BY MARIA DEL RUSSO
There are certain things that just seem to go together intuitively. For some, that’s peanut butter and jelly. For others, it’s a good glass of wine and a juicy steak. For Dee Dussault, that’s yoga and marijuana. For the past nine years, she’s been teaching Ganja Yoga, a slow-flow class that she developed, which involves 30 minutes of cannabis consumption before you even the downward dog.
The concept began percolating when Dussault was in her 20s. “The first time I tried cannabis, I had a bad trip,” she explains. “Every time I tried to consume after that, I’d get PTSD and worry that it might happen again.” It wasn’t until Dussault was almost 30 when she consumed a smaller dose of cannabis and truly fell in love with weed. “I’d been doing yoga for 12 years sober, but after consuming cannabis, I had the idea to try the two together,” she says.
And thus, Ganja Yoga was born. Since then, Dussault has set out to create a safe, symbiotic environment for folks to consume and practice. Her practice is open to all, as she lays out in the opening section of her book Ganja Yoga, which was published in 2017:
If you’re already a cannabis user, whether seasoned daily stoner or an occasional toker, I hope you’ll be inspired to try yoga, and especially stoned-yoga. If you already practice yoga, I’d love to inspire you to try a slower, easier, more mindful practice than what’s usually thought of as “yoga,” and to get you hooked into the wellness benefits of the complex and miraculous plant that is cannabis! In either case, I also want to teach you my best practices to avoid injury, especially if you are going to be starting to teach your own enhanced classes!
As the pioneer of this movement, it is important to me that Ganja Yoga be yoga for all bodies, able to work for anyone to some degree. If you’re not sure you can do it, know that I’ve taught it to an eighty-year-old MS patient in a wheelchair, a man recovering from a ten-year coma, more than one expecting mom, veterans, several abundant-bodied folks, and many inflexible people who claimed they couldn’t “do yoga.”
And that ethos holds true. In her L.A. class, Dussault attracts a wide range of individuals—from hardcore yogis to occasional practitioners, casual cannabis consumers and dedicated stoners alike. “I have a sign out front that says ‘If you’re new, start low and go slow,’” Dussault says. “I want people to know that the practice is individualized and that they should respect their individual relationship with cannabis and yoga.” Folks bring their own weed (because of laws in California, Dussault cannot sell her own), and they start class by consuming and chatting before getting down to the yoga.
For Dussault, combining cannabis and yoga helps people tap into even deeper levels of calmness. “Both are tools for relaxation,” she says. “When you combine the two, it makes [both practices] more mindful and embodied.” The yoga Dussault instructs for her Ganja classes is less of a hardcore vinyasa flow and more of a calming Hatha practice. “It’s more about stretch and relaxation,” she says.
There has been some pushback, especially from hardcore, traditional yogis who feel that incorporating cannabis somehow takes away from the practice. “They think that yoga is a complete practice,” Dussault explains. “So why should you add to it? Why enhance it?” But she sees cannabis as another means of enhancing the yoga experience—much like the sticky yoga mats, the candles, and the music we can opt to listen to during a class.
When it comes to dosing, however, she actually agrees with some of the criticism, at least to a certain degree. “People have expressed concern about addiction, or less-than-mindful use,” she says. Accordingly, Dussault encourages the minimum effective dose for her class—in other words, the smallest amount you personally can take to feel the effects. She’s also quick to say she doesn’t condone doing anything illegal, so if you live in a state where cannabis is a no-no, she suggests testing out some CBD. Luckily, Dussault says the plant’s psychoactive andnon-psychoactive aspects are equally suited for yoga. In other words, if you’ve got reservations about supplementing those downward dogs with THC, incorporating CBD into your yoga practice is a great alternative.
And while she doesn’t think you should smoke and then go to a yoga class notintended for the combo, Dussault is a fan of testing this flow on your own. “Always do a restorative, slow, Hatha yoga, and only consume the minimum effective dose,” she says. Stay away from headstands or any hard yoga poses, too. If you stick to these basic rules, you’re likely to have a good time.
“It’s a beautiful practice that encourages relaxation and mindfulness,” Dussault says. And really—who doesn’t need a little more of that in their lives?