Anyone interested in practicing yoga will, at some point, understand that there is a lifestyle that comes along with it, which includes thinking of their overall wellbeing. While exercise is important, a healthy and balanced diet is important as well. This is why yoga has always relied on special herbs that aid Yogis on both physical and mental levels. It’s important to mention, however, that the yogic use of herbs is supposed to have a subtle natural change (on the body) over time, which is why the herbs are mild, as opposed to mild-altering drugs and psychedelics that typically have significant side-effects. So, what are the herbs that those taking up yoga should know more about?
For increasing flexibility, promoting circulation, and stimulating the movement of energy
Herbs that Yogis use in order to increase their flexibility, promote their body’s circulation, and stimulate the movement of energy are often classified as anti-arthritic or antirheumatic agents. Seeing as how these herbs improve musculoskeletal function and coordination, they play a big role in aiding the proper performance of asanas. Myrrh, saffron, turmeric, ginger, guggul, prasarani, shallaki and nirgundi are just some of the herbs that are used for this purpose. They are usually prepared with honey and warm water. On the other hand, these herbs can be used for sweating therapies and saunas as well.
For increasing physical energy and vitality
Yogis that are interested in learning more and don’t see yoga only as a form of exercise might be looking for ways to strengthen their ojas and promote soma. Herbs that can help with that include ashwagandha, bala, amalaki, ginseng, shatavari, kapikacchu, makhana and lotus stem and seeds. These herbs can help build stamina and endurance, as they have strong nutritive properties that can also strengthen the reproductive system. These tonic and rejuvenating agents are taken with raw sugar, warm milk, ghee, and other nutritive organic substances that can boost their power. Raw, fresh, and unheated honey is a good option as well. Ginger and cinnamon should also be added in order to help digestion as these herbs tend to be heavy.
For cleansing the body and nervous system
Aloe gel, brahmi, gotu kola, guduchi, barberry, gentian, and turmeric are just some of the herbs that Yogis use in order to remove toxins from their body. They are usually taken with honey or ghee as they taste bitter or astringent. Detox measures such as raw food diets and green juices are often used in combination with these herbs.
For stimulating the mind and senses
Seeing as how herbs can have an effect on the mind as well, it is important to mention those that can stimulate one’s mind and senses and improve perception. Calamus, basil, bayberry, sage, tulsi, pippali, and ephedra are all used to open channels, boost cerebral circulation, and remove mucus. By increasing perception, these herbs help facilitate insight and mediation. Moreover, warm water and older honey enhance their effects. These herbs are also used in nasya therapy and oils while some make for excellent teas.
For increasing awareness and strengthening the mind
When looking to strengthen their mind and increase intelligence and awareness, ashwagandha, shatavari, haritaki, bala, arjuna, shilajit, brahmi and shankhpushpi are the most common herbs Yogis turn to. These herbs, taken with warm milk, raw honey, raw sugar, and ghee, help boost concentration, joy and happiness as well as assist in overcoming pain.
For calming the mind
Finally, when it comes to calming the mind, there are herbs that can help with meditation but also act as mild sedatives and pain relievers. Herbs that can aid in reducing anxiety and agitated nerves include valerian, nutmeg, passionflower, sandalwood, jatamansi, and ashwagandha. To enhance their properties, soothing agents like ghee or aloe gel are often used.
These herbs as well as the various formulas they are a part of can easily be found either in local stores specializing in Ayurvedic herbs or online, so dedicated Yogis should have no problem incorporating them into their diet.