Ganja Yoga: A Tale Of Two Ganja Yogi’s
A couple Sundays ago Ascend Dispensary in Portland was host to the first (to my knowledge) Ganja Yoga class, hosted by Dee Dussault. Dee Dussault is one the first Yoga practitioners who is openly teaching Ganja Yoga. I first heard about Dee earlier in the year from Neal Pollack after he wrote a piece for the Cannabist that detailed his first Ganja Yoga experience. After reaching out to Dee to get some tips on practicing Ganja Yoga, she informed me that she was going to be in the area, and I jumped at the opportunity to help spread the word. I brought a couple people with me, one of them being Mrs. Nice Guy contributor, Chronic Travels. Chronic Travels practices Ganja Yoga, but not in a class like Dee’s, she normally smokes before she practices or attends a class. To learn more about Chronic Travels and her love of yoga and practicing under the influence of cannabis, you should read the piece she wrote for the site titled, “Ganja Yoga: Roll One Up Before You Roll Out Your Mat“. It’s a great piece for anyone curious about the history of yoga, and if you suffer from pain due to sports injury, you can read about how yoga has helped her deal with her pain while continuing to strengthen her body…while also using that sweet, sweet, ganja!
We were both so happy to finally meet Dee, and glad we got to chat with her for a bit. While Chronic Travels and I both practice yoga differently, we both had a great time at Ganja Yoga. I wish I had taken more pictures, but I didn’t want to invade anyone’s privacy more than I already have. Since there was two of us at the class, I thought it’d be nice to post two perspectives on the class, enjoy! STAY TUNED FOR A ONE ON ONE INTERVIEW WITH DEE, IT WILL BE CONDUCTED BY CHRONIC TRAVELS.
BEWARE THIS IS A VERY LONG POST
MRS. NICE GUY
Most people are probably wondering why myself, or anyone else would want to attend this class, and the real answer? The excuse to experience yoga, ON WEEEEED. The smart, or professional answer? The opportunity to experience something that to my knowledge hasn’t been openly practiced in the Portland area. Dee is openly mixing cannabis and yoga, something that people do, but aren’t comfortable expressing due to stigma and judgement. Both of my answers to why I wanted to try Ganja Yoga are valid reasons to experience it, funny, huh?
Initially I was 100% intimidated attending this class with Chronic Travels. Before her piece for the site (link above) she showed me some pics of the poses she can rock, and DAMN, bow down, B*****S! We both practice yoga similarly, but she’s a lot more dedicated than I am. I prefer to use it more for stretching and relaxation, where Chronic is advanced enough to practice for fitness (Hot Yoga, or Vinyasa), and for relaxation/meditation.
What did I expect for my first ganja yoga class…honestly? A trippy, outter body experience where I could be one with my innerself. Before walking in, I pictured myself having some crazy Woodstock experience, and for some reason thought there would be a dude jamming on the sitar while patchouli incense swallowed the whole room as we chanted while moving from pose to pose. Is that me stereotyping my own people? I hope not…because both of those things would’ve been pretty awesome. I came prepared though! Fitted with my Beyonce tank top, I packed my Ganja Yoga class kit and it was filled with some Golden Pineapple nugs, Fruity Pebble Rice Kispy Treats, yoga toeless grip socks, and my Gatorade sports bottle filled with ice cold water…THE GOOD STUFF!
When we walked into the shop, we were greeted by an ecstatic Dee. We exchanged pleasantries and shortly after a small group of about 7 people found a secret location to get our puff on. While in the circle we passed around some joints, we had enough so that we all had one to ourselves, but we decided that could potentially do more harm than good so we shared instead. While in the circle we chatted amongst ourselves and with Dee, it was interesting to learn that she had only started smoking in 2007. It has me wondering what made her want to start smoking, and what made her want to start teaching Ganja Yoga..? (Chronic Travels will be interviewing Dee, keep your eyes peeled)
I really enjoyed Ganja Yoga and happy I had the chance to attend it. Above I mentioned I was intimidated at first, and I was, because this was my first official yoga class in Public! After the class I kept telling myself I was silly for feeling that way, it wasn’t as advanced as I thought it’d be and the sequences Dee chose for the class weren’t hard to do. They were basic enough so anyone at any level could participate, not that they didn’t do anything, I was sore for a couple days after!
The class started with Dee having us dedicate our practice to something, or someone, I don’t know who or what anyone else chose, but I chose my mom. Not that I am looking for sympathy, but our family has gone through a lot in the last year, and my poor mom has taken the brunt of it. I felt like she deserved to receive the positive vibes we were strumming up over at Ascend. I talked to my mom after the class and she was moved by my gesture.
Dee’s calming voice guided us through stretches and twists, I felt the stress that I carry in my shoulders melt away like butter on a hot skillet as we moved from pose to pose. My favorite part of the class was towards the end when, we were in corpse pose listening to Dee guide us through deep relaxation. I’m not sure about anybody else, but I think I fell asleep for a minute or 5…I was THAT RELAXED. When we were instructed to start waking up and people started to move, the snap-crackle-pop of all relaxed bodies put a smile on my face.
Ascend was a great place to practice Ganja Yoga and they were very kind to host. When I first visited Ascend a month back, I was wondering how many people the facility would be able to hold for a yoga class.. About 8-9 people were in attendance and we filled up the open area easily, some of us even had to line up horizontal instead of vertical to save space, maybe it was a good thing this gathering was small? I’m not sure how many people usually attend Dee’s Ganja Yoga classes, afterwards I had mentioned I wished more people had shown up, but given the space issue (which wasn’t an issue because there was a enough space for the number of people in attendance) and my overall experience I was satisfied with the group being smaller, it felt more intimate.
So, since I am somewhat new to Ganja Yoga, what advice can I give any other newcomers to yoga or Ganja Yoga? Start slow! Yoga is all about relaxation and paying attention to your body and what it’s capable of. You don’t want to start off trying moves that are far too advanced, and you definitely don’t want to be practicing it using heavy strains, ESPECIALLY if you’re new to weed. Basic poses like Downward Dog, Upward Dog, Plank, Mountain, Cat, Cow, Child, and Pigeon are all great beginner moves if you want to keep things simple. From there you can try more advanced moves, for resources or guides, I like to use the Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga, Hatha Yoga Illustrated, Bunny Yoga, and Yoga Journal.
With yoga you need balance and concentration, so it’s best to practice Ganja Yoga using strains that have effects directed towards attention, focus, relaxation, and euphoria. I would steer clear of a heavy indica, or sativa and try a nice hybrid that has a mix of both. Strains I would use for Ganja Yoga are Peaches because it’s a nice mellow strain that plasters a smile on your face, Grape Ape an indica that I used when I went floating and was great for getting my mind to let go so I could reap the benefits of it, or Cookies & Cream a strain that I think is the best for RELAXING hard after a nice day. If you don’t like my suggestions, you can search Leafly by mood, activity, and medical use.
I can definitely see myself practicing Ganja Yoga more, it’d be a great way to end a stressful day, start a morning on a well deserved day off, or for meditation when I need to feel centered. Practicing Ganja Yoga also helped me get over my fear of practicing in public, I was able to do some moves others could and hold them for longer, and I think it made me realize how beneficial yoga is to us as a society. If everyone could just relax, smoke some weed, and stretch sometimes, I wonder how much happier people would be.
Ganja yoga with Dee Dussault was something I had been looking forward to for several weeks, and when the day finally arrived I was stoked. I woke up, ate a light breakfast, then smoked a little Grapefruit and foam rolled while I listened to some of Mrs. Nice Guy’s songs to smoke to. Foam rolling is AMAAAAZING, if you don’t know about it. You roll the meaty part of your muscles over a long, dense cylinder of foam, applying pressure to compress the muscles and the connective tissue surrounding them. The technical term for it is self-myofascial release, but it’s basically giving yourself a massage with the foam roller. You can control how deep the “massage” is by controlling how much pressure you put down on whichever muscle you are rolling. This compression stops the blood flow momentarily, like a dam, and when you roll past each spot and release that compression the blood surges through. This is beneficial in many ways, it’s like a pumped up form of stretching. Anyway, it’s the perfect combo to do with yoga, and actually there are many yoga poses which are designed to do the same thing by compressing joints and muscles. So, I basically gave myself a little full body massage and then headed to ganja yoga, ready to get my meditation on.
Yoga, as I mentioned in my last post, is my favorite form of exercise but I wasn’t expecting an intense workout from this class. Especially since the class was hosted in a space surrounded by glass display cases! This was my first time at Ascend Dispensary, and it’s a great space, although not designed for yoga. Luckily, I think I was the only clumsy yogi to knock anything over, and I didn’t do any damage. Props to the Ascend team for hosting, they were super welcoming and I highly recommend checking out the dispensary. All the product was put away for this event so I didn’t check out any buds, but I will go back for sure. They have a clean, welcoming space with informational posters all over the walls, and stickers and pamphlets galore to take home, so I’m pretty sure it’s my kind of place.
Dee was greeting everyone at the door with a smile, and you could tell she was excited to share this experience with us. It seemed like she made sure to chat a little bit with everyone, and I was surprised to hear her say that she had only started using cannabis in 2007. This made me wonder how that had come about, was that the first time she had EVER used it? And what was her first smoking experience like? Why did she, personally, decide to make cannabis such a central part of her yoga practice? We reconvened in a secure location, where we passed around a few joints and greeted each other, however it was not the time to get the answers to my questions. I’m not sure what strains we were passing, but it certainly got me even more into my yoga zone. Once we got back to Ascend, my mat was calling me like a green, rectangular cloud inviting me to float away into bliss.
The class was mellow, we warmed our muscles gently before we did a little stretching and some detoxifying twists, then we did a full body meditation to end the class. Normally I don’t go to relaxation oriented yoga classes because I’m usually looking for a workout, or pain relief, but this was a fantastic way to change up my routine. Also, there are tons of physical benefits that you still gain from relaxation style yoga. The gentle warming of the muscles still works on flexibility and increases the blood flow a bit, bringing fresh oxygen to the body and clearing out damaged blood cells (like around a bruise or injury). The twisting that we did not only detoxifies the spine, it also aids digestion and massages the internal organs. If you have certain digestive issues, gentle yoga twists can be helpful because of these effects. Also, bringing your body to such a relaxed state is helpful to almost every system. The autonomic nervous system is the system of the body that regulates the processes we don’t think about, or control, like digestion, breathing and general organ function. You may have heard of the “fight or flight” response, which is controlled by your sympathetic nervous system. When you’re stressed, your body is in high alert, and the sympathetic nervous system will slow your digestion, among other things, conserving that energy in case you need to run from whatever is stressing you. This is balanced by the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” response. If you are in a relaxed state, your parasympathetic nervous system is able to stimulate digestion, sexual arousal, and efficient organ function. If you’re relieving stress, you’re improving the internal functioning of your body.
As we lay in savasana, scanning each individual part of our bodies to see how they were feeling, how the class had affected them, I didn’t even care that the concrete floor was feeling more and more like a concrete floor, and less like the mat-cloud that had beckoned me about an hour ago. Yes, my fourth toe was more relaxed than it had been in weeks, and the fifth. I was so relaxed that my mind was unable to wander, as it sometimes does in corpse pose. The purpose of the rest period at the end of each yoga class is to give your body a chance to absorb the changes you’ve made to it through stretching, or strengthening movements. Too often, even if I smoke before class, the beginning of this rest period marks the slipping away of my attention to all the other things that are taking place when I leave the yoga space. Not at ganja yoga. I definitely smoked more than I normally do before a yoga class, but it was with intention, and that is key. In yoga, everything is done with intention, and the intent for this class was deep, blissful relaxation and a deeper connection with my physical body. For me, it was a great success.
After we all peeled ourselves and our mats off the floor (literally, sorry Ascend!), I could tell that I was not the only person feeling like a million bucks. There were smiles all over the room, and everyone was moving in that slow, lackadaisical pace that signals deep relaxation. We all stood around and chatted for a few minutes, then it was time for Ascend to get back to business. The guy that were hosting from the dispensary said they were going to try to keep doing events like this, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll have going on in the future. As I left, it was like a switch flipped, and I became ravenous! This makes sense, after a little ganja and some of that stretching and twisting to encourage the movement of the digestive system.
All in all, I guess I may have been a little too relaxed, because I wasn’t able to get all the questions that I wanted to ask Dee out of my head! Luckily, she has assured me she’ll be back in Portland, and I’m also going to chat with her sometime next week when she’s returned home from her mini Ganja Yoga road tour. Stay tuned for that interview to come, and let me know in the comments if you have any questions you want me to ask Dee!