“Ganja Yoga? That’s the most San Francisco thing I’ve ever heard,” a friend tells me when I say I’m on my way to try a new yoga class around cannabis use.
Ganja Yoga is taught Monday and Wednesday evenings in San Francisco by Dee Dussault, the local alt yoga instructor who invented clothing-free yoga, Tantra & Sexual Awakening Yoga.
It was she who came up with a yoga class where smoking marijuana is allowed before or during – yes, encouraged. But it turns out that combining marijuana with yoga isn’t a thing in San Francisco. At least not originally.
The biography of the 19th-century Indian mystical yogi Ramakrishna contains many references to smoking hemp. Both Hindus and Sufi Muslims in India have used a cannabis milk drink called ‘bhang’ meditatively for centuries.
This suggests that the combination of yoga and weed is an ancient innovation. But a modern yoga class for stoners is a new take on the ancient practice, with poses designed to maximize the effects of cannabis use.
Unlike the physically demanding yoga offerings in town, Ganja Yoga is a more meditative and ambient class.
Devoted yogis may be disappointed. This is not a class where you make sun salutations or reach out with your toes to the back of your head.
This fits his clientele perfectly.
“The meditation component really accentuates the cannabis and healing and pain relief,” said Trent, a student who has long suffered from joint pain after a car accident two years ago.
Trent says he started combining cannabis with yoga well before Ganja Yoga. “I would just do it for class and nobody knew. And then I found Dee’s class and now I keep coming back.”
Ganja Yoga is a “treat for your body” that is beginner-friendly and attracts many participants who are not into yoga at all, Dussault says.
“I’ve seen all kinds of unexpected people,” she tells me. “I’ve got business women, high-achieving driven women and they like yoga and they secretly like to get high.
“I once had four guys, bros with their baseball caps on diagonal, walk in. They have their big bong and they do yoga. They jumped in.”
The moment she says this, a woman in her 80s walks in, accompanied by a woman in her 60s. They are both holding yoga mats – and they are both holding.
Like my new silver haired friends, I am determined to try this Ganja Yoga.
Candles, mood lighting and on this occasion a laser light sculpture hanging in the center of the room project all kinds of visual effects from Pink Floyd concerts into the studio.
To make sure I perform well, I get baked right up to the bejesus band right before class.
The effects are truly transcendental. Dussault gives the meditation guidance as well as anyone I’ve ever heard, and her views really put me in a different frame of mind.
But there are definitely times when I struggle with coordination. (“Umm, did she say ‘Left toe tucked up to the knee’? Which one is left?”)
Fortunately, this is not about coordination but about meditation. Beginners can master most poses. It is not a muscle building or balance exercise form of yoga. It’s more about meditating, figuring out which muscle joints to crack and positioning them so that they crack.
It is a body awareness class that uses the effect of cannabis to help you meditate on your body and take care of its needs.
People smoke in class while doing yoga — vaporizing Dussault’s favorite “wellness option” — but only with a valid California medical cannabis recommendation.
Out of town and those who still do not have a legal card can still attend, although they must consume their cannabis before class.
Not all instructors would be okay with getting stoned before a yoga class, let alone during. “It’s an exercise, and that involves discipline. But everyone finds their own balance,” says Dussault. “It’s what yoga is all about — deepening your self-awareness, not just stretching and getting stronger.”
Whether it’s for the self-awareness or the weed, Ganja Yoga has become popular enough to expand to two nights a week. Some students have requested classes at their homes. So now there’s Ganja Yoga on the patios of Sausalito and the rooftops of Potrero Hill.
Cannabis is at an interesting crossroads in California. The industry is growing exponentially. This means new users. But once underground marijuana is also becoming mainstream. You see this mix in the classroom.
“I want to reach into both pockets,” Dussault says. “I want yoga people to consider cannabis and cannabis people to consider yoga.”
Are you considering Ganja Yoga? It’s every Monday and Wednesday at 7:15 PM at Merchants of Reality (285 Ninth St.). A California medical marijuana recommendation is required to use cannabis on the property.
Photo by Gabrielle Lurie