There’s a long, historic connection between ganja (cannabis) and Indian spiritual practices that goes back almost two thousand years. Sadhus—Indian ascetics who’ve renounced the material world—believe ganja to be a sacred plant that benefits mind, body and spirit.
In states where cannabis is legal, many yoga instructors have embraced it—using it in their own practice, discussing its benefits with students, even hosting ganja yoga sessions. Rachel Ginsberg, a yoga instructor in New York City, feels that cannabis helps her bring her physical and spiritual sides together. “For me,’ she says, “it’s a matter of helping me get into a deeper, more meditative space where I can tune into my body and give myself what I actually need.”
For those who are interested in learning more about the positive connections between cannabis and yoga practice, we’d recommend a book by yoga instructor Lee Dussault, who hosted the first ganja yoga classes in North America: Ganja Yoga: A Practical Guide to Conscious Relaxation, Soothing Pain Relief, and Enlightened Self-Discovery.
Historical Connection Between Ganja and Spiritual Practice
Newsweek, reporting on the growth of cannabis use and yoga, states “…ancient Indian traditions based on the Vedas (Hindu holy texts) treat cannabis as one of five sacred plants. Ancient Indians believed a guardian angel resided in cannabis, and it is still an important part of some Hindu holy festivals today.” In short, cannabis is as ancient and respected a part of Indian life as yoga. An article in Yoga Journal, cites Swami Saradananda, author of Sri Ramakrishan: the Great Master, making many references to cannabis use by wandering yogis.
Many yoga instructors today recognize that most who practice yoga are looking for physical and mental relaxation, and see cannabis as a valuable tool to help them to relax, gain greater awareness of the body, and focus on postures. They know that it can help relieve joint and muscle pain that makes yoga postures difficult.
Benefit: Heightened Awareness of Body
One obvious benefit of cannabis in yoga practice is a heightened awareness of the body. For those whose daily lives are lived in the mind, the transition to body focus in yoga can be difficult. Cannabis can help speed that shift making the whole yoga session more satisfying.
Benefit: Greater Focus
Moderate amounts of cannabis can help yoga practitioners to focus on position, stillness and breathing, enhancing the effect of each posture. In a Leafly post “Yoga, Cannabis and You: 6 Best Practices for Pairing Yoga and Marijuana” they advise “…getting too high may cause your mind to wander. If your goal is to clear the way for better focus during yoga, start with small doses and note how it affects your ability to pay attention. Should you find your mind wandering a bit, reconnect with your breath, listen closely to the cues, and go with the flow.”
Benefit: Reduced Pain
For those suffering from muscle strain or chronic joint problems, cannabis can help reduce inflammation and pain, making it easier to move into and hold yoga postures.
Benefit: Deeper Relaxation
One of the goals of yoga is a profound sense of relaxation. By helping you to relax early in the session, cannabis can help you go with and not fight postures, deepening your sense of the relaxation and refreshment.
Testimonial of a Yoga Teacher
Yoga teacher Lacey Davis reported on her experiences teaching cannabis yoga in YogiApproved.com: “Through my personal experience of practicing high yoga for the past 12 years, and more recently, teaching others, I have witnessed the immense healing benefits of combining the two, and numerous students have found a healthy path to treating their ailments holistically.
While teaching ‘CannaYoga’ classes, I have witnessed the euphoric effects of a good yoga practice paired with good ganja. Students leave feeling relief from pain and stress, with smiles on their faces and inner awareness in their eyes.”
Davis feels ganja yoga can create a sense of connection: “To me as a yoga teacher, the best part of the cannabis yoga classes is the community they create.”
Testimonial of a Yoga Practitioner
Lindsay Kellner, Contributing Wellness & Beauty Editor for MBGMindfulness, wrote of her first experience combining cannabis and yoga: I tried ganja yoga and here’s what happened. She cites nine ways her yoga practice was different:
- I “dropped in” right away
- My senses were heightened
- The music (or silence) really mattered
- My movements were beat-driven, pulsing and oceanic
- I felt more connected to my insides
- Every sensation was exaggerated
- I was motivated by what felt sensible versus mental goals
- Poses echoed like they do in savasana, but throughout practice
- Closed circuitry felt really satisfying.
Kellner’s experience was largely positive. Her prognosis? She enjoyed the class, but felt the experience, for her, might have been better alone, “I wouldn’t recommend going to a public class stoned unless everyone around you was also partaking in a safe space. That said, ganja yoga can be a pleasant way to unwind at the end of the day and invite creativity into your practice.”
Is cannabis right for your yoga practice? Only you can be the judge. We encourage you to learn more about this issue by reading some of these useful articles we’ve discovered: