I was in a secluded cabin in the mountains of New York when I took a single dose of some of the strongest LSD I have ever experienced, and settled in to practice yoga. Outside, the autumn colors swirled together in gorgeous formations that were almost overwhelming to view. Inside, however, I was nestled away in a warm and cozy little one room cabin with nothing but my yoga mat.
My whole form felt alive; vibrating with the energy that psychedelics bestow. I crawled onto my mat and began to stretch, moving through various poses in a vinyasa style flow. As I did so, I began to feel an intense euphoria throughout my body and mind.
Each pose felt as though my body was opening up to the world around me in ways it never had. I dipped in and out of backbends, balancing poses and more. Each and every single one felt so incredibly good that I can’t help but compare it to the physical euphoria of sex. Satisfyingly, I felt myself go deeper and more effortlessly into each pose than I otherwise have. My muscles felt loose, limber and alive. My body felt powerful, strong and full of limitless potential.
As I closed my eyes and practiced pranayama, the visuals that saturated my mind’s eye were beautiful, intricate and colorful mandalas of all shapes and patterns. I slipped easily into a quiet space — one where no thought exists and energy is permitted to simply flow through one’s form without effort or obstacle. These sensations are ones that can and are experienced during a sober yoga session, but with the presence of LSD, they were seamless, effortless, and amplified exorbitantly.
Yoga and psychedelics are similar in the sense that both have been used for centuries to reach altered states of consciousness. Additionally, some have surmised that yogis of ancient times would use psychedelic substances, such as soma, in tandem with yogic practices in order to further their journey. Soma is described as an ancient ritualistic drink made from a plant that has psychedelic properties, though the recipe remains a mystery. While there is speculation that ancient yogis partook in soma, there is little substantiated evidence of this.
There exists very little research in general on the ways in which psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin improve the body’s physical capabilities. However, perhaps the most infamous example of psychedelic enhanced physicality comes in the form of a 1970 no-hitter by pitcher Dock Ellis, who played under the influence of LSD.
Ellis claimed he lost track of the days and wound up rushing to the game while under the influence of the psychedelic. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the incident, he pitched a no-hitter that day with a 2-0 victory. When asked if he saw the final play of the game, Ellis replied, “Did I see it? You should have seen it the way I saw it.”
Ellis’ experience is just one of many anecdotal reports of the physically enhancing effects of psychedelics. Though the research is widely unavailable, those who have had a psychedelic experience can attest to the ways in which it creates greater synergy with one’s own body. It is a field of research that is very worthy of further study.
Yoga, likewise, is used by many to nurture a greater understanding of the body, as well as mind. The asanas, or poses, are used to awaken the body, while pranayama and other meditative yogic practices are used to control and calm the mind.
Dr. James Fadiman is author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide and has been clinically studying psychedelics as medicine since the ’60s. He made the decision to commit his life to the research of medicinal psychedelics after a mystical experience on psilocybin in 1961. His expertise in the field has led many to dub him the ‘father of psychedelic medicine.’ When asked about the correlation between yoga and psychedelics, Fadiman replied, “Yoga is one way to closely observe how the body uses its enhanced capacities on psychedelics in different ways.”
Together, psychedelics and yoga can take one on a journey that explores the power of the mind and the full potential of the human body. But before embarking on such an exploratory endeavor, it’s important to have a good grasp of one’s physical limitations and capabilities when sober.
There have been times when practicing yoga on psychedelics that I have found myself easily slipping into a pose that has previously eluded me. The temptation to take it farther is there, but because I understand my body’s limitations, I ease up, and only take it as far as I believe reasonable for my skill level. It would be unwise to ignore personal limits, and as a result, end up terribly sore or with an injury the next day.
Only those experienced in yoga should attempt the practice when consuming psychedelics, and ideally with a guru or mentor available to provide guidance if needed.
However, for those who are beginners, there are still a few simple stretches one may do to experience the sensation of yoga on psychedelics. For example, downward dog, plank, tree, warrior II, forward bend, happy baby pose and the “cat and cow” sequence are all suitable for those who are healthy and fit individuals overall. That being said, anyone considering trying this must be absolutely sure to practice and become familiar with any and all poses while sober before trying them otherwise.
Of course, yoga is not yoga without the presence of meditation. Though I cannot speak highly enough of the incredible pleasure the asanas provide during a trip, the meditative aspect is just as important and gratifying. Luckily, both can be assisted by the presence of psychedelics.
When practicing the asanas, one should begin to focus on pranayama. Follow the flow of the breath and try to consciously direct that breath into areas of the body that are tense. Clear the mind and let thought melt away. Find those spaces of “no thought” and enjoy the silence and the feeling of energy flowing through the body. Psychedelics are excellent for assisting this. Focus on close-eyed visuals if they are present and the sensations in the body as it moves. One may also consider playing meditation music during the session, as music enhances both yoga and psychedelics.
As always with yoga, start slow and practice at an individual pace. One should be sure to listen to their body and be mindful of limitations.
The body and mind are full of infinite possibilities, and exploring these possibilities is deeply satisfying for the soul. Yoga is a powerful way to reach higher states of consciousness when sober, and a wonderful tool for exploring said consciousness when having a psychedelic experience.
As for my own experience? It’s hard to say how long I practiced, as time is elusive during a trip, but I am sure it was quite a while. The experience was so thoroughly enjoyable and pleasurable that it was difficult to come down from the flow. At last, when I did, I felt a euphoric vibration through my form and a serenity and peacefulness in my mind. I am left with no doubt that yoga in conjunction with psychedelics is an intensely healing experience.