Images courtesy Dee Dussault, Ganja Yoga
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This year, I didn’t celebrate 4/20 baked on a couch watching The Big Lebowski—instead, I decided to combine my love for cannabis and yoga. With proof of a California medical marijuana card at the door, I was able to enjoy my flow while under the influence at the Merchants of Reality art space in downtown San Francisco. As a usual hard-core yogi who gets off attempting handstands and gravity-defying arm balances, I skipped the feats of strength and learned a valuable lesson that night: it’s important to slow down, relax, and simply enjoy the present moment.
That’s exactly what founder Dee Dussault had in mind when she created Ganja Yoga for the Bay Area. I talked with Dee to learn more about her cannabis-enhanced yoga lessons:
BN: How did you get Ganja Yoga started?
DD: I’ve been doing yoga since I was pretty young. I’m from a small town in Ontario, and growing up, none of the scientific studies had started on the health and medicinal benefits of cannabis. Once the scientific literature started coming out, that was it for me. I got exposed to it in the mid-2000’s and learned that it changes your consciousness—for example, alcohol gets you relaxed with maybe a buzz, but cannabis is actually a medicine and cures. I started doing classes in Canada, starting in the medicinal field, and then opened it up to recreational users, and found that it’s not just designed for people in pain; it’s for everybody.
“I’ve had several people come up to me after and say it’s the most relaxed they’ve been in their whole life.”
Cannabis has been used in all different cultures, in spiritual traditions to help people realize a spiritual truth and feel more at peace or self-realized. If people from China and Celtic Europe are using it to expand their consciousness and connect to a higher source, there must be something to it, right?
How did you get this started in the Bay Area?
I started teaching classes at Merchants of Reality in September of last year. Even in my sober classes, where it’s just a regular yoga class, it’s really important to me personally and politically that people experience yoga in a way that’s not about the “yoga body” or the “yoga butt.” Although doing yoga will give you a healthy body, it’s about bringing awareness to breathing and becoming more relaxed. The concentration and mindfulness practices will help your mind be still and you’ll feel more relaxed and more amazing than you’ve ever felt.
What changes do you see in your students after a class?
You can feel a palpable change in the energy at the end of class and I’ve had several people come up to me after and say it’s the most relaxed they’ve been in their whole life. I can just retire now.
Who comes to your classes?
I’ve had people come in wheel chairs, beginners, abundant-bodied people, older-bodied people, the young, able-bodied types…all kinds.
What are some tips you’d give to a first-time Ganja Yoga student?
If someone is coming to a class of mine, I would say it’s natural to feel a little nervous, no matter what your previous experience with yoga is or how much pot you use. Merchants of Reality is kind of an overwhelming art space, there is a lot to process, so I would usually advise people to consume less cannabis than they might usually use (like you would getting high at home with friends), because you can always add more halfway through the class, but you can never add less. You don’t want to be really baked out and unable to focus. We’re kind of re-writing what mindful cannabis use is—you don’t need to take a huge dab every time, you can just take a few puffs of a vaporizer in a yoga practice.
For strains, I’d recommend a hybrid (indica and sativa), because they both have really great qualities related to yoga. Sativa can give you a nice energetic feeling and you can really feel your blood pulsing and the aliveness of your body, and the indica can help you feel really relaxed. You kind of want both because too much sativa might make you overly mentally stimulated and the indica might make you too lazy do to the poses.
For those who don’t have Ganja Yoga available in their area, what are some tips if they want to do this at home?
Lots of people think of yoga and they think of a harder-type pose, like a pretzel that a skinny person or dancer body could do, but truthfully yoga has thousands and thousands of options and poses and stretches and you can make up your own yoga or just lay there and feel good or dance—improvise!
Don’t try the hardest pose especially if you’ve never done yoga before and don’t try to accomplish something from getting a lot of likes on Instagram. Maybe look up beginner yoga, then get high and really master the beginner stuff: the mindfulness, the breathing, the beginner postures. And then you can start to add cannabis-enhanced intermediate postures several months later. There’s so much to gain by laying down and doing more beginner poses and I find even advanced yoga practitioners say they love ganja yoga because it slows them down and really gets back to basics. I’m an advocate for chill yoga, especially when cannabis enhanced.
To learn more about Dee Dassault’s yoga classes, which also include tantric and naked yoga, visit her website at http://www.deedussault.com.