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High Yoga: Does Weed Have a Place in Your Yoga Practice?

Elisha Thompson
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As the number of states legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational purposes continues to grow, the merging of yoga and cannabis has become a hot topic within the yoga community. Yogis are on both sides of the fence when it comes to the introduction of cannabis into their yoga practice.
 
Yoga has always placed an importance on a heightened sense of awareness. In fact, most yogis will tell you that they practice to help them find a state that will allow them to reach enlightenment.
 
The question? Does cannabis has a place in that quest. Does toking up before yoga class block you from finding the very thing you are there for? Or does Mary Jane help you tune in to the frequency that you are seeking?
 
Yogis in favor of flowing through their vinyasa while stoned point to the history books to support their vote. According to yoga historians, yogis have been partaking in marijuana in various forms for centuries. Ancient yogis often consumed bhang, which is a beverage made from the flowers of a female cannabis plant, as well as hashish as a part of a daily meditation ritual which included asana.

“Historically, cannabis has been linked to really early use with yoga
in ancient Shiva cults,”

“Historically, cannabis has been linked to really early use with yoga in ancient Shiva cults,” states Dee Dussault of Ganja Yoga in San Francisco (formerly based in Toronto). “Back then, they weren’t smoking it, but drinking it in a milk beverage and burning it as an incense.But if you’re burning incense, you’re essentially hot boxing the temple as a result.”
 
The combination of yoga and marijuana here in the West is not new either. It dates back to the 1960’s when artists, free thinkers, and writers such as Ram Dass, Allen Ginsberg, and Timothy Leary were public about the adventures that were a result of practicing yoga and meditation while high.
 
Many yogis contend that cannabis helps them develop a better connection with their bodies. Some students have a very difficult time truly feeling their bodies. “Some people will die not knowing how to take a full breath. It’s hard for them to grasp the idea of breathing into your low back or lengthening from the crown of your head. Pot can help you work through that,” said Liz McDonald of Atwater Yoga in Los Angeles, who has been teaching a pot yoga class at 4:20pm since 2004.

“In addition to body and breath connection, marijuana can simply help you relax and feel less pain.”

In addition to body and breath connection, marijuana can simply help you relax and feel less pain. Mark Haskell Smith, an author and yoga practitioner for over 20 years, occasionally uses pot when he practices and finds that it helps his body relax and go deeper into postures. “Part of the point of yoga is to relax the body. And marijuana helps a lot of people to do that,” he said.
 
Others, however, are opposed to the addition of marijuana to yoga. Many yoga instructors and practitioners believe that drugs simply do not belong in yoga. Their argument against pot yoga, in part, focuses on teachings that emphasize purifying the body, not intoxicating it.
 

 
Nancy Romano, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles stated, “One of the things yoga teaches, even in something as simple as holding an uncomfortable pose, is how to tolerate reality. So any substance that fiddles with our ability to be with what’s really happening would not be helpful
in a yoga practice.”
 
Dr. William Sands, dean of the College of Maharishi Vedic Science at Maharishi University of Management, believes that there isn’t a place for pot in yoga. “Marijuana inhibits the ability to experience yoga – the inner self – and is therefore incompatible with the practice of transcendental meditation,” he stated. Dr. Sands is not the only one feels this way.
 
Julie Philips-Turner, the founder of Chesapeake Yoga & Wellness, stated in a recent blog post that yogis should be aware that one cannot reach enlightenment or Samadhi with marijuana. Instead, she stated, “It comes from hard work and persistent practice. A good practice includes complete faith, continued uninterrupted, for a long time – this is the way to achieve the state of yoga.”
 
The beautiful thing about yoga is that it is an incredibly personal practice. Yoga wants you to do what is best for you and your practice, and ultimately you are the only one who can say if incorporating the use of marijuana is right for you. Take into account what you know about yourself and your practice before you decide to bring Mary Jane to yoga with you.
 
Whatever you decide, get out there and practice yogis!
 

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Elisha Thompson

Elisha Thompson has her masters in Creative Non-Fiction Writing from Arizona State University. She is also a newly certified yoga teacher and loving every minute of her practice. Her Miniature Pincher, Harley, is her pride and joy. Elisha can usually be found at her computer, working on her latest novel. She fully believes that love is all you need and will one day save the world.

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