Chioma Nwosu Photographed by Jeff Skeirik/Rawtographer at Radha Yoga LA.
Good Intentions, Great Vibrations: Ceremonial Work
LA-based yoga teacher Dee Dussault, creator of Ganja Yoga, considers cannabis an ally. She believes the plant intends to help humans heal both physically and mentally; that it was sent to remind us that “there’s more to life than the constant producing and constant consumption we do.”
“I focus on feeling grounded, on slow flow, on breath, which is the whole point of yoga—to turn inward,” agrees Eustacio-Costa, who pairs her classes with specific cannabis strains, almost always chosen for their introspective qualities, so cannabis becomes intimately intertwined with asana. “Very much the way the sadhus did 2,000 years ago. We start off with the mindfulness of smoking and, okay, how does it feel?” she says. “How is my high showing up?”
Though cannabis has been legal for adult recreational use in California for less than two years, Eustacio-Costa has already noticed a deepening and maturing in her students who are incorporating cannabis into their practice. It is a far cry from the canna-curious who populated her “more underground” classes a few years ago. These days, she’s doing a lot less educating and a lot more community building—a natural part of the cannabis-yoga synergy.
“I love cannabis yogis,” says Hannah Mason of Lit Yoga in Venice, where guest teachers are invited in for events such as a recent workshop about toning the endocannabinoid system through nutrition, sleep, and exercise. “There are so many different people who are drawn to this, and I think that’s the beauty of it—that we have this eclectic array of different voices, and it’s not all just the same perspective.”
“Now that it’s legal, people are so hungry for knowledge,” Nwosu says. “There’s so much to cover about cannabis. I want people to walk away with more understanding of cannabis as a plant spirit medicine, more understanding of how to incorporate it into their yoga practice, and more understanding of the different rituals, as they show up and share with community, to keep the resonance of the medicine elevated.”
Consuming cannabis piques our awareness that we are connected to the universe, to something greater than ourselves, which naturally fosters a sense of acceptance, says Freeport, Maine-based Selma Holden, a board-certified family physician who recently finished Harvard Medical School’s Integrative Medicine post-doctoral research fellowship, where she focused on prenatal yoga classes.
“The idea is for the person to have a moment of stillness and reflection, and then from that point be able to say, ‘Okay, based on where I am here now, and where I’m coming from, where do I want to move forward to?’ And that is when we invite in the cannabis in,” Holden explains.
In her Cannabis-Enhanced Yoga for Mindful Embodiment classes, Holden promotes mental, emotional, and physical flexibility. “We can view ourselves from a different vantage point, a new perspective,” she says, “which may lead to people finding creative solutions.”
That is without a doubt the spirit behind Marin, California-based Bliss Nectar Experience, which features yoga, tantra, and plant spirit meditation with heirloom cacao and cannabis medicines in ceremonial journeys. At Bliss Nectar Experience, co-creator Elizabeth Bast, who wrote Heart Medicine: A True Love Story, about a healing experience with the African sacred plant medicine iboga, is honoring traditional ceremonial wisdom by cultivating new cannabis traditions at home.
“Our intention for holding the sacred space is to bring people into a very high vibrational circle,” explains Bliss Nectar Experience co-creator Scarlet Ravin, founder of White Fox Medicine. “I make high tinctures and medicine offerings, so I bring the medicine to the yoga party or the meditation workshop, and Elizabeth holds the sacred space and creates the workshop structure. People get to see and feel the medicine as a sacrament. Once that imprint is in their soul, it’s in their soul.”
Bast is adamant about respecting cannabis as medicine. “When people just consume cannabis without pausing to honor or listen to the plant spirit, that is disrespectful,” she says. “It’s like she is being looked at like a sex object, like a piece of flesh, like they’re just using her body rather than tuning into the soul of a being, of a lover. If someone is just using you for your body, how much of yourself are you going to give to them? How much of your wisdom and your pearls?”
Ganjasana founder Rachael Carlevale, who has been leading cannabis yoga ceremonies in Colorado and around the world since 2015, believes cannabis is always the star of the show, the teacher and the guru. “When I lead ceremonies, I am just a guide,” she says. “The plants have the wisdom, and I’m just setting up a safe and sacred space for people to feel comfortable exploring in their own creative ways.”
Celina Archambault, founder of Plant Tigress in Vancouver, BC, says practicing yoga poses grounds participants when she leads intimate ceremonial circles with cannabis. “Yoga and meditation are the same thing as love, and I think the more we all start to step into this wave of love, the better our collective consciousness will be,” she says. “We have been disconnected to that for so long.”
Cannabis is useful in spiritual practice because it temporarily amplifies energy, says Stephen Gray, creative director at Spirit Plant Medicine in Vancouver, BC, and author of Cannabis and Spirituality: An Explorer’s Guide to an Ancient Plant Spirit. “Any practice that in itself can engender spiritual healing and awakening can be enhanced by the skillful inclusion of cannabis,” he says.
Miami-based Kenyatta Bell, founder of Root of Recovery, leads CBD and Sound Experiences, a workshop that encourages people to investigate the root of their addiction for a deeper recovery with a combination of yoga, meditation, and sound therapy. Because he has an “exaggerated” personal history with cannabis, and because his clients have histories of addiction, Bell works primarily with the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD. “The idea is to pair yogic breath work and sound with CBD,” Bell says, “which has been great for clients suffering with pain and inflammation and depression and anxiety.”
Bell says people walk out feeling euphoric after experiencing a journey that helps them physically and emotionally. “Many of my clients have no exposure or frame of reference for yoga or meditation, and it’s very intimidating for them. Any tool that can help them cope with life, reduce anxiety and stress, and walk in a world of sobriety has immeasurably value. Dosing with CBD helps them to relax, and helps stop the monkey mind.”