Cannabis-enhanced Yoga to Cultivate Calm

Finding stillness and moments of calm within your day is often a luxury, especially during the holiday season, but carving out time for relaxation and mindfulness is a necessity as they both provide huge relief for stress, bring thoughts into the present moment, and increase our sense of well-being. Pairing certain strains of cannabis and restorative yoga poses can be a great way to cultivate calm as they both have soothing effects on our nervous system which encourages relaxation. Cannabis’s effects on our awareness of sensation paired with deep breathing and restorative stretches brings your mind to a calm, focused state. Here are a few poses and cannabis strains to cultivate calm in your body and mind.

Twisting Balasana (Twisting Child’s Pose)

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This restorative pose may not look like much but is great for reducing stress. This shape also lengthens the spine, releases tension in the neck, shoulders, back, and hips, and gently massages the abdominal organs which improves digestion.

Getting In and Out

Place the short end of a bolster (or a few very fluffy pillows) against your right hip and sit with your knees to the left. Rest your left thigh on your right foot. Turn to the right and place your hands on either side of the bolster. Walk your hands forward to extend your torso over your bolster than lay down with the front of your body supported by the bolster as much as possible. Let your forearms rest on the floor with your elbows under your shoulders. Turn your cheek left or right depending on how deep of a stretch you’d like to feel in your neck. Focus on steady even breathing in this gentle twist. Stay in the shape for up to 2 minutes then switch sides. Come out of the pose by placing your hands under your shoulders and pushing up.

Pair this with Birthday Cake Kush, a sweet indica-dominant hybrid that soothes the body, is great for relieving pain and anxiety, and in larger doses provides a heavy eyed body melting high – a great floating sensation when you’re supported by comfortable props.

Supported Baddha Konasana (Supported Bound Angle Pose)

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This is a gentle hip, inner thigh, and groin opener that also alleviates mild anxiety and menstrual discomfort. Be extra cautious getting into this shape if you have a knee injury, or skip this pose entirely.

Getting In and Out

Sit on the edge of a bolster or folded blanket. Bring the soles of your feet together, lined up evenly from toe to heel. Let your knees rest open, feeling free to support them with extra blocks or blankets if there is too much sensation in the groin. Keep your back upright, and support yourself with your fingertips on the floor behind you. Stay here for up to 5 minutes. To come out, slowly straighten your legs.

Pair this with Blue Dream, a favorite for a balanced body-mind high. This sativa-dominant strain gives a dose of mild euphoria and a deeply relaxing full-body high – one of my favorites.

Baddha Hasta Uttanasana (Dangling Pose)

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This pose provides a gentle stretch for the lower back, warms up the hamstrings and quadriceps, massages the abdominal organs, increases blood flow to the brain, and calms the body and nervous system.

Getting in and Out

Stand with your feet parallel and hip distance apart. Generously bend your knees and fold forward. Clasp opposite elbows with your hands, and let your head hang. You can sway your hips here or shake your head yes and no, gentle movements but always staying mindful of the breath. Stay in this pose for up to 2 minutes before releasing your hands to the floor and rolling up slowly, with your head coming up last.

Pair this with Penny Wise a CBD-rich strain with a very mellow high, which can turn to a good night’s sleep in larger amounts.

Vrkasana (Tree Pose)

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This pose increases focus while calming the mind and strengthening legs. Try doing this pose next to a wall for extra balancing support, and pay extra attention to your face while you balance. Balancing poses are the first place we tense up and stop breathing in order to hold a pose, but in this tree pose see if you can relax your brow, find your drishti (a non-moving object to look at), and try smiling!

Getting In and Out

Stand in mountain pose with both feet rooted evenly into the earth, toes unclenched and thighs gently pressing back. Kickstand your right foot so that your toes are on the floor and the sole of your right foot rests on your left ankle. Gently press your right knee open for more of a groin and hip stretch. Bring your hands to Anjali Mudra and start to be curious. Play in your shape. As you find balance, lift the right foot higher on your left leg and let it rest on the calf or inner thigh, not your knee. Be a wavy tree and sway your arms in the air. Embrace any shakiness or unsteadiness you may feel as you move. Remember to breathe. Stay here for up to 1 minute. To release, bring your palms back to your heart, lower your right foot down and switch sides.

Pair this with Girl Scout Cookies, a strong sativa-dominant hybrid that gives a potent euphoric high, stick to low doses for the best results. This strain reduces anxiety, and combining it’s mildly energizing effects with tree pose’s focusing ability creates a high like a balanced and mellow caffeine buzz without the crash.

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold)

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Forward folds promote introspection and relaxation, and this pose provides a great stretch to the low back, soothes headache and relieves stress, and opens the hamstrings. Most people tend to force themselves into a deep fold, but the intention isn’t to jam yourself into a pose and hold it. Use this shape to listen to your body, practice honoring yourself in the present moment, and move with your breath rather than your ego.

Getting In and Out

Sit on the edge of a folded blanket with your legs extended. Tilt your pelvis forward. Hook a strap (or belt, or bathrobe drawstring) on the balls of your feet and hold one side of the strap in each hand. Wrap the strap around your hands so you can hold on without straining. Slowly fold forward, finding depth over time. Soften your shoulders away from your ears. Notice whether your jaw or eyebrows are tense. Breathe here for up to 5 minutes, deepening the stretch if your body invites you to over time. When you are ready to come out, engage your core as you inhale and roll up one vertebrae at a time.

Pair this with Cannatonic, a CBD-rich flower with a mild taste and high. Due to it’s high CBD to THC ratio, this strain is often suggested for treating anxiety and is incredibly relaxing.

Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall)

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This is a wonderful passive inversion which allows us to experience the calming benefits of inversions without having to get into a headstand.

Getting In and Out

Sit beside a wall with your right hip right up against it, then swing your legs up the wall while using your hands to help you lay down. If you have tighter hips and hamstrings, getting your bottom right up against the wall will be challenging. Gently reach through both heels as you extend your legs. You can also practice this pose with a bolster to elevate the hips – if so, your bottom will fall into the space between the wall and bolster. For more of  a groin stretch, try a wide legged variation. Come out of the pose by drawing your knees into your chest and stay here for a few breaths, then press up into a seated position.

Pair this with Headband, an indica strain that is especially great in small doses. This strain gives most people the sensation of their head being gently hugged which can be very relaxing, and works extra well with the soothing headiness of this inversion.

Supported Matsyasana (Supported Fish Pose)

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This gentle pose expands the chest, relieves shoulder and neck tension, and naturally deepens breathing. Focused, deep breathing is a great way to slow down thoughts and cultivate calm.

Getting In and Out

Sit with your legs extended in front of you. Place the short end of a bolster right behind your tailbone and lay down on the bolster. Your entire back should be supported. Rest your palms by your side, facing upwards. Let your chin be neutral and inline with your forehead rather than pointed upwards your head tilting back. If you experience lower back pain shift your bolster further away from your tailbone. You can stay here for as long as 20 minutes.

Pair this with Blackberyy Kush, a heavy, body relaxing indica that is known for relieving pain and stress. This strain is great for promoting sleep, so can be the perfect calming combination for a good night’s rest when paired with a supportive fish pose.

All of these poses and strains to cultivate calm are all-levels friendly, can be done for short or longer periods of time, and work well individually or as part of a relaxing sequence. Each of these shapes are naturally calming on their own, so if cannabis doesn’t feel appropriate you can always do the shape alone. Carve out time for relaxation and cannabis-enhanced self care, and try these calming pose and strain combinations. Let me know about your experience if you do!

Om Shanti, friends, and stay blazed!

Why Cannabis-Enhanced Group Yoga is Life

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In the minutes before our Friday night yoga class starts students arrive, set up their mats, hug and reflect over the week with old and new friends, and unwind over joints, bowls, communal bongs, and other smoking apparatus they’ve brought along. The vibes are high and everyone’s ready to unwind from the week with some ganja, slow yoga, and community. If I spot a few new faces I throw a question out to the room:

Before today, who’s ever smoked cannabis before doing yoga?

The students give each other a cheeky smile before admitting that although they keep it low profile, they smoke before doing yoga almost all of the time. It’s become a running joke in class that ganja yoga is actually America’s secret exercise of choice. In many of Bryan Kest’s power yoga classes he jokes that all of the students have probably been smoking joints in the parking lot before class – and I finally realize he isn’t just talking about me. Whether students smoke cannabis before yoga for increased bodily awareness, to relieve pain, or just because it feels good, everyone in my living room turned candlelit and smoke-filled yoga studio agrees – smoking weed and doing yoga with other people is a wholly different experience from smoking and stretching alone at home or lighting up just before going to a traditional yoga class.

Smoking cannabis in public with other adults just to unwind, heal, and meditate is a strangely liberating experience. Both traditional yoga and cannabis-enhanced yoga can be transformative, but one way they vary is that unlike a regular yoga class where you may never communicate with the people on the mats around you, cannabis-enhanced yoga comes with abundant community as joints are passed around and the space is open for introductions and connecting since students start arriving thirty minutes before the class.

At the end of a particular session, incense is burning as we all chatter over tea and share snacks to sooth a serious case of the munchies, some people reclined on their mats killing off the rest of a joint. One of my now regular students is blissed out and shares with the room that her experience made her feel deeply connected both to herself and everyone in the room – as if we were all moving and breathing as one with each other and with the universe. She’s not the first to express this and the room nods in agreement – one of the major effects of smoking weed is that it makes everything more profound by increasing awareness. Even though the yoga practice is very individualized to encourage honoring their own body, the simple acts of gathering, breathing, smoking, and moving consciously together reminds us of the fact that when stripped to the bare minimum we are all after the same feelings of deeper connection and understanding.

Some students try cannabis-enhanced yoga at home after loving the class, and while they enjoy it, the overall feeling doesn’t match that of smoking ganja specifically chosen to flow well with a sequence created to match their state, and led by an instructor who knows exactly how the practice feels and can safely guide them through it. Smoking openly with other like-minded yogis and making friends is another bonus students miss at home.

I love cannabis-enhanced group yoga compared to regular yoga because I develop a much deeper relationship with my students. We sit and talk for ages about non-yoga related things and get to know each other outside of class. Naturally introverted students are more likely to get involved during class and find a once anxious connection with cannabis to be diminished. There is no serious studio stigma about what a yoga class should be; we laugh during class, use lot of props, get out of poses to smoke more, make funny sounds, we create the space for each other just to move and be without judgement for a few hours every Friday night, carrying the good vibes through the week until we all meet again.

 

The Perfect Yoga & Cannabis Pairings

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Jack Herer, a sativa strain

There are tons of niche styles of yoga just waiting to be enhanced with cannabis, but similar to how strains of weed can bring out great feelings when the conditions are optimal, I believe certain cannabis types and strains can bring out the best of specific kinds of yoga. There are three kinds of cannabis: indica (relaxing high), sativa (energizing high), and hybrid which is a combination of the first two. In this post I’ll explain the effects of sativa and indica, and list some styles of yoga they are best paired with as well as specific strains I like for a comfortably enhanced experience.

I  N D I C A

I almost exclusively offer indica during my cannabis-enhanced yoga classes. Compared to sativa, indica has a lower THC to CBD ratio – CBD has no mind-altering qualities and diminishes some of the negative effects that THC can sometimes have (anxiety and short-term memory impairment) making it a great option for the group setting of cannabis-enhanced yoga classes, or even for smoking prior to a regular yoga class. Indica is generally relaxing and grounding, and provides a body high that promotes introspection. This makes it easier to rein in a wandering mind and focus on internal sensations. Cannabis in general acts as a muscle relaxant so the relaxing properties of indica make it especially blissful with styles of yoga that open up the body with props and extended time in poses.

Specific strains I use include Blue Mystic, Bubba Kush, and Hindu Kush that leave me feeling dreamy, uplifted, euphoric, and a little bit hungry (a post-yoga smoothie has never tasted so good!).

Indica pairs perfectly with slow flows, therapeutic and passive yoga styles where unwinding and relaxation are key:

  • restorative
  • gentle
  • yin
  • hatha (beginner level)
  • tune up
  • iyengar (beginner level)

S A T I V A

If I’m smoking sativa prior to doing yoga I’ll usually do a faster paced or more challenging class, but I don’t get too crazy with arm balances unless I’m familiar with them and I steer completely away from inversions. Sativa generally increases alertness while stimulating and energizing the mind. This works well when paired with breath-to-movement styles of yoga like vinyasa or power yoga because that increased awareness can be focused towards finding a connection between mind, body, and breath in challenging poses and continuous movement. Sativa has a greater THC to CBD ratio than indica so offers more of a cerebral and emotional high- this means lots of internal philosophizing can happen as every action and thought becomes profound. This can work well in a studio you’re comfortable with as instructors usually theme classes around a question or idea and sativa allows you to connect more with this, although your mind might not stay on that idea for long before it finds something else to ponder on.

Specific strains I use include Jack Herer, Sour Diesel, and Super Lemon Haze because they spark creativity and deep thinking, while keeping spirits high.

Sativa pairs perfectly with breath-to-movement flows and styles where you have a focus or challenge.

  • vinyasa (beginner-intermediate level)
  • power (beginner-intermediate level)
  • hatha (beginner-intermediate level)
  • ashtanga (beginner level)

For simplicity I didn’t include hybrid strains since what kind of yoga the individual strain pairs well with depends largely on whether it is indica or sativa dominant. But you can assume if a hybrid is indica-dominant it will pair well with the styles of yoga I listed above for preferred indica and yoga pairings, and the same goes for sativa-dominant hybrids and and the list of sativa and yoga pairings.

For almost every yoga style there is a cannabis strain that pairs perfectly with it, but whether I’m high or not (but especially when I’m high) I don’t do bikram yoga. The intense heat and movement just don’t go with being in an elevated state and is a recipe for feeling light-headed and uncomfortable. Whatever the style of yoga you choose to enhance with cannabis, be sure to try cannabis-enhanced yoga at home first before taking some beginner level classes at a studio (even if you have experience with the class), and always consume less cannabis than you think you need.

I hope you find these tips useful! Do you have any specific strains you like to do yoga with? Have you tried any of these combinations or do you want to? Let me know in the comments below!

How To Add Cannabis To Your Yoga Routine

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There’s a certain comfort in experiencing cannabis-enhanced yoga under the guidance of a teacher. Teachers are prepared with the tools to ensure a safe and enjoyable practice, and the task of finding appropriate strains, yoga poses, and carving out a welcoming space falls on the instructor, while you simply need to show up with your mat and an open mind. But if you’re not lucky enough to live in one of the few cities where classes are offered (guided classes are currently offered in Las Vegas, Toronto, and several cities in California and Colorado) knowing where to begin and how to get the most out of the combination is difficult, even daunting if you’ve never tried cannabis before.

Many, many (many!) people smoke cannabis before a yoga class, especially if they smoke on a regular basis. I first combined cannabis and yoga on a whim before a power yoga class and continued to smoke prior to class ever since. Despite this, it took about two years of smoking cannabis and doing yoga before I noticed how the two complimented each other, made mindfulness more accessible, and upgraded my yoga to more than a four letter word confined to a studio and sticky mat. If I had the guidance of educated instructors, articles, and youtube videos, like those easily accessible to the mainstream yoga world, it would have made the journey much more streamlined, so I’ve written this article to help beginner to experienced yoga lovers safely add cannabis to their practice and take their experience to higher levels.

  1. Know your state’s marijuana laws: Half of the states in the US have legalized marijuana consumption in some form, either medicinal or recreational. Find out if you’ll need to become a registered medical marijuana patient or whether you can purchase marijuana at all by doing a quick google search. This article from Governing.com has an updated map with the current laws on marijuana consumption, by state.
  2. Pick an indica or hybrid strain: Compared to sativas which tend to be energizing and produce a mental and emotional high, indicas and hybrids are better for a balanced yoga practice because they are generally more relaxing and grounding, relieve pain, and promote introspection. All the good vibes needed for a slow and yummy yoga flow.
  3. Start in a familiar space: People underestimate the value of a consistent home yoga practice, but it is one of the best ways to tune into yourself without external stimulation from other students or studio dogma. Find a quiet place in your home where you can have 30 minutes to an hour of uninterrupted time, the familiar surroundings will make your body and mind relax and get comfortable for what you’re about to experience.
  4. Start slow: If you’re a seasoned smoker, approach consumption with a beginners mind when you start to combine ganja with yoga – the effects of smoking and doing yoga are completely different than what is experienced when smoking and just sitting at home and hanging out with friends. Smoke less than you normally would and try to find a place where you feel buzzed but not stoned. Whether or not you are new to smoking, I recommend taking one hit of your preferred strain and waiting 10 minutes to see the effects. If you feel like you need more, smoke the same amount and wait another 10 minutes. Not only will this make sure you avoid over consumption (which often leads to feelings of anxiety and panic), but encourages patience, listening to your body, and a healthy relationship with cannabis.
  5. Keep it simple: Getting into handstands is the furthest thing from what you want to do after consuming cannabis. Again, this may challenge your patience and encourage you to explore a new part of your practice. Instead, sit for longer in seated mediation. Acknowledge your body, breath, and thoughts. Do several rounds of sun salutations. Take it as slow as you can and come down onto your knees when flowing from high to low plank. Move organically. Do tree pose and other simple poses that don’t look impressive from the outside, but feel good to you.
  6. Take a studio class: Making your studio class ganja-enhanced is a great way to integrate your practice. Familiarity is key when starting out, so go to a studio you know and like and take a few classes there without smoking first. When you go back for your cannabis-enhanced experience, arrive early enough to smoke beforehand. I typically smoke in my car before class – if you choose to do this make sure you remove your keys from the ignition and don’t drive until the class is over and you’re feeling clear headed. Arrive early enough to set up your mat, talk, and relax for some time before the class starts. Stay away from intense high flow classes, they move too fast and the poses can become challenging for even the most seasoned yogi when you’ve consumed cannabis. Stick to slower classes like yin, restorative, or (my personal favorite) beginner level hatha classes.

I hope these tips help you in your journey to deepen your yoga with cannabis! Do you have any tips for integrating cannabis with yoga? Have you tried any of these techniques or want to? Let me know your thoughts below!

 

Why I Combine Cannabis & Yoga

ekapadakondinyasanafarmI had been practicing yoga for two years and smoking cannabis regularly for an even longer amount of time before combining the two. My friend Derek and I were ten minutes early for our first power yoga class when he pulled a small pipe from his mat bag, filled to the brim with ganja. Although I smoked on a regular basis I never considered doing so before a yoga class. Maybe it was an effort not to violate some unspoken yogi rule or risk smelling like weed in an enclosed space with students I thought would judge me, but that morning while under the influence of weed, the heated orbs of studio light, and the unknowing instructor’s voice, the yoga practice suddenly became my own.

The class was hard– harder than any other class I’d taken at the time (I’ll chalk that up to taking an advanced yoga class while high enough to high-five Jesus), but I was okay with the class being a challenge. I was tuned in and more concerned with the sensations I felt rather than labeling them as “good”, “bad”, “hard”, or “easy”, and because of this heightened awareness, when flowing and moving became too much I took a child’s pose and the rest of the room dissolved.

Taking a simple child’s pose didn’t seem like much at the time. I always knew I could rest whenever I needed it, but the idea was easier in theory when surrounded by sculpted students in an environment that bred comparison. Smoking cannabis allowed me to tune in to myself, hear my body’s needs and be easier on myself both physically and mentally. With two years of yoga under my belt I finally understood the concept of sthira sukham asanam – steadiness, ease, presence of mind, that usually eluded me outside of savasana.

Typically only the last five minutes of a yoga class are dedicated to physical and mental stillness, but in reality all of the moving from one pose to another is to prime our body and mind for meditation. Cannabis, like the blocks and straps commonly found in the studio, aids in getting to the point where we’re ready to meditate. Where a block may be used to bridge the gap between your palms and the floor, cannabis works to bridge the gap between your body and spirit by quieting mind fluctuations, acting as a muscle relaxant, increasing awareness of sensations, and promoting introspection. So when yoga and cannabis (two tools for meditation) are combined, a new introspective and mindful practice forms.

Although I don’t smoke every time I do yoga, I find that taking a hit or two beforehand keeps me curious and non-attached. I’m curious about how my hips must maneuver in order to get into an arm balance, rather than clinging onto the goal of getting into a desired pose. I’m curious about how my breath flows and my chest broadens in a deep back bend. For me, the curiosity cannabis promoted in my yoga made for a more genuine, safer, sustainable practice that encourages self-awareness and love.

Have you ever combined marijuana and yoga before, or are you interested in trying to? Share your thoughts below.

I Am Here

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Namaste loves! I don’t have much to say but thought I’d doll-up my blog posts with an introduction. I’m Minelli, I teach yoga and smoke cannabis – you’ll often find me doing both at the same time. I buy too many books  and create stories of my own. I want to live a life full of people and experiences, not things. When I’m not doing yoga, I’m taking scenic bike rides, hiking, and dreaming of a simple life in a camper van, with my husband and our cat.

I am here to bring awareness to the healing capabilities of cannabis-enhanced yoga. To serve. To explore my passions. To create space. To be part of a community.  I am here to help my fellow humans tune into themselves and find so much happiness.