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Ganja Yoga: Greatest Thing Since 420 Behind the Bleachers, Or Not?



Maybe you aren’t a California teenager from the 1970s that was doing hashish behind the bleachers in high-school, but you’d like to revisit the pleasant feeling that marijuana gave you – only like an adult. Maybe you’re even going to dive in for the first time? There’s a new (well, rediscovered) way to get your ganja-high, and it doesn’t require you to take an intercontinental flight to Amsterdam or even a short puddle-jump to Colorado. It’s the reefer-infused yoga class.

It isn’t anything trendy or happening, and you don’t need a $100 pair of yoga pants from Lemony Lulu or some such company to practice. All you do is smoke (or vaporize) some pot before a yoga class. Dee Dussalt has even written about it extensively the book, Ganja Yoga: A Practical Guide to Conscious Relaxation, Soothing Pain, and Enlightened Self Discovery.

This practice isn’t new, either. Ancient yogic texts talk about smoking pot, and it’s no surprise – the changes in consciousness scientifically documented by each practice are similar. The Naga Sadhus that reside in the Himalayas, for instance, centralize much of their practice around smoking pot.

According to ancient Vedic texts, such as the Artha Veda, marijuana has a number of medicinal benefits and is considered a sacred plant. It is only due to Western influence that marijuana in banned in India, but this doesn’t keep many sadhus from using it.

Five plants, specifically are mentioned in Book 11, Hymn 8 (or 6), Verse 15 of the Artha Veda, and marijuana is one of them:

पञ्च राज्यानि वीरुधां सोमश्रेष्ठानि ब्रूमः।

दर्भो भङ्गो यवः सह ते नो मुञ्चन्त्व् अंहसः॥

“To the five kingdoms of the plants which Soma rules as Lord we speak.
Darbha, hemp, barley, mighty power: may these deliver us from woe.”

The word ‘भङ्ग’ (bhang) here refers to the cannabis plant.

A guardian angel was thought to live in cannabis leaves.

Sadhus often smoke pot today, though the tradition is at least 2,000 years old.

Sadhus often smoke pot today, though the tradition is at least 2,000 years old.

The Vedas name cannabis as a source of happiness, and joy, as well as the liberator that was compassionately given to humans to help us attain delight and lose fear (Abel, 1980). It releases us from anxiety. The god, Shiva is frequently associated with cannabis (bhang).

On yoga forums, whether to use pot or not use pot is a huge discussion. There are differing opinions, but mostly they boil down to three basic strains of thought:

You Shouldn’t Do It

You’ll be too baked to attempt anything more rigorous than Savasana, (Corpse pose). For much of the class, you’ll lay face down on the mat doing the most rigorous yoga you can muster, which is not much at all. Also, if you are prone to addiction of any substance, though marijuana has benefits, it can also cause a veil of illusion, called “maya.”

If you are searching for real experience, and use an external source, it is likely to mask the ego not dissolve it. If you are high, it can also make it difficult to maintain purusha – a Sanskrit term referenced in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.2 which states: “Yoga chitta vritti nirodha,” This means yoga is the individual discipline that leads to the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” Real discipline is only possible when you are able to still the fluctuations and notice them naturally, through meditation and pranayama. If you are high you may not notice these fluctuations, just temporarily obliterate them.

It Depends on What You’re Seeking

The use of marijuana depends on the purpose of one’s practice and thus the purpose of one’s life and their perceived actions toward those purposes. Some people do yoga to relieve stress and to feel good. Others want to achieve enlightenment, and become free from the ego’s trappings, which can include the need for outside sources (like marijuana consumption) to achieve inner peace. There’s a continuum and different people will base their practice on what they want to achieve. Some people want to become more sensitive and aware – an activity that happens by relaxing the central nervous system, but not putting it to sleep.

The yoga enthusiast and NBA basketball great once said: that he loved MJ, but it never helped him shoot a better jump shot.

Partaking of ganga before yoga also depends on the strain. Marijuana horticulture is extremely advanced and each strain can generate a different sensation. Though some will feel a “high” akin to euphoria and relaxation. Other people get giddy. Some get lethargic.  Some get sleepy, energized, ravenous for food, or super introspective.

Go For It

Hey, if yogis did this 2,000 years ago or more, what’s the harm in it now?

Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), said in an interview earlier this year that he sees the ties between medicinal plants like cannabis and psychedelics coming full circle to reunite with meditation, Buddhism and yoga.

“There is this cultural coming together of cannabis and psychedelics with Buddhism, meditation, yoga, which is tremendously encouraging,” Doblin said, noting that in the ’60s and early ’70s many people experimentally combined psychedelics or weed with meditative practices. With criminalization, many turned to non-drug alternatives and there was a bit of backlash. “There came this anti-drug aspect to Buddhism and meditation… And now, what we see is this coming together again of Buddhism, meditation and psychedelics [and cannabis] in kind of a parallel process.” 

With increasing evidence proving that many plants (MDMA, psilocybin, ayahuasca, DMT, cannabis) offer an incredible benefit to the human physiology, and can even help to open the pineal gland, thought to be the doorway to astral travel, increased conscious awareness, and even cosmic, inter-dimensional travel, why not partake?

Is Ganga Yoga for you? There are good arguments for all three points of view, so it really depends on – well – you.

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