As both a yoga teacher and an herbalist, I try to find ways to incorporate my disciplines within each other. I tend to find that the more I venture into the (equally large and small) world of natural health, I find connections everywhere. So, if we think about yoga and its aims, we probably immediately think of strength, flexibility, and stress reduction.
Okay. Awesome. So, we’re bringing in this very organic form of natural healing, one that chiefly effects our external body and spirit mind. Now, what if we could incorporate a sort of internal yoga, an organic form of healing that worked with yoga to forward our mind, body, and environmental goals? This is exactly what herbal medicine is, and these are the herbs (in no particular order) that every yogi should have in her all-natural arsenal.
1. Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis): There are herbs which help with adapting the mind and body to a new environment, experience or discipline called (rather creatively) adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs which help the body deal with stress, essentially, by toning and strengthening the endocrine system. What does this mean? Well, in a nutshell, they are soothing to the adrenal glands, the part of the body that handles stress. The adrenal system becomes trigger-happy when we experience a lot of stress (even if we only perceive a lot of stress) and adaptogens work to repair this system, allowing us to feel calmer, but also to remain healthier. When the body isn’t constantly fighting off attacks of stress, it can work to repair other essential processes like the immune system. Schisandra is your go-to herb for all this touchy-feely goodness. On top of it all, schisandra also boosts energy and strengthens bodily tissue, improves sleep, maintains blood sugar levels, helps the liver to detoxify and aids memory.
2. Astragalus (Astragalum membranaceus): Astragalus is another good adaptogen. This herb is an energy tonic, good for the immune, digestive, and respiratory systems and fights chronic fatigue brought on by stress—whether you over-worked yourself on or off the mat.
3. Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis): So, let’s say you’ve taken up yoga because you have chronic joint inflammation or arthritis. Yoga is a wonderful tonic for these conditions; it pumps blood and synovial fluid into the joints, lubricating them and helping to break down calcified deposits that cause inflammation and pain. But what if you’ve overdone it a bit in class? Try evening primrose for muscle and joint discomfort. Containing GLA (the essential fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid), it soothes inflammation.