Far from its Indian roots, Yoga has in the past decades become a worldwide phenomenon. With this globalisation process come all the potential downfalls of any cultural exchange such as misinterpretation or inadequate translation of practices, yet it also presents us with many opportunities for new understanding and expanded applications.
Likewise, the Plant Spirit Shamanism of South America has recently found international appeal and is drawing record numbers of seekers to shamanic ceremonies and retreats in search of healing and spiritual development.
Amongst all this traveling wisdom it should come as no surprise that eventually the yogi and the shaman would meet, not only in philosophy but in practice.
Looking at certain yogic texts especially from the Tantric schools we can find deeply shamanic connections to the forces of nature. Practices that dive into that mystical axis between the physical and spiritual realms and focus on the importance of time spent communing with plants, mountains, rivers and ancestral spirits.
Varied opinions also suggest that some ancient Yogis may have worked with psychedelic plants to access deeper states of meditation and divine connection. Either way, the natural release of certain neurochemicals such as dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and serotonin have been scientifically documented as resulting from advanced yogic practices and also from the ingestion of certain sacred plants used by Shamanic healers in South America and beyond.
These altered states it seems are part of our collective human experience and integral to our spiritual evolution as a species.
In the vast jungles of the Amazon basin grows a medicinal vine called Ayahuasca. When brewed alongside the leaves of the Chacruna bush these two plants form a powerful psychoactive purgative commonly referred to as “Ayahuasca” or “Yage”. The international reputation of this sacred medicine has spread rapidly in recent times accompanied by plenty of media speculation, scientific enquiry and legal controversy as the very real issues of cultural appropriation and physical safety come in to question surrounding its use.
The globalisation of Ayahuasca has much in common with the spread of Yoga. For example, in much the same way that Yoga is not limited to physical Asana practice even though it may sometimes be taught as such, Ayahuasca also exists in a context much broader than stand-alone shamanic ceremonies or profound psychedelic experiences. The plant is used traditionally in conjunction with various other spiritual and medicinal methods across different countries and belief systems each uniquely impacting on how the plant is used and for what purpose.