Ecks and the City: is ganja yoga the secret to health and happiness?
I attempt to awaken my chakra with a little ‘medicinal’ meditation
“Are you stoned right now?” I ask Lu, owner of The House of Yoga, a studio located in the back of a head shop on Bloor Street West. It’s not meant to be a rude question. I just need to know what I’m dealing with. I’m about to participate in ganja yoga, which is pretty self-explanatory: you do yoga stoned on cannabis. Enough said? Well, not really. It’s quite fascinating, I quickly learn.
I begin an e-mail exchange with Lu, 38, before I attend one of the three ganja yoga classes she holds per week. She ends her exchanges with “Much love,” and I like that. It’s very rare that a stranger will end an e-mail like that.
When I meet her before the two-hour class, I like her even more. The Brazilian mother of three has, what you would say in this environment, a great aura. She is super-friendly, funny and kisses and hugs me.
Lu started teaching ganja yoga about two months ago after she realized that most of her students were coming in stoned anyway (her husband owns the head shop High Times).
“I really believe in this plant,” she says. “Cannabis is humanity’s oldest crop, so it is not surprising to find that it has been intricately associated with spiritual awakening.” Ganja, she explains, stimulates an area of the brain called the pineal gland, a tiny eye-shaped area between the eyebrows, which in meditation we call the “third eye chakra.” According to Lu, if you couple the psychedelic affects of cannabis with a meditative yoga practice, you may be able to awaken this area more quickly.
You are probably asking, as I did, how is this legal? Well, she doesn’t deal drugs, she just offers a space where her clients can inhale “the good stuff,” using a vaporizer that looks like a bowl with a very large baggie attached. Not techically illegal, but according to the Toronto Police, there could be consequences unless each person participating is a certified medicinal user.
Vaporizers are the cleanest way, apparently, to smoke ganja. Lu’s website says, “BYOP” — bring your own pot. “Here,” she says, “you don’t have to hide. Everyone has red eyes!”
I bring a friend along, and by 7 p.m., about 10 people have laid down their yoga mats and gathered around the vaporizer, like they are gathered around a campfire. It has that close feeling, too. I realize immediately that the reason this yoga class is two hours long is because for the first 30 minutes, everyone is sitting around getting stoned. For first-timers, Lu suggests that they don’t smoke too much, because it may distract from the practice instead of enhance it.
I’m surprised: the people here do not look like stoners. I talk to a pharmacist, who is a regular, a woman nicknamed the Ganja Queen (a pharmacist!). She says the classes helped save her life. “I didn’t want to kill myself, but I didn’t want to wake up. I was so depressed, and then I met Lu and did her classes, and now I’m happy, happy!”
After 30 minutes, we head to our mats. Lu tells me there will be no balancing poses. “What would be the point? They would just be wobbling all over the place!” She laughs. In her class, it’s not about who is best, which is refreshing. “People come for the energy. Some people work 15-hour days or their knees are hurting and this really helps them.”
As we’re warming up, my friend leans over and whispers, “I’m really buzzed.” There are a few giggles from the back of the class, which I think is to be expected. But surprisingly, everyone is really good at yoga. They are super-flexible and obviously have been practising a long time.
There is one man, however, who arrived in jeans and just lies at the back of the class, not doing anything at all. “He has very bad arthritis,” Lu tells me. “He pays the $20 each week just to come and lie here and he says lying here for two hours is like getting eight hours of a good sleep.”
Lu comes from a good place. Her daughter suffered from juvenile arthritis and the only thing that worked was cannabis cookies. “The doctors told us that she would end up in a wheelchair, and if you looked at her now, you would not notice anything different about her.”
After the second round of smoking (which takes up another half-hour), there are only a couple more poses. Then, Lu ends with a 20-minute shavasana (where you just lie on your back).
“Listen, everyone in Canada smokes! I think 90 per cent of people smoke,” says Lu. (I know a ton of Forest Hill and Thornhill parents who smoke in their garages once the kiddies are in bed.)
I can’t say this class is something I would do regularly. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to. I went straight home and had the best sleep I’ve had for years.
Rebecca Eckler is the author of four books: Knocked Up, Wiped!, How to Raise a Boyfriend and The Lucky Sperm Club.