How I Use Cannabis to Boost My Yoga Practice
I’ve been teaching yoga since 2005 and, while I haven’t brought cannabis into my public classes (in part because I’d get kicked out of the studio where I teach), I’ve found weed to be an integral part of my own personal practice. I don’t have to get high to feel yoga’s many benefits — like stress relief, pain relief, and body-mind-heart-spirit centeredness, among others — but I feel a palpable enhancement and heightening of those benefits when I do.
After all that I had learned in my yoga teacher trainings about the value of being substance-free, I never thought I’d become an advocate of cannabis and yoga. Purity and clarity in body and mind are top priorities for many yogis. But I now see that using cannabis wisely in my yoga practice doesn’t cloud my perception, and many other people are finding the same. Though yoga has become associated with mainstream consumer culture, yogis were historically rebels and experimenters. My experience of savoring deep yoga postures and bringing my attention more fully into the present moment with weed has outweighed the dogma I was taught; yoga and cannabis do make a superb combination, and I’m a fan.
If you’re interested, but unsure about where to start, here are some guidelines to help you navigate the landscape of bringing cannabis into yoga.
For the Newbies…
Amber Demers, a Ganja Yoga teacher in San Diego, reports that a few practitioners in her community have come to yoga for the first time through cannabis. Some new students in her classes have told her that being able to smoke weed as part of the practice makes yoga feel more accessible, and more appealing, to them.
Demers’ classes are open to beginners and seasoned yogis alike. When integrating cannabis into yoga, she takes a gentle approach more similar to restorative yoga (a deeply relaxing practice with modified versions of yoga postures supported by many props, such as blankets and blocks) or yin yoga (a style including longer-held seated and reclining poses). In veering away from too many standing asanas (yoga postures), which could require a lot of coordination and detailed instruction, she focuses instead on giving her students plenty of time in floor postures, and allowing ample time for meditation. “It’s intended to be a very mindful and relaxing experience — a deep journey into yourself that helps you connect with your body and what it wants to do,” Demers said.
Ganja Yoga, the style of yoga Demers studied and now teaches, was founded in 2009 by San Francisco-based teacher Dee Dussault. It begins with a 30-minute social smoke during which cannabis helps people in the class connect with one another and build community. Then, students get onto their yoga mats and begin the process of going inward. “People get messages and insights in their Ganja Yoga practice,” Demers told me. “Some even have visions or hear sounds… and, after class, the peace they’ve cultivated on the mat helps them radiate more light to the world.”
A number of other styles of cannabis-enhanced yoga have popped up, too, like 420 Yoga, Marijuasana, and CannaYoga. Participants are usually asked to pre-register for a class, some of which are held in studios, and others in private homes. Other than that, all you need to do is BYO cannabis (and a little extra to pass around), a yoga mat, and comfortable clothes you can move in.
Some Do’s and Don’ts
Know and respect your consumption limits. Remember that while you can always add more, you can’t uneat, unsmoke, or unvape what you’ve already consumed.
Pair a familiar strain, or a product that yields a more predictable effect on you, with your yoga — particularly if you’re new to it all.
Microdose somewhere in the range of 2.5 to 5 mgs of THC the first time. It might be all you need.
Give yourself a break from pushing to get a sweaty workout from your cannabis yoga practice. Instead, allow yourself to enjoy and explore the softer, more internal side of yoga.
Wolf down a brand-new edible or do a dab for the first time before getting on your yoga mat. Increased self-awareness, not oblivion, is the goal here.
Attempt drop-backs (such as dropping into wheel pose from standing), handstands (at the very least not without a wall), or other postures that require a good deal of coordination while your motor skills may not be at their best (cannabis affects everyone’s motor skills differently).
Maybe Do, But Maybe Don’t —
Attend your regular yoga class while high. Though cannabis and yoga form a beautiful combo, I admit to mixed feelings on this one. The cons of this approach include the fact that a regular class will not be catered toward people having a deep, cannabis-induced, self-exploratory kind of experience. If your yoga teacher isn’t aware that you’re high, he or she won’t necessarily know the best way to approach you on your mat. Certain styles of yoga are known for the strict and authoritative manner of their teachers, and that’s going to put a real harsh on your mellow. (Definitely don’t attend an Iyengar yoga class, which is a style of yoga defined by strict rules and precise alignment, while high.)
Showing up in an altered state to yoga class can cause you to make unsafe decisions about your asana practice, and can have unpredictable results, especially if you’re in a room full of sober people. A yoga teacher I know once had a student show up drunk to yoga class, and after five minutes of disruptive behavior she had to kick him out. Weed and alcohol do not have the same effect on a person, granted… but if the way you show up to yoga class starts spilling off your mat into other people’s experience — either because of the smell, or your sudden fit of giggles, or your inability to follow along with the flow of the class — that’s not cool. Styles like Ganja Yoga give you the space to be as merry, or as melting-into-the-floor as you’d like, and no one’s gonna be bothered by it.
That said, I’m certain that more than a few people over the years have showed up to my yoga classes mildly high, and I was never the wiser. If it helped them get into the groove of their practice, and they neither hurt themselves nor disturbed anyone else, who am I to judge? The common denominator to this advice is, in short, respect: respect for yourself, your fellow yogis, the yoga teacher, and the yoga space. Beyond that: your body, your call.
Demers favors a nice hybrid like Girl Scout Cookies when teaching Ganja Yoga, but many of her students who seek a to-the-bones type of relaxation will smoke or consume a deeper indica flower for its full-body effects… think Grand Daddy Purple, Northern Lights, or Bubba Kush. Her Ganja Yoga classes are held on Sunday evenings, the perfect time to treat your body with some delicious stretches and then glide home for a sweet night’s sleep. You might try a perkier strain like Jack Herer if practicing on your own during the day, or when exploring a more active sequence of sun salutations and warrior poses.
Personally, I’m a big fan of precisely-dosed edibles like Kushy Punch, and their Recover gummy containing 6 mg of THC and 3mg of CBD, which gets me where I want to be for my at-home yoga practice. My asana practice with Recover usually looks a bit more free-form and exploratory than your classic vision of yoga postures. Because it doesn’t make me sleepy, I can still do a headstand or a handstand (against the wall, because even though I’ve been doing these for twenty years, you know, I’m high) or get into some strength-building warrior sequences. But there’s a softer edge to even the most active poses I practice while under the influence of cannabis, and in our overly goal-oriented culture, that’s a good thing. I can also sit in meditation for longer periods, and the insights and intuitions keep flowing. I’ll often keep a notebook handy to record them.
Overall, I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with Amber Demers when she enthused that the shifting attitudes toward weed, along with legalization, are bringing the two worlds of yoga and cannabis together. “There’s a lot of value, and a lot of healing possible with this plant,” she said. “And I hope everyone’s inspired to try it for themselves.”
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