Too long have yogis stood in the alley behind the studio and had a quick toke before class begins. Edibles, in moderation, can contribute to a really great spiritual session. But imagine a world where you roll up to your yoga studio with your bottle of water, yoga mat, and a joint. This fantasy is a reality for yogis in California who visit yoga studios, such as Ganja Yoga in San Francisco or 420 Remedy Yoga in Glendale. Normally, consuming cannabis signals the brain to release more dopamine and put you in a happier place. When this is combined with yoga, it helps you heighten your spiritual consciousness in a way that could not be reached otherwise. There is already yoga for wine, chocolate and dog lovers, so it’s about time there was yoga for marijuana. This practice of pairing weed and yoga is not new, however.
Yoga and marijuana have been connected since ancient times. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, considered the practice’s fundamental texts, were written in Sanskrit before the time of Christ and mention the use of herbs. On one occasion it states, “The subtler attainments come with birth or are attained through herbs, mantra, austerities or concentration.” The texts suggest that herbs are one of the five methods to lift the veil of ignorance, otherwise known as the barrier between the conscious and unconscious. While plants like peyote are used for medicinal antidotes, weed and yoga go hand in hand.
It turns out that ancient Shiva cults were using weed while practicing yoga, as well. However, they were mixing it in beverages and drinking it, instead of smoking it, some studies suggest. They even burned marijuana as incense, which basically hot-boxed the temple. Liz McDonald, the yoga instructor at 420 Remedy Yoga, finds that the herb helps her students while they meditate. “I find it to be a valuable tool in teaching,” she told the New York Times in 2012. “Disbelief is my biggest obstacle. People don’t believe that they can feel their heart beat or that they can send breath into their lower appendages. A little pot relaxes them into comprehending. And if you want to just lie down in my class, that’s okay, too.”
North of 420 Remedy is Ganja Yoga, taught by yoga instructor Dee Dussault. She is a certified Hatha instructor who started teaching Ganja Yoga classes in Toronto in 2009. According to her, the class is a way “for you to enjoy trippy relaxation, pain-relief, sensuality, and the cultivation of inner peace, through all-levels, relaxation-based yoga.” Her class allows students to journey under the influence together for the first 15 minutes of class as long as they have a medical marijuana card. If not, they’ll have to partake on their own before class since sharing is not an option. However, she allows those with medical marijuana cards to consume the herb as much or as little as they would like throughout the class.
Is It Safe?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse frowns upon weed yoga but the postures and stretches in Dussault’s class are slow and safe. Since most strains of cannabis are created to induce relaxation, it is only fitting that the yoga practiced along with the herb also induces relaxation. This way, yogis can achieve a whole new level of tranquility and repose. Besides Ganja Yoga, Dussault also offers Clothing-Free Yoga and Sexual Awakening Yoga. But it wouldn't be surprising that the same National Institute frowns on more than a few beers during the Super Bowl.
While it is unclear whether or not the United States will fully legalize marijuana any time soon, weed yoga will continue to grow across the nation. Even if a state has not legalized marijuana, people can still get their hands on the herb and have been consuming it before yoga classes anyway. Yoga instructors, such as McDonald and Dussault will reach out and expand their businesses in order to help people achieve extreme relaxation. Dussault says she will continue to support the combination of weed and yoga because “it takes people to a place in which they are more open to relaxing tensions in the body and mind. It makes them want to chill out, have a good time, enjoy life.” And there’s nothing better than enjoying life.
A great deal of Yogis openly admit nature is a connected ecosystem, and that marijuana is part of the natural connection people can use to plug into particular energy that exists around us all the time but is not sensed by the brain with out the natural enhancements. It is not condoned necessarily but it is far from prohibited. In yoga, there really isn't a wrong and right in the traditional Americanized version of the moral absolutes. “It allows us to think more deeply, or not at all. It calms the mind and allows for a more internalized experience in class. The Sadhus of India, renowned for their knowledge of yoga meditation and marijuana use are some of the most revered yogis in that part of the world. But it is important to know that over usage or experimentation are not something that any authentic yoga discipline support.
Practice With Caution
Under any circumstance, marijuana can create an illusion and become a distraction to yoga practice. Marijuana creates a feeling referred to a “Maya,” loosely translated as illusion. It takes great discipline to avoid being fooled by the illusion. While it does take away from ones focus, it is the individual yogi who is mindful of this. The yogi avoids “Yoga chitta vritti nirodha,” which means “Yoga is the individual discipline that leads to the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” Weed can detach you from the physical world, as well as the spiritual. Smoking weed will affect, in one way or another, your ability to function in the real world. It does calm the mind, but some yogis argue it is more of a numbing than a state of meditation. Meditation is meant to strengthen our minds. Consistent use of weed will lessen that ability to find one's center. The final analysis is like most things that have a double edged sword. In marijuana usage, moderation is the key to everything.