Cannabis and yoga have been inter-connected for thousands of years, for both religious and ceremonial purposes and it is believed that this religious connection is why cannabis was incorporated into yoga practice. In either case, yoga and cannabis seem at home with each other.
To learn more, we recently spoke with Hannah Mason, Founder of Los Angeles based Cannabis Yoga studio, Lit Yoga. Founded in 2017, Lit Yoga was the first of its kind based at an intimate private space in Venice Beach California. Hannah’s vision was simple; to open a studio which provided an educational and welcoming space for people to experience a combination of yoga and cannabis, whether for the first time, or for the hundredth time.
As described by Hannah, cannabis and yoga are an ancient pair that dates back to 2000 BC where there was mention of cannabis in the ancient Hindu texts, The Vedas. “Entheogenic plants have been used in combination with ritual, movement and prayer for a very long time. Humans all share the quest to know themselves, the world around them, and how they fit into the whole. The physical world expresses the individualism that separates us, and the spiritual world expresses the connections that unifies us. Ancient yogis were inducing altered states of consciousness through meditation, asana, pranayama, and cannabis, along with other herbs which were at times included in this way of life.”
Prior to the creation of Lit Yoga, Hannah’s relationship with cannabis started like many others, in college, whilst studying dance. “With a physically demanding schedule, cannabis truly became a medicine as I dosed myself before stretching and unwinding at the end of the day. It also provided the much-needed inspiration for music and choreography.” After Hannah graduated and moved to Los Angeles, the legal cannabis landscape was rapidly changing however the stigma attached to cannabis was still very apparent. “In 2017, before California became recreationally legal, I realized that all this time I had been hiding my cannabis consumption within the dance communities, yoga communities and health/wellness realms. Since it had been deemed as an illicit drug for so long, the stigma was real.” As legalisation propelled forward and the industry began to boom, Hannah met others who had a deep relationship with the cannabis plant but kept their relationship with the sacred plant separate from their professional, wellness and spiritual image. “It became crystal clear that there was a disconnect between those consuming cannabis and those being open about it. So the impetus to create Lit Yoga was driven by two dynamic forces: one, the healing powers of the plant that I experienced in my own body, mind and spirit and two, the desire to eliminate the stigma and change the conversation to health, wellness, and healing.”
While integrating cannabis into your next yoga session may seem like a scary thought at first for beginners or even seasoned yogis, its benefits for the mind and body may surprise you. As Hannah explains: “When we include cannabis before the yoga asanas, breathwork or meditation practices, it induces an altered state of consciousness. In this altered state, the effects can include heightened body awareness, reduced inflammation and reduced physical pain, deeper connection to emotions stored in the body as tension, new wiring and perspectives in the mind, connection to community, enhanced awareness of breath or lack thereof, introspection, reflection, and a sense of playfulness and laughter.”
Lit Yoga offers both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products in their studio practices – each providing their own unique experience. As we know, CBD doesn’t produce a euphoric effect like its sibling THC however using both versions separately or in combination during yoga practice can be beneficial. “CBD can be great for practicing in the morning when you don’t want the potency of THC, or if using THC makes you feel anxious or paranoid. CBD is a great alternative that still provides many health benefits that the cannabis plant has to offer. A THC yoga experience can sometimes feel like a therapy session, where you tune in (whether it’s comfortable or not) to the truths inside you. While CBD can still provide a space for introspection, it is a milder experience which is still highly beneficial,” Hannah explains.
Given the current legalisation in Australia, the consumption of cannabis is only legal in the privacy of your own home if you are an approved legal patient. If you’re interested, but unsure about where to start, we asked Hannah for some much-needed guidance to help you navigate the landscape of bringing cannabis into yoga.
For the Newbies
“One of the best ways to integrate cannabis in your practice at home is to create a ritual or ceremony around your cannabis consumption. Create the container or your space where you will practice. Pick out the strain or tincture or product you will consume. Start by sitting in a comfortable position and drop into your breath or a meditative state before you consume. Bring intention to what you are consuming and why, perhaps write a journal about your intentions before you consume. Express gratitude to the plant and to all those who have worked so hard for you to have access to this magical plant. Consume before you begin to practice. You can also take a break during your practice to consume more if you feel it’s needed. Stay mindful of your dose and let the herb guide you deeper into your experience.”
“It is challenging to give strain recommendations as all people respond differently to different compounds and terpenes; we all have a different Endocannabinoid System! However, if you are combining cannabis with a more active practice, I suggest finding strains that are higher in terpenes like Pinene (pine smell, earthy and bright) and Limonene (citrus notes, alerting and activating) as those will provide a more uplifting and energizing experience. For a more mellow and restorative practice, I suggest strains with terpenes like Linalool (found in Lavender) or Myrcene (found in hops) as they have more sedative and relaxing properties.”
Hannah also suggests “finding strains with a more balanced ratio of THC and CBD (1:1 or 1:2), as these strains keep you very present for your practice and the lower THC percentages can eliminate the concern for anxiety or paranoia. In general, it takes some exploring and experimenting to find the best strains that are suitable for you, your sense of smell is a big indicator in how the strain will interact with your particular system so if you are not sure, always go with what smells the most delicious to you.”
“In terms of dosing, start small and grow from there. When combining with a yoga practice it is ideal to find the dose that gives you the effect without overloading your system. Over-consumption can easily happen so start with 1-5 mg of an edible or a few hits of a joint or piece, wait a bit and see how you feel. You can always consume more but you can’t backtrack!”
Lit Yoga has now evolved into far more than just a Yoga studio. In early 2019, their Venice studio was closed in preparation for their new space in Downtown Los Angeles. In collaboration with Los Angeles Body Work Collective, they now offer cannabis infused massages and bodywork, along with other wellness workshops and events. Lit Yoga now offers classes across Los Angeles, New York City, Washington DC, and Alaska.
Lit Yoga also offers educational training for yoga teachers including highly experienced yoga practitioners who are interested in learning more about cannabis and how to integrate it confidently and safely into their practices and teachings. The training covers everything from the history of cannabis (and yoga), botany and science of the cannabis plant and how it interacts in our bodies, structuring your classes, holding space for altered states of consciousness, cannabis as a lens into herbalism, and the legality and business side of being a Lit Yoga teacher. Due to COVID-19, Lit Yoga is excited to announce their first online version of this training which will begin in two weeks’ time. For more information, click here and fill out a registration form if you’re interested in joining.
Namaste future cannabis yogis.