Hearing Dee Dussault talk about her wellness hybrid class, Ganja Yoga, makes it seem as if the two were always supposed to be experienced together, like peanut butter and jelly; “Cannabis enhances yoga the same way it enhances a concert or a sunset. The two things individually are great, but combined they’re alchemic.”
In 2012, just as the medicinal benefits of the plant were starting to be embraced by the Californian mainstream, Dussault opened her own yoga studio on the outskirts of San Francisco. From the get-go she noticed many of her students were buzzing even before the opening Om, and an idea for the ultimate mind-body workout took root.
We caught up with the Toronto native to find out about the alleged benefits of Ganja Yoga, the lineage of which, according to her research, stretches back to ancient India, and the cults who ritualistically consumed cannabis in worship ceremonies.
Yoga and cannabis both speak to the parasympathetic nervous system, the body’s ‘rest & digest’ setting as opposed to the ‘fight or flight’ mode associated with stress and worry.
“Together they help tone down the analyzing and the planning that happens in the prefrontal cortex so you can focus more on sensual engagement and sensory experience.” In other words, they enhance your ability to get out of your head and into the present moment, adeptly reducing anxiety in the process.
Numerous studies have suggested yoga and cannabis both offer medical benefits. Researchers have credited the two “wellness aids” with reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, reducing chronic pain and inflammation, and aiding sleep.
Combined, Dassault believes each compliments and enhances the powers of the other, for health boosts that are even more potent.
“Don’t challenge yourself in an intense way,” Dussault told us. “In our society people tend to think of yoga as very athletic and full of body contortions, but this is your personal practice not the Yoga Olympics.”
Although it might not immediately appeal to fans of fast-paced power vinyasa (a dynamic style of yoga defined by the constant “flow” from one pose to the next), she promotes a back-to-basics approach through her teaching. When practiced with the addition of cannabis, a slower flow with more mindful transitions helps her students experience and appreciate poses in a whole new light.
Dussault’s students generally use an uplifting sativa-based hybrid for the asana portion (active poses) of the practice and a more mellow indica-dominant strain for a “cozy” savasana and “profoundly altered” meditation.
Dassault explains that Ganja Yoga “helps you appreciate the subtle aspects of the mind and reach new layers of consciousness.” In other words, cannabis might help you meditate more deeply and for longer periods of time.
This increases the considerable brain and body benefits of the practice, which research suggests might encompass everything from lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke to increasing concentration and compassion.