said that one phrase that “clicked” with me, although lately there have been subtle reoccurring perspectives throughout my life that I?ve become aware. I aim towards improving myself physically, educationally, emotionally and spiritually. I do this for two reasons to achieve an inner balance while striving for my potential and to be an example to my son. I once chased the American dream but found it unsatisfying even somewhat disappointing, I don?t aim for perfection that is based on society or other people’s opinions, I have my own measuring scale and I see myself only part of the way there. It pleases me to say so, because it gives me great motivation to keep moving in a positive direction. I?ve learned firsthand that monetary savings can be taken away at any time and I now think it may have been better to put it to good use instead of saving for the illusionary future.

I could spend the night and day writing about what I think and I would truly like to but if I wrote it all I?d develop carpel tunnel syndrome and you?d probably fall asleep at your computer and hit your head on the keyboard (snicker!), besides my time is limited these days, I have a life to live! I believe happiness is a choice and one of the keys is to distinguish between pleasure and happiness; pleasures are temporary and addictive where as happiness is permanent and fulfilling. My thoughts continuously swirl in a constant state of flux but I have noticed fulfilling basic needs seems to play a vital role. ?Maslow? studied it, that there is a hierarchy of needs but if the basic ones are not fulfilled the next level cannot be achieved successfully. Some basic needs are air, water, food, sleep, sex, and the highest level is self-actualization. In his further studies transcendence of the spirit came after self-actualization. Freud also made much sense with his ?Ego and The id? as well as countless others who through books stimulated and influenced my thoughts at one time or another; ?Narcissus and Goldman? “Steppenwolf”-Herman Hesse, ?A Separate Reality?-Carlos Castaneda even existentialism and the likes of such. Many of these theories are interesting and since the sixties they?ve become part of psychology 101 at most universities.

I find it more than ironic that psychology, philosophies, religions, cosmology and now quantum physics can be traced back to the most ancient spiritual guide on the planet in Yogic doctrine. I once asked a yogic guru in Shanghai what he thought the difference was between modern day psychology and Yoga, he said (in his heavy Indian accent): ?psychology seems to be based in suffering?while Yoga is definitely based in bliss? then with the most serene smile that can be had he turned and walked away.


#7

?psychology seems to be based in suffering?while Yoga is definitely based in bliss? then with the most serene smile that can be had he turned and walked away."

Love this.

About shoulderstand - if done with the complimentary postures (almost all yoga asana have counterindications, of course) then the hormonal flow is not just increased, but balanced to work with the rest of the endocrine system. But thanks for reminding other readers of this forum that all asana should be done with their own physical challenges in mind, and with honor of the body where it is at.


#8

Nice article, with which I strongly agree. I think the “getting high” naturally vs artificially (weed, other drugs…etc) should be had more often. While I place zero judgement on anyone who decides to smoke weed, I take issue with the misleading notion that it’s somehow natural and organic. Smoking weed to somehow better experience yoga is perplexing to me. But hey, we all have our own paths to take… Adults can do as they please. I take issue with the message itself: weed as natural, organic, a means to be enlightened; it further breeds acceptance and use among our youth (I won’t even go into how it’s culturally cool). Thanks for letting me vent a bit…

Namaste.


#9

[QUOTE=StudioLiveTV;54250]Smoking weed to somehow better experience yoga is perplexing to me.[/QUOTE]
Have you ever smoked weed then practiced yoga?


#10

No, I haven’t. I’ve been athletic most of my life; and I’ve practiced yoga for the last 7 or so years consistently. The idea of not being fully present seems like the worst thing you can do during yoga: both for physical and spiritual reasons. Yoga brings me more into the present, grounded, with more clarity and peace. Smoking weed seems like the antithesis of accomplishing that. From a physical standpoint, I would imagine that poor posture and room for injuries would sky-rocket as well… My comment, however, was really rooted in the fact that I’m tired of the misconceptions surrounding marijuana. Like I said, if you’re an adult, well then, you’re an adult. But the notion that it’s natural, organic, and not harmful is simply an irresponsible (and erroneous) message to teens.


#11

[QUOTE=StudioLiveTV;54360]The idea of not being fully present seems like the worst thing you can do during yoga: both for physical and spiritual reasons.[/QUOTE]
What makes you so sure marijuana doesn’t bring some people more into the present moment?

[QUOTE=StudioLiveTV;54360]My comment, however, was really rooted in the fact that I’m tired of the misconceptions surrounding marijuana. Like I said, if you’re an adult, well then, you’re an adult. But the notion that it’s natural, organic, and not harmful is simply an irresponsible (and erroneous) message to teens.[/QUOTE]
What’s unnatural about it?

If it’s cultivated utilizing organic methods, why can’t it be organic?

What’s specifically harmful about it if I eat or vaporize it?


#12

whenever I work out, yoga or otherwise, I always feel “high”. It revitalizes my mind and gives my entire body a feeling no other exercise will do.


#13

“I think the “getting high” naturally vs artificially (weed, other drugs…etc) should be had more often”

Whether one is getting high naturally or artificially, as long as one remains entangled in the objects of one’s experience, it amounts to the same. One has become the slave, rather than remain centered as the master. Yoga is not for the purpose of simply intoxicating yourself like a drug-addict, and those who have used it in such a way have simply been seeking an escape from reality. That is why one of the greatest hindrances for the expansion of awareness is to remain entangled in both attraction and aversion. Both of these are tremendously blinding forces which prevent one from seeing clearly into things as they are.

This is a science for the expansion of consciousenss towards one’s liberation. If you are intoxicated in samadhi and yet absolutely centered, grounded in your being - then even if your intoxication disappears, it makes no difference to your contentment with existence.

Entering into the innermost depths, there is not even a shadow of a limited self to be seen. Those who fear losing their lives, never come to know of the taste of eternal life.


#14

[QUOTE=AmirMourad;55075]“I think the “getting high” naturally vs artificially (weed, other drugs…etc) should be had more often”

Whether one is getting high naturally or artificially, as long as one remains entangled in the objects of one’s experience, it amounts to the same.[U] One has become the slave, rather than remain centered as the master. Yoga is not for the purpose of simply intoxicating yourself like a drug-addict, and those who have used it in such a way have simply been seeking an escape from reality. That is why one of the greatest hindrances for the expansion of awareness is to remain entangled in both attraction and aversion.[/U][U]Both of these are tremendously blinding forces which prevent one from seeing clearly into things as they are[/U][I][U][B].[/B][/U]
[/I]
This is a science for the expansion of consciousenss towards one’s liberation. If you are intoxicated in samadhi and yet absolutely centered, grounded in your being - then even if your intoxication disappears, it makes no difference to your contentment with existence.

Entering into the innermost depths, there is not even a shadow of a limited self to be seen. Those who fear losing their lives, never come to know of the taste of eternal life.[/QUOTE]

Nicely stated Amir .


#15

Why is it we can still be content in samadhi when the intoxication dissapears?

Because real contentment, the true & lasting variety and not the illusory and highly artificial and illusory one, is grounded perhaps by virtue in pure awareness or pure bliss consciousness( SATCHIANANDA).Intoxication is obviously false but dropping identification with it oor any other state is needed.

How do we do that?

Well we can certainly make the senses to stop externalising and attaching outwardly by some training in internalising.Then the object is our very self. However it sounds like you need to cultivate the witness or trasnscendental self and identify with that.

From experience i know that the highs i’ve got off drugs have been very artiificial and false and cheap and they don’t even compare to samadhi or Satchidananda which is our natural state or our birth-right.

What prevents us from living out of that state?

Because i recknon in our current evolution or state we don’t know how to live out of that permanently… but i think we’re evolving and should be be expanding in consciousness just like the Universe…dynamic and changing.

Man has always altered his consciousness through imbibng this or that for millenia. But’s only recently that he has perhaps now directed his attention on consciousness itself and and tried to investigate and explore it’s source.

You can get high on yoga.There is no doubt about that. But you have to give up the pull towards never-ending sensory-gratiffication which yoga teaches you to do…As Amir say you need to be so centred in yourself that even death is not death but just another moment in eternal life.

The highs of drugs are obviously illusory,false and short-lived. Over the long-term they dim awarenss.Sport gives one a high as well. But like drugs I don’t believe they can expand consciousness really.It’s almost like a myth. or being entangled in illusion.


#16

The reason drugs are more popular than yoga is because one does not have to work at it. One takes one’s fix and then drifts into sedation. And that which is worth something in life one has to usually work for it. Uusually there is equity value meaning that is to say one has to make an investment to get a return.You don’t get free dinners.


#17

This is very very informative !! Thanks for the article

Ashwin


#18

[QUOTE=AmirMourad;55075]"[B]I think the “getting high” naturally [COLOR=“Black”]vs artificially (weed, other drugs…etc) should be had more often"[/COLOR][/B]

Whether one is getting high naturally or artificially, as long as one remains entangled in the objects of one’s experience, it amounts to the same. One has become the slave, rather than remain centered as the master. Yoga is not for the purpose of simply intoxicating yourself like a drug-addict, and those who have used it in such a way have simply been seeking an escape from reality. That is why one of the greatest hindrances for the expansion of awareness is to remain entangled in both attraction and aversion. Both of these are tremendously blinding forces which prevent one from seeing clearly into things as they are.

This is a science for the expansion of consciousenss towards one’s liberation. If you are intoxicated in samadhi and yet absolutely centered, grounded in your being - then even if your intoxication disappears, it makes no difference to your contentment with existence.

Entering into the innermost depths, there is not even a shadow of a limited self to be seen. Those who fear losing their lives, never come to know of the taste of eternal life.[/QUOTE]

[B]Weed is a catalyst to the process, mentioned above.[/B]


#19

[QUOTE=bjoy;55286][B]Weed is a catalyst to the process, mentioned above.[/B][/QUOTE]

Or an illusion propellant


#20

[QUOTE=ray_killeen;55291]Or an illusion propellant[/QUOTE]

cosmic colour blindness?