The Neal Pollack pilgrimage: On ganja yoga, pot pretzels and understanding

After class, she and I talked. She’s 35 years old, and was formerly an ESL teacher before she became a yoga teacher. Dussault taught in Canada for five years, but then, as happens, she met a man, fell in love, got married, and moved to San Francisco to be with him. San Francisco’s yoga scene is as evolved as any in the world, but she had neither the interest in nor the budget for the trendy big-time studios. “I take the cheap classes,” she told me. She has an outsider’s mentality. The first class she taught in town, in January 2013, was during a protest of unfair labor practices at the Hyatt where Yoga Journal holds its annual San Francisco conference. Dussault shouted out asana instructions to strikers via a bullhorn.

That was a one-time thing, obviously. Instead, Dussault started carving out a Tantric niche for herself, and San Francisco proved receptive. She teaches naked yoga. She gives private Tantric sex workshops. And then she started offering public Ganja Yoga classes last September, to enthusiastic reception. The flock is gathering quickly, and she’s trying to keep it together. As she said to me, “People think I just lay around in bed and smoke weed and masturbate all day, but mostly I look at Excel spreadsheets. I think, ‘Why didn’t this person come to class?'”

Dussault would like to open her own Ganja Yoga studio, she said, but it costs $5,000 to get certified as a collective. That’s not necessarily a life’s fortune, but add to that the cost of obtaining and maintaining a Bay Area storefront, and suddenly it looks prohibitive. Still, she longs to expand. “This is an actual hot wellness trend,” she said to me. “I’ve seen it on lists. Other yoga teachers have told me they’re going to start doing this as well. And that’s great! Everyone should do Ganja Yoga. But at least I can say I was there first.”


The next night, Wednesday, I returned to Merchants Of Reality for my third consecutive day of Ganja Yoga. This class was very different from the first. It was lively from the moment I arrived. People came in at a steady pace, put down their mats, and immediately started horking on pipes, joints and vaporizers. These were the regulars, and they had their routines.

What struck me most was how normal everyone looked. They were clean-cut, well-dressed, and many of them had expensive yoga gear. Other than one guy who was wearing some questionable Yogi Toe footwear, there wasn’t a single New Age accouterment in the place. There were about 20 bodies in the room, possibly a few more. Smoking on the balcony didn’t really play into the night. These were regulars and they could drop the pretense.

A photo posted by Dee Dussault (@ganjayoga) on

My neighbors and I lolled about pleasantly, sharing pipes and joints, chewing on little candies, enjoying the calming effects of that magical weed, marijuana. Then, like a cloudburst through the calm, a chipper-looking young woman bounced up off her mat and announced she worked for a marijuana delivery service, whose name I don’t remember.

“I have lollipops!” she said. “Grape, fudge-flavored, cherry, and, my favorite, cinnamon! You guys, they are great! They are so awesome!”

We bum-rushed her like kids who’d just seen the ice-cream truck.

After she was done handing out candy, the woman took a photo of her assistant, who was smoking a bowl on her mat, and posted it somewhere, probably Instagram. Dussault later told me that this person wasn’t the official sponsor, that people have just been coming to class, making announcements, and passing out drugs, like uninvited pharma reps. The official sponsor appeared a few minutes later, as we were preparing for class to start.

At some point, a nervous-looking woman, her long blond pigtails hanging out from a spangled pink bicycle helmet, had wandered in to set up a display table of free, potent marijuana samples. Then, just as class was going to start, Dussault introduced this woman, who explained that she was the founder of the “first farm-to-table medical marijuana delivery service,” which came complete with an app that allowed you to review the soil content of the earth in which artisanal farmers were growing your weed. Then when you ordered your cannabis, she would deliver it to your house, via bicycle.

What the fuck is going on? I thought, and not just because I was stoned.

I’d come out for a night of relaxation and had instead been hit with a naked display of commercialism. But I wondered if my fellow students even noticed. Maybe, as residents of San Francisco’s hustling entrepreneurial hell, they were already used to the marijuana gold rush, where everyone is angling for a cut of California’s coming multibillion-dollar cannabis boondoggle.

The desperate commercialism seemed to run counter to yoga’s calming vibes. Then again, yoga teaches us to observe all reality, pleasant or unpleasant, as well as to observe our reactions to that reality. Every experience, thought, emotion, and weird sales pitch is all temporary, part of something larger and unknowable. I’d seen crazier stuff at yoga conferences, selling far more dubious products. Maybe it was just cool to come to class and get some free pot candy.

The woman in the pink bicycle helmet dashed away. She was only in her third day of making deliveries, and duty called. With her wild energy dispatched, we all calmly sat in a circle. Dussault instructed us to cross our legs and close our eyes. Then she passed around a joint of OG Ogre Kush, which the bicycle lady had left in our collective stocking like some sort of insane Marijuana Claus.

My turn came. The woman to my right tapped my knee. I extended my hand. She passed the joint over. I took a long, deep inhale. My lungs filled with smoke. I coughed violently.

I could barely breathe as I headed to the mat. Despite all the hoo-ha, the class started more or less on time. For the first 20 minutes of the practice, I staggered. The OG Ogre was some strong shit. It was from the Earth, brah. I felt kind of nauseous, and more than a little confused. Clearly, I had overmedicated.

But I had a choice. I could let the cannabis control me, or I could control the cannabis. Yoga takes priority over all things in my life. It is the boss, not the weed.

So I did a yoga trick. I acknowledged the fact that I was stoned to my nuts, and that I was wheezing and uncomfortable. Rather than admonish myself, or panic, I just gently and bemusedly observed the situation, carefully breathed into it, and quietly acknowledged its existence. Sure enough, by the time class ended, things had normalized.

If I lived in San Francisco, I might not do public Ganja Yoga three days in a row, every week. That felt like a little much. Yoga teaches you not to get attached to any one scenario, because attachment can lead to a misunderstanding of reality, and that can lead to suffering. But a couple of times a month, sure, why not smoke weed and do yoga in public? It was legal, it was fun, the people were nice, I really liked the teacher, and it only cost 15 bucks. After 72 hours of full Ganja Yoga immersion, I felt wonderfully happy. And I still had plenty of free THC pretzels left to eat before my flight home.

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