Canada: Why Some Yoga Classes Are Using Pot In Their Practice

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Class was supposed to start almost 20 minutes ago. Most of the yoga students are still socializing, sipping tea and taking a few last tokes of marijuana.

The group slowly makes their way to their mats, spread out in the centre of the Green Sprouts Cafe and Vapor Lounge. The Barrie, Ont., cannabis lounge hosts cannabis yoga classes every Sunday.

“We’re always 15 minutes late,” said cannabis yoga instructor Trina Wannamaker. She was busy toking up too.

The cannabis class is a lot like regular yoga. There are downward dogs, child’s poses and cobras. But some students have vaporizer bags at their side, ready for tokes when needed. Others get high before class, using volcano-shaped vaporizers.

Erin Jewell, who co-instructs the class with Wannamaker, said students are welcome to toke up at any point though there’s no obligation to.

“Where a normal instructor would say, ‘Hey, have a glass of water,’ we’ll say, ‘Have a glass of water or a bit of a toke.'”

For Jewell, the pairing helps her focus more.

“It’s a connection of the mind and the body, which is hard to achieve in Western society at all, but especially if you are completely stone sober, it’s not likely to happen at all,” she said.

“It helps to allow your thoughts to move a little slower and to really allow you to truly focus on your body and your breathing.”

‘I can do it sober but …’

Curtis Hagerman inhales a couple vaporizer bags before class and keeps one at his side during so he can toke here or there. The cannabis helps him relax.

“Marijuana can … help you not think about it. Make it go away. A little easier to kind of look at the void and just be OK with it all. And concentrating with your breath and kind of losing yourself in that,” he said. It also helps Hagerman with his flow — movement crucial to yoga.

“I can do it sober but it’s just so much nicer this way I find.”

Marco Duarte is on the mat next to Hagerman, wearing stretchy psychedelic-colored pants and a partially tie-dyed T-shirt featuring an alien with marijuana leaves for eyes. He’s been doing yoga since he got a back injury.

He ended this particular class blissed out and “incredibly stoned.”

“It amplifies the whole thing. You get really into it,” he said of mixing yoga with marijuana. “I felt very connected with my body. I felt very connected with everything that she was saying.”

How do they do it?

Chris Green, who co-owns the lounge with his wife, Gillian, said they are operating within the law. They do not sell cannabis but rather serve as a space where users — many with medicinal marijuana licenses — can come and consume it. Customers must be over 19 and the Greens can ask to see ID.

But they said they cannot specifically ask whether they have been prescribed medicinal marijuana as, they say, “it would be a lawsuit liability due to patient-doctor confidentiality.”

The couple said they follow health, police, bylaw, fire and police department regulations just like any other business and have valid Ontario business and restaurant licenses.

“Normalization is what we are trying to do here,” he said. “Cannabis starts as a sprout. Coffee starts as a sprout. Like all plants, it’s just a plant.”

Photo Credit: Haydn Watters

Wannamaker echoes that.

“We’re here for inclusivity,” she said, post-class. “We’ve created one more small safe space for people that might be overlooked in the traditional sense when it comes to inviting people into social circles and into different communities.”

‘Yoga itself is the high’

Not all yogis are sold. Violet Pasztor founded and runs the Canadian Yoga Alliance, which has about 2,000 members who are registered yoga teachers. She doesn’t think an added buzz, like cannabis, is necessary.

“Personally, blazing in a yoga class, no, I don’t agree with it,” she said. “Yoga itself is the high.”

She thinks with legalization impending, cannabis yoga will likely become more of a trend, but thinks it will fade away when people realize “how ridiculous it is.” These types of classes have also been held in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Cannabis yoga is the latest in a long list of alternative yoga treatments. There’s been beer yoga, snow yoga, alpaca yoga and goat yoga — all which Pasztor thinks are “fluff.”

“We’re all about true yoga,” she said. “Ultimate true yoga … is a natural high and it’s about the natural path.”

Jewell disagrees.

“I find when people go into a normal yoga studio … there’s that little feeling of trepidation and anxiety of, ‘Everyone’s a yogi. Everyone’s going to be judging me. What if I’m not wearing my yoga outfit like everyone else is?,'” she said.

“When you come here, people are in their sweats. It doesn’t really matter as much. There’s no judgment. Everyone’s just doing their own thing.”

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