For those of us who love both cannabis and yoga, bringing the two together just seems to be such a natural fit. One of the most interesting things I have noticed as more states legalize cannabis into adult-use markets is the increase in cannabis infused yoga class platforms. I attend one regularly here in Portland thanks to Jayne retail shop and yogi Adam Andrews Johnson, and have seen people who love cannabis try yoga out for the first time, and have seen people who love yoga try pairing it with cannabis for the first time.
While there are several platforms that have sprung up across the country that combine yoga and cannabis in various ways, included Ganja Yoga and M.Y. Chronic Relief, one that I have been most interested in is Sanna CBD Yoga, which primarily operates on the East Coast of the U.S. Not only is this platform using cannabis and yoga for wellness, but they are creating community and fostering conversations about this topic.
I wrote an entire article in the premiere issue of Sweet Jane (a new publication that magazine empowers women and mothers who support legal cannabis use) about cannabis and yoga, but I wanted to share the interview with Sanna CBD Yoga founders Salam Diri and Estefania Valencia. They are based out of Hoboken, NJ (where they started) and we have expanded to New York City. They have monthly events in three locations in NYC, and have also done events in D.C., but are essentially remote and willing to come in other states to teach as well.
Why do Cannabis and Yoga pair together so well?
When yoga and Cannabis are combined, whether it is in the CBD form or the THC (psychoactive) form, a beautiful harmonious process occurs. Cannabis and Yoga work synergistically to relax the body and the mind, guiding practitioners to a deep meditative state, and enhancing the connection to themselves and the world around them. Additionally, focus and sensitivity are enhanced, therefore awakening interoception and creating a feeling of oneness, lightness and bliss. The breath deepens and tight muscles begin to relax, inflammation and pain is decreased, and as a result, mobility is enhanced. Most importantly, people’s endocannabinoid systems are stimulated and in many instances awaken, the body begins a shift to balance, and the perception of Cannabis as a dangerous substance starts to change. (Estefania Valencia)
Yoga is known for having many health benefits, from improving mobility, flexibility and strength, to reducing pain, improving circulation and much more. However, it is not hard to realize after practicing yoga even for a couple days, that the physical benefits are secondary to the practice. At the core, yoga teaches us to be self-aware, it helps us connect to our true essence and find balance, in a physical, energetic, mental and spiritual sense. Most people live their lives not really feeling what is like to be inside their own bodies, bombarded with thoughts from insecurities, responsibilities, memories, emotions, random thoughts and nowadays, technological distractions. A life in which the only awareness is inside the head. (Estefania Valencia)
Humans have the capacity to communicate with their bodies in a way that most people never experience and that is because there is a disconnection between the mind, the body, and the breath. (Salam Diri)
In yoga the breath is used as tool to enhance that connection, when a person focuses on their breath, their nervous system relaxes, the mind becomes quiet, and they are able to perceive their body in a different way. Additionally, when the mind quiets, they can become witness to thoughts that arise, and consciously observe behavioral, emotional and other thought patterns that are at the core of who they are. Like most things in life, the more you practice the better you get a it. (Estefania Valencia)
Although yoga has gained popularity in the West in the past few decades, many people still feel intimidated by the practice. Mainstream yoga is portrayed as a “flexible female” dominated practice which turns many people away from it. Even when people give it a try, they may not stick to it due to its physical demands, and some people never even consider practicing yoga. Despite what many may think, not enough people are practicing yoga today. Yoga’s primary benefits aren’t even that well known. This is why we decided to spread the message of yoga as a way to encourage and empower people to be healthier. Through yoga we spread a message of self-awareness, connection, health, community and love. (Salam Diri)
Cannabis acts on the Endocannabinoid System- an integral system that modulates almost everything within the body, its main function is to maintain balance and homeostasis. Cannabinoid receptors are found all over the body- the brain, the spinal cord, the immune system, the internal organs, the nervous system, and even on the skin. In fact, the endocannabinoid system is the most widespread receptor system in the human body. As a result, Cannabis has many medicinal properties, including reducing anxiety and pain, promoting well being and relaxation, and enhancing one’s self awareness and interoception- our ability to feel our own bodies and functions. In its smoked form it also behaves as a bronchodilator, opening the lungs and improving oxygen exchange in the body. Cannabis also improves focus and induces a state of presentness, euphoria and connection. (Salam Diri)
How do platforms like yours cater to women/mothers/grandmothers and normalizing the cannabis conversation?
Our classes are designed to be highly inclusive and accessible, we receive all different kinds of experience levels, age groups and backgrounds. We pride ourselves in creating a diverse community. Many women come to our events in search of understanding what CBD is, others want to give yoga a try for the first time and find that CBD helps them get rid of the anxiety of trying something new. Some women come in search of better ways to cope with their stress or pain. Many of our female students also bring their kids, husbands, mothers, sisters and grandmothers along with them. We are grateful to be able to provide a positive space for the whole family to learn. When people get educated, and experience cannabis for themselves through yoga and meditation in a safe, family friendly space, suddenly Cannabis doesn’t seem so dangerous. (Estefania Valencia)
Do you think that cannabis yoga classes/platforms will help with the larger paradigm shift of thought about cannabis usage and lifting the stigma?
Yes! SannaOhana Yoga & Wellness was started almost two years ago with the mission to educate the world about the incredible health benefits the cannabis plant has to offer. Sanna means perception in Sanskrit, Ohana means family. We enhance our community's perception and eliminate the stigma toward cannabis by delivering a one of a kind CBD and Yoga educational experience. Our goal is to show that the plant has a way of helping people connect with themselves and the environment, bringing people together to create a culture of peace and unity. The positive energy at our CBD yoga events is contagious, students leave happy and with a new appreciation for the cannabis plant. The day after we receive phone calls and messages from people saying how happy and relaxed they feel. We love to be able to provide a space for people to connect, learn, unwind, restore, have fun and heal! We know this has made a huge difference in the lives of many of our students, and they too begin to share and advocate for the Cannabis plant, that is the paradigm shift. (Estefania Valencia)