Higher Self Yoga

Yoga and cannabis might seem like the new kid on the block, but it turns out it’s nothing new at all. The two have deep roots through the history of India, the birthplace of yoga. It is there that practitioners used the herb for centuries. Cannabis is even mentioned in The Vedas, a Hindu sacred script dating back 2000 to 1400 B.C.

During the 1960s, people like Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, and Ram Dass started combining yoga and meditation with cannabis and psychedelics. Eventually with the War on Drugs in full swing, things changed and using cannabis became synonymous with laziness and the munchies.

Now the pendulum has slowly swung back. As our stance towards cannabis has shifted, THC-infused yoga classes started popping up in Toronto, San Francisco and Los Angeles around 2010.

The combination of the two was first met with skepticism and ridicule, but as scientists discover more of the plants’ benefits — people’s perceptions are slowly changing.

This growing popularity has encouraged me to try the combo of yoga and cannabis for myself. I went down to my neighborhood yoga studio. It was 7:30 p.m. on a Friday in Culver City, California and people were gathering inside the Goda Studio for the monthly session of Higher Self Yoga.

While there, I spoke with owners, Emily Meyers and Nathania Stambouli, who’ve taught the class since 2016.

The class welcomes approximately 25-30 participants of all age ranges, who must show ID and valid 215 card to attend. “We probably wouldn’t recommend this class for someone who has never taken cannabis and never done yoga,” said Stambouli, “Some degree of experience with cannabis is recommended, since we all react differently and it’s important to ensure that you feel good during the session.”

The atmosphere in the studio is relaxed but giddy with anticipation, as PureVape hands out goodie bags complete with an indica pen and other trinkets, but don’t think you can bring your own glass blown bong and just toke up, said Stambouli. “We usually don’t have vendors here, but it’s something we are trying. We do not allow any outside substances into the studio, so we are better able to control the quality of the experience.”

Phil, a 60 year old participant, explained that when he first took the class  he didn’t even know cannabis was being used, but he gave it a go. Tonight, he is back and signing up for a membership

Fifteen minutes into the session, we were welcomed into a candle lit room where mats had been placed in a circle. As we plop down and play with our swag bags, Meyers is in the center of the room and is softly gathering our attentions towards her and the session ahead. She welcomes us and gives a brief explanation of what we can expect, and why the vape pen is the preferred method in the class. Since edibles are hard to dose correctly, the effects you are looking for might not kick in until you are halfway home, so vaping offers a safer alternative.

Most in the class had joined out of pure curiosity and in search of something new. A few shared emotional and touching reasons for their attendance, attributed interest to the sense of community offered here. The common thread we all had was searching for an alternative approach to our health and well-being.

Finding the right strain to exercise to can be tricky when starting out. Different indicas seem to be the most popular way to go, but as people get more used to the practice, many start to use hybrids and sativas with a higher CBD content

Our practice started with breathing exercises and the room slowly got warmer as Stambouli guided us gently through a number of poses and sequences, “The yoga is more chill — the purpose is not to work out, but to feel a deep connection to one’s breath and body,” adding, “It is gentle vinyasa. Our Higher Self Yoga classes are intended to build community and help us connect with ourselves and one another on a deeper level. It is not a ‘get high and do yoga’ class.”

For more information, visit Higherself-Yoga.com

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