Yoga and Cannabis
California is perhaps the holy grail to everything progressive in the United States. I moved here knowing that whenever I left, I’d leave with my level of consciousness and overall openness to life truly expounded. One of my most memorable Californian experiences to date was a yoga and cannabis class my friend, Clark (founder of Mahogany Mary), recommended to me. Let it be known that I am not a first-timer experiencing yoga, nor cannabis…but together? This was a marriage that warranted my counsel. The justice of the peace pipe was none other than the yogi and instructor, Minelli Eustacio.
Minelli has created a safe space for people to deepen their yoga practice by breaking bud and communing with one another. You walk into her humble abode set for an intimate eight person session, with the lights turned down low; a perfectly judgement-free zone.There’s a natural transition into instruction with the aide of calming music, quaint introductions and communal ritual for lighting of each others’ “joints”. It was the most unique experience that I’ve even had. I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable going to yoga sessions of mixed experienced levels (let alone with weed) in fear that someone might be closely analyzing my technique…but not here. Everyone is ready to explore and by the first “hit”, you barely notice what’s beyond your own realm. It is a tall order to ask someone to destigmatize the use of weed, but it is a challenge Minelli is taking on one day at a time. She and I dug deeper into her life’s journey thus far and passion for the practice. Explore with us…
Candace: Growing up how did you view marijuana? Were there Influences like your mother, father, media?
Minelli: As a kid, I had no context at all. My is an mom RN, so she understands it, but isn’t a smoker at all and my dad is from the Congo, so he’s completely traditional and doesn’t use it. The only people I had contact with were the Jamaican people in London, where I grew up, and everyone who was a Rastafarian would smoke weed as a sacrament and that was the closest I ever was to it.
Candace: Wow! I see how being exposed to the Rastafarian way of life/culture could have been influential. Did this particular experience change your personal perception of weed or was there another defining moment?
Minelli: Over time my perspective changed. My first experience was in high school and my friends were just smoking out of an apple. No one knew what they were doing and it was nothing like my experience when I was older and tried with my now husband years later. The cannabis and conversation that I was having with my husband opened up my mind to my standpoint in religion, in the way I choose to live my life and focusing my energy only on things I enjoyed.
Candace: Do you feel like your discovery of marijuana was completely separate from your discovery of yoga and how did those two worlds collide for you?
Minelli: I started doing yoga a little bit before I started smoking, but I always kept them separate. Until I went to a yoga class with a friend, and he offered me some. I thought, “What? I never even thought about smoking before, I always kept it separate because yogis are supposed to be pure and everything.” But when I went into the class I noticed that I was way more attentive to my breathing and my movement. It became kind of a ritual and began to grow together. Through cannabis, I loved yoga more and it helped me to understand how my body was affected.
When I matriculated through teacher training in 2012, and found out more about yogis smoking cannabis in 2000 B.C. I knew there was something deeper about using marijuana while practicing yoga.
Candace: It’s interesting that you mentioned the yogis from ancient times. I just read an article by a woman who has been exercising yoga for many years and she spoke out against yogis using marijuana while practicing. More specifically she says, “Don’t confuse a rocky mountain high with Samadhi (a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation. In Hindu yoga, this is regarded as the final stage, at which union with the divine is reached (before or at death).”
Minelli: There are so many levels you can take your high to. Whether you’re taking one puff, smoking a whole blunt, smoking CBD or THC, there are many avenues that cannabis can help you be more aware of your body, breath and feelings. So when people say don’t confuse a “rocky mountain high with Samadhi”, I think they are thinking of that stereotypical “pothead” that smokes a ton. You don’t have to smoke that much to access that part of your brain or reach a higher sense of self. Samadhi is a constant state of bliss and mindfulness, and it’s a process to reach this level. Cannabis has only helped me reach this state of bliss much faster while meditating or flowing.
Candace: As you mentioned there’s levels you’re trying to reach in your journey. For those who are first-timers in one of your classes, how do you help them sink their teeth into the practice and get over that initial hesitation?
Minelli: I want everyone to smoke together so it’s more of a ritual and not just getting high by yourself. We also eat edibles so they can experience another way of ingesting THC outside of smoke, and it just helps when we do everything as a group. We’re all working together to create this space of non-judgment where we can breathe, let go and smoke communally. So we can feel the connection to ourselves, the plant and to each other and I find that it helps people connect deeper to the practice.
Candace: I do remember feeling nervous in the beginning, because I’d be around these hardcore yogis that would judge my skill and usage of smoking in general, but all of these feelings dissipated once we began. Your idea of keeping the space intimate and communal has been helpful for me in my journey. Speaking of intimacy, do you plan on keep your classes on the smaller side? How do you see your cannabis-yoga practice growing?
Minelli: I want to spread this practice as far as I can, so I plan to keep my Friday classes, partner with studios here in LA, who are looking to explore instructed yoga classes with ganja, and to do large events introducing cannabis to the attendees’ practice. I also have recovering cancer patients or students who have back issues that don’t go to yoga classes outside of my Friday class; so, I have been making yoga videos for my website and YouTube channel for students that want to access them and watch from home with instruction to their practice.
Candace: I see that you love the community you’ve created and are focused on growing it, but how has this practice changed your life?
Minelli: It’s changed my life so much. Since I’ve started teaching these classes, I’m meeting so many people that are resonating with what I’m doing and so many people that are doing it on their own already, but love the fact that they can come to a sacred space and do it with other people. I just feel so empowered on my own. I’m putting myself out there and the universe continues to send me more opportunities. Everything is telling me to keep pushing forward and I have something valuable to offer the world. As the industry becomes more legal and less destigmatized, the more people will come out and do it with other people in more social settings.
Whether you indulge in cannabis or not, you must applaud the courageousness that Minelli has embodied as she takes her own steps off the beaten path. If you’re curious to know more, let us know in the comments and maybe we can host a Twitter chat or Facebook live discussion deepening our understanding of the cannabis-yoga connection! If you’re sold, and want to explore this realm with Minelli connect with her at www.yogawithminelli.com or join a class at www.meetup.com/cannabis-enhanced-yoga.