In part I of our new miniseries entitled Cacao and… we learn how Cacao can affect the body, mind, and spirit when combined with other practices. Here we explore the magic of Cacao and Yoga. These two ancient practices come from very different parts of the world, yet when intentionally paired, can have extremely positive effects.
Originating in Northern India, Yoga-asana and other yogic practices are thousands of years old, and incredibly popular around the world. Yoga itself is a multi-pronged practice with access points to the physical, mental, emotional, and energetic/subtle bodies. Through the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (physical practice), pranayama (breath expansion), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dhurana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), samadi (oneness), we hope to obtain contentment with our life and our experiences.
Throughout the millennia, yoga has changed. What was once a spiritual offering for the pious is now easily available to everyone. Yoga is no longer confined by belief, region, gender, or ability because yoga is now an open invitation.
Today we’re discussing yoga-asana: the physical practice of yoga. The term yoga-asana is specific to the movement-based practice, done with regularity, that builds strength, stability, and invites vitality to the physical body. Yoga-asana is incredibly popular, as it a play between effort and ease, teaching us to find balance in the sweet and the bitter, equally. Yoga often leaves the practitioner feeling calm, open, and energized. We hear this word “open” a lot regarding yoga and Cacao. While there are different definitions of what it is to be open, some of the general sentiments are that it is synonymous with receptive, expanded, loose/limber, lighter...when combined with Cacao, also known as a “heart-opener”, the experience can be exponentially enhanced.
The origins of Cacao rituals can be traced to various indigenous communities throughout the Global South. The fruit itself is endemic to MesoAmerica and is believed to have been domesticated by Mayan communities in that region. While some of the older practices have been lost, modern day Maya are one of the many ethnic groups who have kept their traditions alive despite colonial and puritanical efforts of erasure.
Since most of the Cacao-based practices have survived in secret, most people know Cacao as “cocoa” or “chocolate”. Both cocoa and chocolate are adulterated forms of the revered fruit and possess less nutritional value and fewer therapeutic properties.
Right now, we are in the midst of a spiritual and health-based renaissance in which plants are being consumed for their energetic and physical benefits. Like yoga, ceremonial grade Cacao offers physical and emotional enhancements making it a go-to for biohackers and spiritual seekers alike. Cacao’s effects are unrivaled and lead to feelings of connection, joy, light-heartedness, and openness. Whether consumed alone in ritual or in communion with others, most report feeling the effects of the some of the better-known compounds in Cacao such as magnesium (aids in relaxation and digestion), tryptophan (a precursor to serotonin), antioxidants (anti-inflammatory and immune boosting), to name a few. As our bodies begin to feel better, we can more deeply explore the effects of yoga-asana.
How to combine yoga and Cacao
Stress management, a feeling of openness, down-regulation of the nervous system, a feeling of equanimity, focus, alertness, increased mobility…the list goes on and on. These are just some of the reasons yoga and Cacao go so well together. Now that we know the why, let’s discuss the how.
In truth, it is often ill-advised to eat before practicing yoga. This is because asanas (postures) can put pressure on the stomach and lead to general discomfort. We recommend consuming a small amount of Cacao about 20 minutes before your practice; a meditation dose of Cacao is said to be about 28g + 4oz of water. Drink your Cacao at a normal pace, remembering to set an intention if that feels aligned for you. Once you’re ready to begin your flow, start slowly and gently. Use this practice as an opportunity to witness your own thoughts, emotions, and sensations. If it feels good, gently increase the intensity and the pace of your physical practice based on what your body and mind crave. After the physical practice, sit in stillness for meditation and savasana (corpse posture). It may be helpful to write persistent thoughts, feelings, and emotions down. Journaling is an often-effective tool for developing self-awareness and is greatly encouraged in yoga.
Remember, Cacao and yoga combined can be a supportive and fulfilling ritual. Explore how the practice feels in your body, and always remember to adjust based on personal needs. Take time to witness your thoughts, feelings and sensations. Enjoy the flow!