What’s the deal with cannabis yoga?
Cannabis yoga – a practice that combines marijuana and meditation – is a new trend that’s piquing the curiousity of pot smokers and yogis alike. Wide diversity amongst the yoga community has created a lot of controversy surrounding this new combo, which has potentially made the topic even hotter. No matter where you stand, there are pros and cons to this unique movement that should be considered before you smoke up and climb onto your mat. Let’s take a look.
1. It lowers your inhibitions
Every article that’s been written about cannabis yoga says the same thing – it lowers your inhibitions. Indeed, one of yoga’s primary purposes is to help you clear the mind and tap into a meditative state… something that cannabis can help you achieve. “Yoga and herb intake have been linked since ancient times,” writes Laurie Winer in her article A yoga high with a little help. “The yoga sutras, written in Sanskrit before the time of Christ, are considered the practice’s foundational text. The sutras list herbs as one of five methods to lift the veil of ignorance, or the barrier between the conscious and the unconscious.”
This particular effect of marijuana is also great if you have a tendency to be anxious in social situations. Quite simply, it allows you to keep your mind within the four corners of your mat rather than worrying about who’s looking at you. Bottom line? If you need some help letting go, you might benefit from a few tokes.
2. It breaks down physical barriers
Nowadays, it’s common to have some form of chronic pain. Whether you're nursing an old shoulder injury or suffering from arthritis, you probably understand that yoga is difficult with the hindrance of physical limitations. Many experts, including Dee Dussault – the first yoga teacher outside of ancient India to offer public cannabis-enhanced yoga – preach the benefits of smoking marijuana to help yogis practice more comfortably.
In her ganja yoga classes, Dussault focuses on helping students achieve mindfulness. “We’re not going to get into an altered state of consciousness then show off our arm balances or do a fast Vinyasa flow with sloppy alignment,” she says. “All yoga is about experiencing something beautiful and trippy and cool inside yourself – your divine nature – so if it’s slow and mindful, that's more likely to happen.” Dussault instructs her students to close their eyes as much as possible in order to relax internally. She emphasizes that how they’re feeling is more important than whether they’re doing the pose exactly the same way as everyone else. “I repeat the ways people's bodies cheat in the pose a lot in my classes, so you can just follow those cues and enjoy.”
1. Injury prevention needs to take priority
One of the most important aspects of yoga practice is injury prevention. In order to master this, you need to learn how to listen to your body. When you’re under the influence of pot, your pain is masked. Sure, this makes hanging out in plank pose feel a lot nicer. But if there’s a disconnect between your mind and body, you won’t be able to tell when it’s time to ease off.
While certain classes, like Dussault’s, are tailored to pot-smoking yogis – most are not. Any good instructor will offer modifications, but it’s unlikely he or she will advise you to be careful every time you enter into a more challenging pose, and it’s difficult to use your own judgement when you’re high. In fact, a false sense of bravery might make you more inclined to try something beyond your limitations. While there are many ways to lessen your chance of injury (take an easier class, only smoke a little weed, etc.) there’s no guarantee that you’ll walk out of the studio unscathed.
2. You can’t “master the self” with assistance
Used in moderation and on occasion, marijuana can certainly offer benefits to your yoga practice. But, in excess, it can hinder you from reaching the ultimate destination. If you’re always high when you climb onto your mat, chances are you’ll soon find that practicing sober is more challenging. Over time, you’ll become dependent on pot to achieve a satisfying practice – not to mention you’ll never be able to naturally connect with your divine self.
Certified Kundalini instructor, Dr. Lavretsky, says that smoking pot hinders a yogi’s quest for higher consciousness. "One of the first things we're encouraged to do as teachers is cleanse," she says. According to Lavretsky, using drugs encourages the presence of toxins in the body, which alters your natural state of energy. In short, if you want to truly “master the self” – you need to do it all by yourself.
Why not give it a shot?
The jury is still out on whether cannabis yoga is beneficial or not. One thing's for sure though – you'll never be able to form your own opinion if you don't give it a try. Take these pros and cons into consideration and then go for it!
Here’s a few tips to get you through your first class:
- Find the right strain. Indicas tend to reduce anxiety and deliver more of a body high, so consider starting with that. Try to find one that contains more CBD and less THC, so you’ll feel calm without being too stoned.
- Try a meditation or restorative class first. If you’ve never tried cannabis yoga, it might be wise to start with a class that’s a bit slower paced.
- Start with a small dose. All the deep breaths you’ll be taking throughout the practice will deepen the marijuana’s affect, so one or two tokes should do the trick.
- Drink plenty of water. You should be doing this anyway, especially if you’re taking a hot class. But consuming extra H2O after smoking pot will help to prevent “the pasties”.
- Do less than usual. Even if you’ve mastered your headstand, it’ll likely be a lot more challenging when you’re stoned, so take it easy.
- Try not to laugh. Some people have a difficult time controlling their giggle impulses when they smoke pot. If you’re one of those people, be respectful to the other students and avoid laughing out loud in the middle of class.
- Stop if necessary. Feeling weird? Take savasana.
- Be honest with yourself. You might love cannabis and yoga, but that’s not a guarantee that ganja yoga will work for you. Everyone experiences things differently, so don’t be afraid to admit if it’s not for you.