Yoga and Pot: Why more people are using cannabis to deepen their yoga practice

Yoga and Pot: Why more people are using cannabis to deepen their yoga practice

In Boulder, Colorado, cannabis-friendly yoga classes are followed by gourmet THC-infused meals. But first, yogis enjoy tokes between sun salutations.

“I don’t think I teach differently,” says Boulder-based yoga teacher Larissa Ortiz, “but I probably make more jokes that are learning towards people being high.”

A heightened sense of humor can help people loosen up for yoga. And cannabis can help your body relax. It can be anti-inflammatory. It can help you focus on your inhale, and your exhale. It’s great for pain relief, so if you’re too achy or injured, it could help you get into yoga poses. (But you never actually want to be in a yoga pose that’s causing you physical pain, so be careful not to overdo it.) Cannabidiol, or CBD, which can be derived from hemp or found in cannabis strains, is great for anti-inflammatory benefits and mental clarity, too.

So why not be stoned during yoga?

Depending on your location, it may not be legal for you. If you’re in the Boulder area, that cannabis yoga class is organized by Mason Jar Event Group. It’s on private property, so the consumption is legal.

In Venice, California, yoga entrepreneurs have opened what they’re calling “the first cannabis yoga studio in the United States.”

You can also get stoned and practice yoga anytime, in the comfort of your own home. This is great, too. Even if you find you’re mostly just rolling around on the floor. Or hanging out in embryo pose. It’s still yoga.

Official cannabis yoga classes can help you have a more structured yoga experience. This is important, especially if you’re newer to yoga. You want to learn about the optimal alignment in each pose, so you can make it sustainable, so you grow increasingly comfortable in your body over the years.

And even if it’s a cannabis yoga class, it’s mostly a yoga class. So if you can find a great teacher, you’ll still practice good alignment.

When I taught weekly marijuana yoga classes in a Boulder dispensary in 2010, we couldn’t really talk about *how* we were getting stoned in class. (Sublingual tincture, mostly.) Outside the room, it was a don’t-ask, don’t tell thing. Everything was under video surveillance, like at any Colorado dispensary. And you weren’t allowed to consume pot on the premises.

The tincture certainly helped people in the class, many of whom had mobility issues and chronic health conditions. One of them used a wheelchair to get to the yoga room. We spent several classes focusing on our breath, on the sensations of feeling, and letting go.

After I’d worked at that dispensary for a year, one yoga student recorded an entire class with a tape recorder. I wish I had a copy. It was a very heady phase. This is partly because of the abundance of cannabis-infused food in my work environment. There were cannabis-infused casseroles, and curries, and hash-filled carrot cakes. (Dispensary regulations were in their infancy, and we could buy wholesale edibles from anyone who stopped by with whatever they’d cooked up in their kitchen.)

Within those walls that year, a general stoniness was part of the background. Maybe that’s why we didn’t really talk about pot that much, during yoga classes. 

Or maybe it’s because I didn’t want people to expect pot to do the work for them. Pot doesn’t create your experience. You do. Cannabis alone doesn’t change your mindset; it amplifies it. It dials up the potency on your senses, your thoughts, your emotions. Marijuana is “the great yea-sayer,” as the New York Times bestselling author Michael Pollan has explained, “introducing little to nothing of its own.”

If you’re feeling anxious, you may discover, when you smoke pot, that you feel paranoid. It’s why people emphasize “set and setting”: where you are, when you alter your mind. Set and setting refers to your inner landscape, too. There may be times when you don’t feel like diving in.

But yoga is the process of going inwards, to check on that internal landscape. What’s going on in there? And if cannabis is the great amplifier — heightening all your senses, eavesdropping on your inner monologue — it can bring things to the forefront. That inner landscape may come into focus.

That’s why yoga and pot are a fantastic combination. Marijuana enhances feeling. Yoga helps you meet those feelings where they are.

Ready to try a cannabis yoga class?

Of course you are! This is great if you’re new to either yoga or cannabis. You won’t feel like you’re doing something weird, or illicit. You’re part of an organized class! (Getting stoned and rolling around on your own floor may be more of an acquired taste.)

What if you can’t find any cannabis yoga classes in your area?

You could always just go to a normal class while also being stoned. This is great for Yin Yoga, which is mostly just structured laying-around anyway. But be careful in Hot (or Bikram) Yoga. If you get dizzy, just lower yourself into child’s pose, and breathe, with your forehead on the mat. Nobody will mind. People get dizzy in Hot Yoga all the time, for perfectly normal reasons, like low blood pressure and dehydration, too.

Try not to worry what anyone else thinks. If you worry about it, your worries may spiral, because, again, cannabis is an upwards mental volume knob. It’s capable of turning up your inner monologue, and adding closed captions. That’s why a cannabis-literate yoga teacher — any yoga teacher, actually — will encourage you to focus on your breath. If you start getting anxious, just come back to your breath. Breathing tethers you to this moment. You can’t breathe in the future, or the past. Just here.

If you’re anxious about people at your yoga studio knowing you’re stoned, a cannabis yoga class would be a great solution. Just be careful about taking yourself too seriously. Yoga can help us overcome our egos, but sometimes, it can do the opposite. If you’re attending a cannabis yoga studio, just remember, however we practice, we’re all doing the same thing: looking in, and meeting ourselves where we are.