My first period of sustained exercise since I was allowed to drop gym in high school went surprisingly well.
"You took Lu's class? I've been coming here for a year, and I'm still afraid to take a Lu class!" the woman beside me said as she rolled out her yoga mat in preparation for the late night class that was starting next.
I had just finished my first ganja yoga class, which was also my first yoga class, which was also my first period of sustained exercise since I was allowed to drop gym in high school. The Lu she was referring to was the instructor and founder of the House of Yoga, Lucelene Pancini, and yes, her class beat my ass.
Located in the back of the Conscious Consumption headshop in downtown Toronto, the House of Yoga studio is a cozy, welcoming room that I would imagine is like many other yoga studios. What I would guess makes this unique is what's on the altar at the front of the room beside the iPod doc: a Volcano Vaporizer. The vaporizer is a very important piece of equipment for many of the classes offered at the House Of Yoga because, in addition to a few "normal" yoga classes, this studio specializes in ganja yoga classes.
I never really had much of an interest in participating in yoga, owing to the fact that I'm generally lazy by nature and it seemed out of my comfort zone. The prospect of being able to take part in a yoga class where the curriculum included cannabis consumption, however, was a comforting enough notion to make me want to try it.
The combination of cannabis and yoga is not a modern advancement. Proponents point to the long history in cannabis in India and suggest the "herb" mentioned in ancient yoga sutras is actually cannabis. And I may just be easily swayed, but a physical activity that requires relaxation and mindfulness at the same time screams out to me for cannabis use.
Ganja yoga's modern incarnation traces its root back to Dee Dussault classes in the mid-2000s in Toronto. With Dussault now relocated and operating a successful San Francisco-based practise, House Of Yoga has stepped in to provide yoga practitioners in Toronto with cannabis-based classes, and it's becoming very popular. Some classes run into the night or into the early hours of the next morning. The class I sat in on was mainly instructors, some of the more experienced students, and myself.
After setting up our mats and getting into a meditative pose, it was instilled in me to try not to overdo it (yoga-wise) in my first class. The vapour bags were passed around (full of the vapour of a sativa or "upper" strain). We then began to pose—and it was some of the hardest shit I have done in my life. But I was able to do far more than I would have ever imagined I would have (thanks to the power of cannabis, presumably). I was relaxed enough to try things that I would have otherwise dismissed at the jump, like the "crow pose." Yes, I did fall on my flat on my face almost immediately after getting into said position, but I was comfortable enough to get back up and continue with the class. The hour-long class was one of the most physically draining yet strangely rejuvenating experiences I have ever had—like a mini mushroom trip.
After it was over, we all sat on our mats and meditated as more vapour bags (this time with a "downer" indica [meaning "from India" in classical Latin] strain) were passed around. As I breathed in the cannabis, I could feel it in my body differently than any other time I have "smoked" it. Maybe it was just a combination of the endorphins with the cannabinoids, but it actually felt as it was giving me a restorative sensation.
After the class I talked to some of the other students and was struck by how many of them had similar stories: they were practicing yoga at another studio, tried this once, and never looked back. I can see why.
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