Ganja Yoga 101: why some yogis mix cannabis with their practice

Many have discovered that, when used in concert, ganja and yoga seem to take them deeper than either would by itself

yoga-class

Some practitioners say there are benefits to mixing yoga and cannabis. Photo by pondsaksit/iStock/Getty Images Plus

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Two years ago, Amber Demers decided to leave her corporate career behind to pursue a new calling as a yoga teacher. Yoga had served her well in the past, first when she was a young figure skater, and then later as she moved into coaching and personal training.

By the time she chose to make her radical career shift, however, her athletic pursuits were in the past. Demers was working a sedentary desk job and struggling with back pain. Then she made two discoveries that would change her life.

The first was meditation, and the second was cannabis. After years of chiropractor visits failed to provide the relief she was seeking, Demers became a medical-cannabis patient.

“I was always trying to find something that would help other than pills, which seemed so readily handed out and that I knew a lot of other people used to heal themselves, even though I could tell it wasn’t actually healing them right,” Demers tells CannCentral in a telephone interview from her home in San Diego. “A lot of people got sicker with their medications.

“One day I decided to lay down in the bathtub after a tough day at work,” she recalls. “I ate an edible and I put some Gregorian chanting in my ears, and I realized that cannabis helped me to ascend to higher dimensions of awareness and consciousness, and I could explore other realms.”

Today, Demers operates a yoga and healing practice—although classes are currently on hold thanks to COVID-19 physical-distancing measures. She is a certified instructor in Hatha and Vinyasa yoga. She also studied Ganja yoga with Dee Dussault, who is considered a pioneer of the practice and in fact wrote the book on the subject.

Ganja-Yoga-book
Ganja Yoga by Dee Dussault

That book is called Ganja Yoga: A Practical Guide to Conscious Relaxation, Soothing Pain Relief, and Enlightened Self-Discovery. Dussault declined to be interviewed for this article, but in 2018 she told the Georgia Straight that using cannabis can allow yoga practitioners to shed some of the psychic baggage they have accumulated in their day-to-day lives.

“With the busyness of our culture, the distractions and cellphone addictions, when you get to your yoga mat, there is still a lot of shedding to do before you can actually start to have mindfulness,” Dussault said. “It helps you let go of surface tensions so that you’re starting your yoga immediately from a higher base line of relaxation.”

Not everyone in the yoga community embraces the notion of ganja yoga. Some point to what the ancient Indian system of medicine known as Ayurveda—which is often considered yoga’s “sister science”—has to say about cannabis.

According to a 2018 Yoga Journal article on the subject, “Ayurvedic texts describe marijuana used as medicine as a ‘nectar’, but used recreationally as a ‘poison’.”

Whether or not that’s an endorsement for ganja yoga depends entirely on the individual. Are you approaching it as a recreational activity, or as part of a healing journey?

Las Vegas–based yoga instructor Stacey Mulvey, who calls her practice Marijuasana, is a true believer in cannabis as medicine, and in fact cautions against using it purely for what she calls “escapism”.

Mulvey tells CannCentral that she stopped using cannabis years ago because it caused her such bad anxiety. It was only after bringing it into her yoga practice that she was able to overcome this response.

The key, she says in a phone interview, is to approach the herb mindfully, or, as she puts it, with intention. Mulvey employs an aquatic metaphor when she talks about using cannabis.

“You ride this wave, and if you don’t have an intention, it can toss you up on the shore of anxiety,” she says. “You don’t really know where you’re going. But if you say ‘Okay, I’m actually going to ground this with the intention of movement or meditation, or even if it is just a self-soothing activity and I’m not going to do anything important—I just need some space for my pain or what-have-you,’ that way you’re guiding it through your intention.”

Cannabis isn’t a cure-all. Nor is a sun salutation the definitive cure to every possible ailment. What Mulvey, Demers, and countless others have discovered, though, is that, when used in concert, ganja and yoga seem to take them deeper than either would by itself.

As Dussault told the Georgia Straight in 2018: “Using cannabis is a sign of human adaptability. Over thousands of years, we have used it as tool to help guide our spiritual practice. And we’re still growing with it today.”

Whether you’re a canna-curious yogi or a yoga-curious cannabis connoisseur and you’re eager to see where combining the two can take you, there are a number of studios that offer classes, and there may be one in your area.

In our pandemic times, though, online classes are your best bet, and you can find those on Dussault’s Ganja Yoga website. And now is great time to start; June 21 is the United Nations–declared International Day of Yoga.

Namaste.

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