Nothing is legitimate in Los Angeles until there’s a yoga class that involves it, and boosted by the recent boom in legal cannabis, a greener kind of yoga offering has taken off in a big way in LA. A simple Google search revealed dozens of options for cannabis yoga classes in the Los Angeles area geared toward a variety of audiences, all involving consumption of some form of weed. I decided to go gonzo for this story and try out a Ganja Yoga class taught by Dee Dussault, who claims to be the first teacher to offer public cannabis-enhanced yoga practices.
I walked into the class unsure of what to expect. At first, it looked like any other yoga class, with wooden floors, dimmed lights and people’s mats spread out sporadically. Except, instead of people sitting on their mats, they were gathered together on a blanket in one corner of the room. The event was BYOW (bring your own weed), but thanks to the generous nature of people who inhabit the slice of venn diagram encircling both yoga enthusiasts and stoners, a bountiful arrangement of joints, cbd drops, balms, and even jars of flower was laid out on Dussault’s “picnic blanket”. Slowly people would trickle in and wander over, offering their goodies, passing joints, and making small talk. There’s something about sharing a joint with a stranger that harkens back to a traditional peace pipe, and makes you much less self-conscious about the fact that you’re about to do a series of ridiculous physical poses in front of them.
Dussault says she starts every class like this, “I think my students get just as much out of the community aspect of the circle as they do from the yoga. I don’t remember how I came up with it, it just sort of formed, that stoner circle, you know, ‘pass the dutchie to the left hand side’ or whatever. So as people come we congregate at my mat. Sometimes it’s not the picnic blanket just my mat, but you put the products, candles and ashtrays out and people will flock to it.”
Dussault’s class markets itself as relaxation-based and open to all levels, and the crowd she drew was made up of a diverse variety of ages, body types, ethnicities and genders. Although the differences amongst the crowd were easily noted, we all seemed to get along swimmingly knowing that we had one very important thing in common: cannabis. She says, “I get a lot of first-timers to yoga and I think that they figure that even if the yoga is weird or too hard, at least there’s weed.”
After circling up and sharing a few joints and pleasantries with each other, the class began. We all took to our own mats and began the series of slow stretches and deep cleansing breaths. Aside from an occasional cough or attack of dry mouth, which encouraged me to constantly hydrate, the cannabis only enhanced my experience. While I’m normally the type who gets very self-conscious in group exercise experiences, this was a profoundly zen experience.
Dussault started her Ganja Yoga practice in 2009 in Toronto, moved it to San Francisco in 2014, and just recently landed in Los Angeles. She says the biggest challenge outside of promoting, since sites like Facebook will take down cannabis events, is finding venues that allow on-site consumption.
“It is hard to find places that allow combustion. Some venues will let you vape, but I run all of my classes as vapes and joints. While we have them available for people that don’t like smoking, I don’t really like vape-only experiences, I feel like they’re really sterile.” She says there is something to having the whole, natural flower available, and it’s pleasant smell helps set the mood for the class – even for those who aren’t consuming that way.
While combining Lululemon and Super Lemon Haze may be a modern practice, the pairing of cannabis and yoga is rooted in more ancient customs. The smoke wafting in the room felt akin to incense, and Dussault agrees that there is a very traditional aspect to it. “If you go to the Ganges river, some of the yogis smoke cannabis from a chillum out of a reverence to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is the deity associated with yoga and cannabis, so it’s very interesting that he is for both. So although yogis use cannabis in the modern day, the tradition has gone back for a longer period.”
In Mel Thomas’ book Shiva’s Broken Dream, he says that The Vedas, “describe how cannabis was created when the Gods stirred the heavenly oceans with the peak of Mount Mandara. A drop of amrita (heavenly nectar) fell from the sky and a sacred cannabis plant sprouted on the spot. Lord Shiva [Siva] brought the cannabis plant down from Mount Mandara for the pleasure of Mankind and for this the plant was consecrated to him.”
There are many reasons that cannabis and yoga go so well together. Whitney Destiny Smith, who teaches at LIT Yoga, says, “Yoga means to yoke or unite. Yoga connects the mind, body, and spirit. We have an endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) in our body ready to receive cannabis. Cannabis is used with yoga to help alleviate pains and discomfort from injuries or medical conditions. Cannabis also enlightens the yoga practice itself by connecting to your higher energy. When you combine yoga and cannabis together, it creates an experience that will change your perspective about yoga and cannabis.”
All forms of cannabis can be used for yoga practice and many teachers agree that strain choice is up to the individual. If you want a more cerebral, almost psychedelic experience you can reach for a nice sativa, while a heavier Indica will help get you out of your head and more connected to your body, and something heavy in CBD can help with general relaxation and pain.
Many yoga practitioners are training other teachers to spread their cannabis yoga philosophies far and wide. Dussault is also working on creating videos, “so people who don’t want to come to a class or maybe are in a place where there aren’t yet cannabis-enhanced yoga classes available can do it online.”
While there are many different cannabis yoga classes out there now, Dussault says most teachers are more supportive than competitive. “Ganja Yoga is a phrase I coined so that’s my brand, but we usually support each other, follow each other on Instagram and try to go to each other’s classes. I think this is an opportunity because women are already in higher executive positions in cannabis, I really want to keep that going and support the sisterhood, especially because we are yogis and are trying to be conscious and mindful.”
While cannabis yoga may not have been the most athletically challenging class I’ve ever taken, it was one of the most relaxing, fun and engaging. The presence of weed brought a fresh, contemporary vibe to the class and a more euphoric feeling to my mind, and also tapped into the ancient ideas of burning herbs and passing the peace pipe with your fellow yogis. Cannabis yoga is definitely one activity that can help you get deeper in touch with your “higher self”.