I Tried Ganja Yoga & Here's What Happened
It had been a while since 420 days. I indulged a fair amount in college, but my old habits melted away as fitness and wellness became a better way to chase the high as I got older. Now more than ever, I'm craving a spiritual practice—and it looks like the rest of the wellness world is too. With several states leading the charge in decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, it's become somewhat of a buzzy superherb that's making its way into mainstream spiritual ritual.
So when Dee Dussalt's new (and beautiful) book, Ganja Yoga: A Practical Guide to Conscious Relaxation, Soothing Pain Relief, and Enlightened Self-Discovery crossed my desk, I was curious. Ganja yoga is exactly what it sounds like: smoking pot before you practice. According to ancient texts, this isn't new: Yogis have been using herbs to supplement practice for millennia. Both yoga and weed, Dee writes, "bring a shift in consciousness that allows one to become more open to psychological, emotional, and energy states that aren't usually operational in the grind of daily life."
Yes, independently of each other yoga and marijuana offer these experiences, but together? I was honestly skeptical at first. Would I break out into a giggle fit? Would I want a predominantly restorative practice, or simply an extended savasana? Would I unintentionally fall asleep? After paging through the health benefits and deepened experiences Dee describes, my interest was piqued enough to try.
I used a vaporizer and had just enough to feel a little "buzz," while I put together a short playlist. I made sure to be intentional about not doing too much—I wanted to have a mindful experience. I lit a candle, rolled out my mat, and set a timer for 20 minutes. For anyone who is curious about trying ganja yoga, here are nine ways my practice was different:
1. I "dropped in" right away.
Typically before I start practice, I spend the first few moments letting prior events, interactions, and feelings from the day melt away. It takes some effort, usually a combination of mindful breathing and focused attention. But after smoking an indica strain—the one that imparts a "mellow" vibe—I dropped in more quickly and with ease.
2. My senses were heightened.
Once the sequence starts I normally tune out noises and sounds around me because I'm laser-focused on asana. This was not true after imbibing! The scent of the candle, the sound of the music, and the brisk draft coming in through the window were strong enough to easily distract, but they became a part of my flow instead. This was really nice until my husband walked in the front door with our dinner, which smelled incredible and startled the living daylights out of me.
3. The music (or silence) really mattered.
Making a playlist tailored to the occasion was clearly the right choice. Sitting in silence at the beginning allowed me to drop in quickly, but I was ready to move just as quickly. Staying still when high was really tough!
4. My movements were beat-driven, pulsing, and oceanic.
I would never, ever use the word graceful to describe myself or my yoga practice. But after smoking, I felt—keyword felt!—more synced with the music and my body. My movements crested and receded, and I added little pulsing movements to each hold because staying still was a challenge. I wondered afterward whether my mind is what's stopping me from having more grace in the first place...I also wondered whether it was all an indica-fueled facade.
5. I felt more connected to my insides.
As in, my muscles and my guts. Of course, this happens in yoga with or without ganja, yet I felt more life force—the breath and the beating heart—animating my practice. Nailing certain shapes was less important than focusing more on what was going on inside and moving from the heart without the layer of "mind." This was one of the most spiritual parts of the ganja yoga practice. The thinking mind was quieted and I was able to rely on my body to move me, my lungs to breathe me, without effort. Making space for the diaphragm and heart to expand gives me a sense of joy that, to me, feels like the ultimate surrender to what is. And right now, being OK with what is is my spiritual practice.
6. Every sensation was exaggerated.
This was especially true with twists and circular joint movements. Low-lunge twist felt more dynamic, and "stirring the pot" in cat/cow was extra juicy. Flipping my wrists in plank and downward-facing dog elicited more sensation than usual...so you can imagine how liberating it felt to do a supported fish with a block underneath the heart space at the end of practice.
7. I was motivated by what felt sensible versus mental goals.
I didn't start my sequence with a plan—as a novice teacher, my home practice has evolved into moving through more intuitive flows and then writing them down (like a food diary but for yoga practice). The hard part about that is getting stuck in a loop you've done a million times before. Coming to practice in a different state of mind definitely shook this up and left me with a new flow.
8. Poses echoed like they do in savasana but throughout practice.
My fellow yogis will get this: After a really great class in which your body creates the space it craves, there's nothing sweeter than a satisfying savasana. Taking a moment to replay what just happened and letting the effects of the class vibrate through the body is one of my favorite things about yoga. Post-ganja, this started happening throughout the flow, which really did help with intuitive sequencing. However, if I were in a group setting or following the sequence of another, I think this would be super distracting.
9. Closed circuitry felt really soothing.
Sitting for meditation at the end of practice in hero's pose (virasana) with my hands palming the balls of my heels allowed me to feel my own energy. It was incredibly calming and healing at the end of a long day to feel plugged into my body.
Will I do ganja yoga again? Maybe, but similar to naked yoga, I'd stick with doing it solo or in a small group and only on occasion. In fact, I wouldn't recommend going to a public class stoned unless everyone around you was also partaking in a safe space. That said, ganja yoga can be a pleasant way to unwind at the end of the day and invite creativity into your practice.
(Editor's note: Of course, speak with your doctor or health professional before introducing therapeutics into your yoga routine.)