In San Francisco, where marijuana is newly legal for recreational use, an increasingly popular yoga class invites students to light up before sliding into their Downward Dog.
Dee Dussault, a hatha yoga teacher with 22 years of experience and author of the upcoming book, “Ganja Yoga,” thinks combining cannabis and the centuries-old workout helps students tune out their racing thoughts and pain points. They can become more mindful and free, she believes, to move in the unique ways their bodies need. The class got its start in Toronto in 2009 and in San Francisco in 2012.
Since Californians voted to fully legalize marijuana last November, Dussault’s biweekly class has nearly doubled in attendance from 10 to 15 students to the 25-person cap every session.
I recently sat in on Ganja Yoga to learn why cannabis-fueled yoga is becoming one of the hottest workout classes in the Bay Area. Here’s what it was like.
On a Wednesday night in San Francisco’s SoMa district, Dee Dussault’s students trek up the stairs of an art gallery, past remnants of a Burning Man installation, to find her studio.
They form a semi-circle around her, eyeing the bounty of marijuana joints, vape pens, and weed-laced cookies. “It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure!” Dussault laughs.
The regulars fire up the joints and begin passing them around the circle, while a handful of first-timers start up conversations with their neighbors.
Meanwhile, Dussault works the room to collect the $25 class fee, which covers instruction only. The pot is free, as California’s Proposition 64 made gifting up to an ounce of weed legal.
Students do not need a medical marijuana ID to participate.
Every class begins with a half-hour social, which allows the group to settle into the non-judgmental environment the class provides. Some students may never have smoked outside the comfort of their own home before.
Two joints make their way around the circle in opposite directions, and my confidence bolsters with every puff. I make friends with the young women beside me.
One participant tells me she left the hospitality industry to become a dispatcher for Flow Kana — a “farm-to-bowl” cannabis brand that offers on-demand delivery — after enjoying the company’s products in Dussault’s class.
Eventually, we go around the room and introduce ourselves. One young woman says, “I don’t know a lot about yoga, but I like smoking weed,” drawing giggles from the class.
We take our places on mats, squeezed into four rows of five. The class is so packed, two students follow along from an adjacent mud room with no sight lines on the instructor.
A few students keep vape pens at the top of their mats in case they need to re-up.
Dussault tells us to let the cannabis pour into the pockets of our bodies that need it.
We worm our way through stretches and shoulder rolls at a glacial pace, which makes it hard to justify the class as a “workout.” But I am loving every minute of it.
Dussault’s honey-coated voice lulls me into a state of relaxation that I can’t normally access in yoga, when I’m too busy comparing my posture to my neighbor’s perfect form.
I move through the poses a little wobbly (a side effect of the cannabis), but feeling unencumbered by the aches in my upper back from hunching over a computer all day.
It dawns on me that, rather than having achieved enlightenment, I am very, very high.
A switch flips in my subconscious, and I’m consumed by paranoia.
Suddenly, I very much want to go home and be under the covers watching “30 Rock.” But I soldier on, letting the indie music playing in the background carry away my thoughts.
When Dussault gives the order to make our way into child’s pose, a restful posture that happens to be a personal favorite, I sigh relief and let my body melt into the floor.
And in “ganja yoga,” no one is too good for child’s pose. Everyone takes Dussault up on the offer to rest, rather than move through an extra sequence of postures.
We close in corpse’s pose, or Savasana, and let the good vibes take over.
Overall, the practice feels more like meditation than cardio. It’s a refreshing and productive alternative to my usual routine of smoking and falling asleep.
Dussault invites the group to join her for a final joint containing a high-CBD pot strain. CBD is an ingredient in cannabis that has medical benefits, but does not get you high.
I sit this round out and leave feeling rejuvenated.