Sarah Dittmore: 00:05
Hi friends. My name is Sarah and you’re listening to the beginner’s mind, a podcast about all things yoga ish. Hello, hello. I am pretty excited about today’s episode, so today we’re going to explore ganja yoga. For those of you who are like me and did not know what ganja meant until rather recently, it’s weed, so we’re going to talk about weed yoga. When I was home in California recently I attended my first ever ganja yoga class and had an opportunity to interview the founder of ganja yoga to talk a little bit about like what it is, why people practice it, whether or not it’s you know, safe and, and, and whether or not it actually contributes to the yoga experience or heightens the yoga experience even. So I participated in this class and did this interview long before I did the recent interview with the yoga is dead people for the yoga in the episode… episode nine. If you’ve listened to episode nine yoga and where I talked to Tejal and Jesal about yoga and culture. We do briefly touch on ganja yoga and I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic in conjunction with the things I’ve since learned about yoga and culture and whether or not this is something I still agree with. I mean obviously it’s, it’s something I can do in my own time, in my own space, but whether or not I think teaching a public ganja yoga class is appropriate and so I’ve been thinking about it in context of what Tejal and Jesal brought up of those three questions of, is it safe? Is it mindful? And does it culturally appropriate? In regards to safe and mindful, I think it just depends on who you’re practicing with and how they’re teaching it. You know, this is something DNI explore in depth in this episode, so I’m not going to say too much about it, but I do think it is possible to be done both safe and mindfully. The question that we don’t really explore in this episode that I wanted to take a minute to explore is this question of cultural appropriation. We do touch on it briefly in the episode, but I think we don’t go too deep into it because it wasn’t something that was yet at the forefront of my mind when I recorded this original interview. But as I’ve learned more and it’s become something I think about more often and try to try to keep present in my practice and the way I approach yoga and I’m, I’m not entirely sure where I stand on this. I, I think I am still learning and I invite all of your opinions and thoughts as well because I think, you know, it doesn’t have some of the same cultural history or associations that you might find problematic with something like drunk yoga or naked yoga. But it also doesn’t exactly fully embrace the history and cultural context of the yoga practice. So I’m not sure, I’m not sure what to think about that. And it’s something I would like to read and explore more and it’s something I don’t think we do full justice to in this episode. So I just wanted to put that out there that that’s definitely a question that I think needs to be at the forefront of our mind. And it’s something I’m still figuring out for myself and I really invite any listeners who have strong opinions one way or the other. And especially if those opinions are accompanied with any sort of resources, that would be amazing. I would love to see that and learn and grow. And so if anyone has any thoughts on that, please reach out to me. And if anything comes through and I get a good contact or a good resource, I’ll definitely do a followup tea time talk where I can share all of that with you guys and we can dive a little deeper. But in the meantime, I wanted to share this interview, but wanted to make sure we were listening to it in context of all the other questions we should be asking. So with that, uh, let me just tell you a bit about the actual interview. So we’re talking to Dee Dussault today. Dee Dussault is the first yoga teacher to offer public cannabis yoga classes. Over the past decade she’s brought her classes, which she calls ganja yoga to thousands of students and over a dozen US cities. She’s a seasoned yoga practitioner of 23 years and an international speaker and author of the Harper Collins book by the same name “Ganja Yoga.” It’s been featured in publications like the New York Times, Business Insider, Newsweek, LA Yoga, as well as major international media from India to France. A lover of bliss Dee also works as a sex coach who specializes in tantra yoga and cannabis enhanced intimacy. She works with singles and couples in Los Angeles and San Francisco helping them to tap into their radiant embodied selves. Her training was in the tantric tradition of Swami Satchidananda Saraswati. So in this interview I talked to Dee a little bit about my own experience with ganja yoga as well as how she started it, why she started it, and kind of what it means and is in today’s world. So I think you’ll all enjoy it. And like I said, please, please, please reach out with your feedback and your thoughts so we can continue to learn and grow together until then, enjoy the episode and let’s get curious.
Sarah Dittmore: 05:32
Well, hello Dee, thank you so much for being here with me today. I’m really excited to talk to you.
I’m excited to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Sarah Dittmore: 05:41
Yeah, so today we’re talking a little bit about ganja yoga, but before we get there, I wanted to learn a little bit more just about who you are and kind of what your story is in the yoga world.
Yeah. Um, I’ve been practicing yoga since the mid 90s when I was a teenager, my mom got me a VHS tape and I just, it really stuck. Um, so I could watch this thing for quite a long time, but most of those years have been sober. Uh, you know, without cannabis and my specific practice is a really slow, um, sort of mindful or spiritual based sort of hatha yoga. So it’s not, you know, the power yoga or gym yoga that, you know, sometimes when people hear the word yoga they think it’s going to be these really hard poses but…
Sarah Dittmore: 06:22
Has it always been that way or has it kind of developed that way over time?
It’s mostly always been that way. I’ve, I’ve attended, you know, my share of harder classes at Vinyasa and Ashtanga. I seem to find myself constantly going back to a more intuitive and mindful and lower practice.
Sarah Dittmore: 06:39
Yeah, I get that. I went through a phase where I was like, okay, I’m going to try all these power and fitness yoga. And then immediately I was like, Oh, never mind. This isn’t for me. And so how did that develop, you know, how, how has your yoga practice developed from teenage VHS is to what you’re teaching now?
Um, when I was in my late twenties, I got into cannabis and you know, that can be a little bit later than, you know, my peers, my friends were, were consuming in high school and in college, but cannabis actually made me really anxious. So, uh, I tried it a few times in high school and, and it just wasn’t for me and I thought maybe never would be, but in my late twenties, I was in a much more relaxed setting when I gave it another, another shot. And I found I loved it and it made me want to get on the floor immediately. And you know, by then I, I’d been doing yoga for, you know, 12 years. And it just was like, Whoa, this is a whole new feeling in my body as I do the yoga. Most of the people want to do it, but it also kind of, um, made it more fascinating or just I felt, you know, some of the esoteric aspects of yoga that I’d read about in books, like maybe Chopra’s or energy pathways and some of that stuff that it’s like, until you feel it, you don’t, it doesn’t really exist, you know?
Sarah Dittmore: 07:44
Yeah, definitely. And so were you teaching yoga already or was it sort of a home practice at first?
It was a home practice at first, but, uh, not too long after that, maybe two years later I went and got my 500 hour yoga teacher certificate. So, um, and that was all in Toronto, Canada. And I asked my yoga teacher, you know, I find cannabis helps my practice. You know, it’s not really something we were learning about in our teacher training. Um, you know, what do you think? And she said, you know, anything that causes bliss could be an addiction. Like, you know, sex could be an addiction, sleep could be an addiction, you know, there’s these things that are healthy in a good amount and then could lead to unconsciousness if used unwisely, I guess. Yeah. So she gave her that… she just definitely encouraged me to, to be mindful and not fall into, you know, sort of ignorant or unconscious use of cannabis. So that was really cool. I thought to have a waltzing.
Sarah Dittmore: 08:36
Yeah, that’s interesting. I feel like that, I’ve been wondering about that as how different people have responded to this. I want to take a moment for us to say, how would you define ganja yoga? What does that mean? What does that word mean?
So ganja yoga is, you know, as the name implies, which is cannabis enhanced yoga but it’s also a lot more than that. You know, part of it is that it’s not just simply the, you know, challenging yoga that you might see on an Instagram photograph. We’re redefining just yoga, you know, making it much more mindful in all levels in all bodies. And then the ganja aspect, it’s not just any old cannabis. So it’s not any old yoga. And any old cannabis, it’s really biomechanically aware, good alignment, safe yoga, uh, with organic, you know, lovingly crafted sustainable cannabis. So I’m pretty specific what I mean when I say ganja yoga, there’s, you know, it’s not just any old yoga or any old cannabis.
Sarah Dittmore: 09:27
Yeah. And so I wonder, because, you know, definitely I didn’t know all of that getting into it when I first went to ganja yoga, all I knew was weed and yoga. That was the entire, you know, assumptions in my mind. And so I wonder as you’ve kind of delved into teaching it more and than practicing it more, how do you find people, what kind of assumptions or reactions on both ends of the spectrum have you gotten towards your practice?
For the most part, there’s been support, you know, to the, you know, almost to the point where people really like, duh. Like, I mean, yeah, obviously…
Sarah Dittmore: 10:00
I invented the notion, I just was the first teacher to sort of publicly offer cannabis yoga classes. So I’m sure our hippie grandparents were doing it in the 60s and 70s. Yo knw, in India, even modern day, you know, sadhus or babas these ancient, you know, these Holy men use cannabis. And then of course in ancient, you know, yoga practice, there is cannabis use. So I’m not the first to do it. Of course, just to coin the phrase ganja yoga and to offer the public classes and it’s pretty much been support, I would say a yoga journal did… kind of an ambivalent article about it, you know, maybe five years ago, you know, suggesting it could be a fad, but I just don’t, I think I might’ve been a little ahead of the curve and I’m, I’m positive in a year or two they’re going to be doing, you know, a positive piece on the role of cannabis and yoga. I’m like, they cannot, there’re just so many benefits. You don’t have to get high. So a lot of our culture doesn’t, cannabis is afraid of the psychoactive, but there’s so many benefits, um, anti-inflammatory and, and things like that to CBD, which doesn’t get you high. So even using CBD for your yoga has, you know, is a good start. If you don’t want to go all the way to cannabis.
Sarah Dittmore: 11:05
Right. And you know, you mentioned that the yoga journal had, the article that kind of implied it might be a fad. What about this do you think is different than, you know, right now there’s cat yoga and wine yoga and goats yoga and whatever. And why isn’t this just another yoga fad?
Well, I guess because it has the, you know, modern day Indian practitioners and you know, those Babas and Sadhus weren’t necessarily doing, you know, asana or postures on a sticky mat, or the type of yoga we’re doing, but they are practicing meditation. So I feel like we’re part of a lineage that’s bit modern there in India right now. Plus, you know, the historical, there’s a lot of suggestion. It’s, we can’t say on an equivocal evidence, but a really strong suggestion that the Vedas mentioned cannabis in a, in a positive way. And it’s used ayurveda traditionally. So because of that history, I don’t see it like a short lasting, like a fad. The way things come and go. And to be honest, I really hope actually things like goat yoga, wine, yoga, you know, cat yoga. I hope that these are not just fads too ‘cause they’re getting more people to do yoga. People who might not otherwise. So if going to a brewery is the only way that guy’s gonna do some stretches and take care of himself, then I’m all for brewery yoga. You know, cannabis has a lot more health benefits than beer, but really these are, I try not to criticize these sort of more Western manifestations of yoga. I’m just really glad people are coming into the practice however they can.
Sarah Dittmore: 12:32
Yeah. That’s something I’m actually exploring. I’m doing a few future episodes about those topics, about like goat yoga and about just this yoga fad culture and sort of the both arguments of it. And uh, I do think though, one of the things I’m interested in that you’ve mentioned briefly is that one of the things that is different about cannabis in yoga and ganja yoga is the history element to it. You know, I’ve been looking into that a bit. Was that something you knew about originally or is that something you’ve since learned as you’ve been teaching this? And can you tell me a little bit more about sort of the history between the relationship of cannabis and yoga?
Yeah, totally. I did not know any of this when I started. Um, all I knew at the time, you know, ‘cause I started ganja yoga 10 years ago, so in 2009 we were just starting as a culture to understand the cannabis might be helpful for glaucoma. You know, we really didn’t have, we didn’t know about the endocannabinoid system and all this stuff. So, so a lot of new information has fortunately come out in the scientific community, um, which is great. So, um, and, and both in history as well, you know, just, um, but as I got, as I got into my own subjective experience and my own personal use of cannabis and talked to my teacher about it before offering, you know, the first class I, I did a Google search just to see, you know, what conversations are on the internet already about this. And there were no other, you know, it definitely no other studios or teachers offering it. But there was a historian who bases all of his work on the history of cannabis in different religions. And he has an amazing, he has all these great articles. His name is Chris Bennett and he’s a Canadian guy from British Columbia. And he has this great book called “Cannabis and the Soma Solution,” which each chapter has, like a different religion, including Judaism and Christianity and religions that we may not necessarily affiliate with cannabis use. Um, and he has, you know, really strong evidence to suggest that most major religions and most cultures used cannabis, you know, spiritually. And so reading his work really, I mean, my subjective, his experience is really all I need. If it works for me, I don’t need the history, I don’t need the medicine, you know. But having those bullet points help, you know, help me to justify that, Whoa, this is beyond just me. This is, this is thousands and 10,000, you know, how many, you know, man, how many people, it’s amazing.
Sarah Dittmore: 14:48
Yeah, it definitely gives some almost like credibility, which I don’t think is necessarily needed, but it’s something a lot of people want. And then to have that credibility to say there’s a real grounding here for why we’re doing this I think is really interesting and that, and that brings me into the more modern things that we’re learning about cannabis. So can you tell me a little bit about the benefits of integrating cannabis into a yoga practice?
Definitely. Yeah. Like um, there are lots of different benefits. I’d say the main one is that cannabis is really um, strong and its ability to help people relax. And of course that depends on the person’s biochemistry and what strain and you know, set and setting. There’s these different factors that can prevent cannabis from being relaxing. Like I said, I got really paranoid when I first started smoking it, but even now we have more information on the types of strains that can reduce paranoia. And using a higher CBD product reduces paranoia. So once you get the strain right, you know, the, the ratios of THC and CBD and other terpenes, which are the flavor components, then you can start to find the strains that really do help you to relax both your body, you know, anti-inflammation, pain relief, antispasmodic, you know, cannabis has these qualities that really reduce, you know, pain. And that just makes you want to do yoga. If you’re really feeling tight and bricked it, it’s hard to imagine even laying on the floor, getting down on the floor. So, but it also reduces tension and anxiety in the mind. So it also has the potential to, you know, relax and, um, for the mental, you know, distraction and, and anxiety and fear and anger. Um, so that when you do put your mat down, you’re starting your yoga practice from this, you know, you’re at a higher baseline already of relaxation. And of course, yoga is relaxing. So the two together are gonna be greater. You know, the, the whole, it’d be greater than the sum of the parts. Um, but if you supplement with cannabis before, you know, you hit the mat without the distractions from your Workday, you already are in a bit of an altered state and yoga can just take you deeper. So I’d say that’s like, it’s main benefit. I mean, there are numerous benefits to cannabis and learning about the endocannabinoid system, like the system of our body that responds to cannabinoids and how it’s linked to honestly, every other system really makes the case for at least supplementing with the CBD to start. Like, you know, this is a health supplement
Sarah Dittmore: 17:01
For anyone who’s listening that wouldn’t know the difference between CBD and cannabis. How could you describe that?
Oh, definitely. Yeah. So, so, uh, the cannabis plant, you know, no matter what strain has, you know, some proportion of THC, um, which is the famous component or you know, of cannabis that gets you high, that most people have heard of. And then it also has come around of CBD, which is really making a lot of press these days, uh, for its health properties. And that itself hopefully is not a fad. There are some negatives to this CPD phase that’s happening. Um, I’ll go into in a moment, but those are sort of the two main components. Um, or cannabinoids in front of us. There’s actually, I think 80 other ones and each, each one has health properties, anti cancer, antitumor, antifungal, antibacterial. Um, it’s really astounding. Um, so, um, even THC, the one that gets you high has pain-relieving qualities. So even THC is a medicine, but without CBD present, THC can lead to those more anxious or paranoid kind of thoughts.
Sarah Dittmore: 18:03
Because cannabis was made illegal, you know, in propaganda and prohibition growers, you know, purposely made as high THC product as possible. They weren’t thinking about CBD, we didn’t know about CBD. They just wanted a product that, you know, in the black market they could sell. But now that cannabis has becoming more legalized, um, we’re starting to realize we don’t always have to get as high as possible to reduce that… we now have a more mellow or balanced experience that’s not like crazy altered States psychedelic, you know, that it’s actually functional. And so that’s really cool. It’s really exciting. And just an aside, you can also get CBD from hemp. So, in States that cannabis is not legal. You can get it from the hemp plant. Hemp does not have THC or you know, like negligible amounts of THC…
Sarah Dittmore: 18:46
Yeah, that’s how it’s in New York City. The CBD is different than the CBD here in California.
Totally. That’s it. And then another way to get CBD is to isolate it or extract it from the cannabis plant. But studies are showing that that’s the least effective and least desirable way to take CBD because it actually benefits from having small amounts of the other cannabinoids presence. So even hemp, there’s small amounts of the other cannabinoids, not enough THC to even have an impact. But there’s, you know, the chlorophyll and different fatty acids and flavonoids and truly just the idea that the whole plant is really the healing thing. And to isolate extracts may not be, it’s, you know, very technological and scientific. But it may not be the best way to use cannabis.
Sarah Dittmore: 19:27
Yeah, it’s really interesting. And so how does, how does someone coming into this for the first time know, like do you kind of help them facilitate what strain to use or is it something they research on their own? Like how do people make sure they’re using a strain that, like you said, isn’t as, um, likely to cause paranoia and we’ll give them more of the relaxation that is tied to yoga?
Yeah. Generally into custodians. Um, so if you, if you break, you know, cannabis up into two main categories, very simplistic, um, distinction. Sativa are the uplifting strains and they’re used, you know, usually pay time, creativity euphoria, but can lead to that more psychedelic or even potentially anxious experience. And then because the other type of strains are the more sleepy embodied, relaxing, um, almost like that couch lock. So at the far end of that extreme, it’s the negative might be that you’re really not motivated to do any yoga cause you’re too relaxed.
Sarah Dittmore: 20:21
Yeah, it’s all Shavasana.
It’s all Shavasana, which is oftentimes like this thing, but you know, a hybrid or has a balance of the two and a strain that has like CBD present. Are, I think, you know, or a balance plus CBD. So you walk into your dispensary and you know, you just asked, you know, what are your index strains or, um, what are higher CBD strains that you have or if they don’t have higher CBD strains that you might have to, you know, get CBD vape or tincture to use in addition to your THC flower. And so I curate a cannabis for my events so I can feature, you know, women farmers, sustainable agriculture, organic products, and really just get some education going about these values. And, but I also invite everybody to bring their own cannabis. Um, so there’s this real sharing mentality and here in California, adults over 21 are legally allowed to share so people can bring what they have or what they bought. We have newbies that are kind of nervous and don’t know anything. And we have experienced people who can smoke a whole joint to themselves. So there is this real community caring and education and a really informal way. It’s, it’s really great. So, yeah, at the beginning of each class we have this half an hour to consume together and befriend each other. It’s really sweet.
Sarah Dittmore: 21:31
That’s really lovely. Yeah, that was something I noticed. I went to a class in Oakland and that was something that struck me was half of the class was socializing, you know, it was like you come in and there’s all this time to talk and share and then you do the yoga and then you have some time to have tea. And just the focus on community I thought was a really good cool aspect to the practice.
Definitely. Yeah. You know, so many yoga environments, you would walk into the studio, um, when the, the next class is leaving, you know, you have to Condors this sort of like assembly line in a way. It’s like, you know, so yeah, we definitely, you know, people are in an altered state. We want to respect that. So we give them time at the beginning and at the end and you know, community is a huge part of it. So, yeah, when you asked me to define ganja yoga, there was the mindful easy, you know, all levels, yoga plus quality cannabis plus community. I think that’s the definition.
Sarah Dittmore: 22:26
I wonder if there’s any sort of, um, flip side, you know, you talked about all the benefits. Is there anything people need to be aware of, like your teacher mentioned of addiction or any other kind of risks that they might have? Or you even mentioned that that was something you wanted to share about the downsides of the CBD movement. So I’m curious about that, that element of it too.
Yeah, I mean there’s the potential for, you know, as I said, anxiety and paranoia with too high of THC product or potential for lethargy and lack of motivation with, you know, too sleepy of an Endeca. There is the potential for addiction and, um, we know, you know, many of us know that cannabis doesn’t have the same biological impact on the brain that drug addictive drugs do. But nonetheless, it can be psychologically habit forming. If you think of it as a medicine or a supplement, then you really have to deconstruct what a habit is, you know, I, I eat broccoli every day or, or, or gin saying or, um, vitamin C. so if I put cannabis into that same category, you know, if it feels right for me to take it every day, that’s not an addiction. It’s just like taking vitamin C, right?
Sarah Dittmore: 23:31
Where does that line draw?
That line… Right. It’s a good conversation, but it’s certainly something I don’t have the answer to yet. But I know for sure that even there’s been times where I’ve unconsciously used cannabis, it’s the joints going around and I’m already plenty high, but I’ve just taken another go. It’s almost like you’re, you know, that phrase chasing the dragon, seeing if you can get any higher, you know, or, or maybe, you know, just using cannabis to avoid thinking about something. And we all, we all deserve a break from our thoughts and a little retreat from our thoughts. But if we constantly retreat from thinking or feeling and don’t come back to the reality of dealing with whatever our issue is, then in that way, cannabis is not serving us. It’s preventing us from taking action. It can be a great respite. It can be a medicine, like I said, or a supplement, but it also can be used unconsciously. Like anything that gives pleasure.
Sarah Dittmore: 24:21
Yeah, and, and like you mentioned, it’s that the time, you know, what happens definitely for me is that, is that when there’s the joint being passed around, it’s the same with alcohol or weed for me, if it’s just being passed around and you’re in the environment, sometimes you just partake unconsciously or you aren’t thinking about, is this actually something I’m doing this because I want to do or is this just here and I’m just like, Oh, I’ll take another drink. I’ll take another Toke. You know, why not?
Totally. It’s good to ask ourselves, you know, like if your friend’s going to get a coffee and offers you one instead of always saying yes, like, well, do I want a coffee right now? Like or you know or another joint or you know like sometimes like to be able to say, “no” is just as powerful as to be able to say, “yes” and really be liberated. You know yoga, we talk about liberation so we have to be really liberated from our unconscious aspects that you know, that’s a, that’s a daily, you know, moment to moment every moment practice that yoga really offers us.
Sarah Dittmore: 25:27
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Yeah, definitely. And you also mentioned that there was something about the CBD movement that you wanted to touch on.
Yeah, yeah. Like I said, whole plant medicine is being shown to be far more effective and so therefore a better use of money and you know, to the point, to the fact where it could be that isolates on their own or ineffective and just like a waste of money. So like you know, when you, nowadays there’s CBD in smoothies or coffees or everything, you know, which you know, like I’m glad in many ways it’s opening the conversation about cannabis or hemp or but the isolates may not actually be bio available. Like they may not actually be entering your body as medicine and just going through you, there are things that can make you more bioavailable. Like using a high saturated fat like coconut oil or there’s new technology called nanotechnology, which encapsulates each CBD molecule into something that makes it pass. Like I think the blood brain barrier more easily. So there are technologies but like just the normal CBD you’re getting in your coffee probably isn’t ease, you know, more ideal forms.
Sarah Dittmore: 28:56
Ideal would be, you know, whole plant from the cannabis, like a cannabis plant that’s low in THC ‘cause then you’re getting full spectrum cannabinoids. Even low THC, there’s some presence. So that’s the most ideal way to take CBDs from the cannabis with low THC. Second would be from the hemp plant and third would be these isolates and only taking the isolates if they’re nano encapsulated or with a saturated fat, meaning you wouldn’t consume that saturated fat product. It would be like a tincture or edible or something.
Sarah Dittmore: 29:27
Okay. That makes sense. And yeah, I do think, yeah it does. And I think it’s an interesting thing that I’m, I’m seeing happen. Because you know, I was born and raised in California and I come back here all the time. But I live in New York City and seeing, I’m seeing that exact thing whereas when I’m in New York. It’s like there are CBD, everything, but it, all the law there is, it has to be like, it’s almost all Islip because they can’t have any THC in it. Whereas when I’m here in California, it’s all, you know, it’s much more of a focus on the full spectrum that has all of that in it. And so I think it’s interesting to see how, I wonder how that will shift as legalization becomes more popular.
Totally. I hope that with legalization, you know, more education about this, you know, uh, becomes apparent in the States that are still worth that. So it’s a little bit privileged of course, of me here in California to to say, well get this, don’t get that. This is better, you know, get what you can get, you know, get, you know, get what you can get and keep talking about it so that, you know, we don’t, you know, CB this, this isolated CB thing doesn’t become just so normal that we, we’ve lost that conversation and we want to say, keep it current, you know, educating other and staying empowered.
Sarah Dittmore: 30:38
Definitely. So people will come to your classes or any cannabis or any ganja yoga class and they’ll take, does everyone partake in something? Do some people just stay sober? Do some people take CBD, some people take, you know, full cannabis? Like what is, what is sort of the breakdown there? How does that work?
I would say most people consume. Um, you know, there may be like one or two people over the years that just came to check it out but didn’t consume. But most people do is take something, maybe just CBD. They don’t, you know, some people don’t want to get into an altered state yet. CBD is great for that. So, you know, kind of a gateway drug to cannabis, I guess you could say. And so yeah, we, you know, people are invited to bring their own, most people bring joints or pipes, but I often also have vaporizers and sometimes concentrates to dab or sometimes low dose edibles and tinctures. Tinctures are a really cool way to take cannabis because the hit you faster than an edible. So you can tell like, you know more immediately if you need to take more. But an edible, you know, you could take it and an hour later not really feel it and then take more, but it’s 90 minutes to kick in and now you’ve taken too much or I don’t recommend higher dose edibles to beginners or at a yoga class because it takes a long to kick in. So tincture is better in that way. It goes into the blood vessels in your mouth. So, um, yeah, there’s, you know, all different methods are encouraged. You know, obviously smoking has some of it, some negatives, you know, from a health or yogic perspective. But having said that, you know, it’s an ancient practice. It taps us into something quite primal and sensory. And it’s not like a technology. It’s, it’s like, I don’t know, like natural. Um, so for those kinds of reasons, I’m still, and it’s just essential. You’re passing it, you’re touching it, you’re burning it for those reasons I advocate for it. Not as an exclusive method, but I definitely don’t denigrate smoking. I think everything in moderation and cannabis itself is, you know, anticancer and incidences of lung cancer for cannabis smokers is not any higher. So even though smoking is not good for you, the cannabis seems to help prevent cancer, so it’s like…
Sarah Dittmore: 32:40
It can prevent each other out.
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Kind of thing. Yeah, exactly.
Sarah Dittmore: 32:44
Yeah. And I think that’s, you know, I’m curious about sort of the different relationship with the cannabis and CBD with the physical and spiritual side of it, because they think, you know, we’ve both, you’ve talked a little bit about how cannabis for you sort of opened you up to feeling your body in a new way and kind of experiencing the practice in a new way. And for me, my journey with cannabis has been separate from yoga, but it’s been, they’ve come together more through the spiritual side of, like you said, kind of accessing that idea of chakras and these things that might not be felt otherwise. And I’m wondering how that experience is different and how that might rely more on the psychedelic or THC side of it or if it is still an experience that can be accessed for people who maybe want to steer clear that are more interested in the CBD or something.
Yeah. So yeah, CBD won’t produce like an altered state and so certainly it won’t produce like any kind of psychedelic state. But having said that, having like it’s an antianxiety and anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. And so for many people who suffer from anxiety, whether they know that they do or don’t, CBD can feel a bit like an altered state ‘cause you’re like, Whoa, all the rough edges are kind of smooth. Like this feels good. It feels not exactly altered, I mean altered but not necessarily like your perceptions are like altered your tripping out or anything. But it can feel kind of like an alteration. And so that itself is useful, even if it’s not like a complete, like psychedelic thing, you know what I mean? It can still be really healing. I like that for me at least spiritual experiences. There’s such a range of types, you know, and some of them are the more kind of peak experiences that are mystical or psychedelic or kind of, you know, uh, ineffable. Um, but then there’s, there’s spiritual experiences. It’s just simply like, Whoa, I was able to stay present to my breath. You know, it’s not, it’s nothing extraordinary, but it’s still immensely healing.
Sarah Dittmore: 34:41
Yeah. Well, and I think that’s what’s interesting about the partnership of the two because I think, you know, I’m, I’m very fascinated with the history of, um, psychedelics and the way it’s been used and accessed through, you know, modern history, but also more classical and ancient history as a means to kind of accessing spirit. And then what I find fascinating about this kind of union between yoga and cannabis is yoga is also doing that, right? It’s also allowing you to access the spirituality. So CBD if it might not give you that, you know, psychedelic experience, but if it’s relaxing you, it might give you the openness to the yoga practice that will give you that sort of spiritual experience.
Totally. Exactly. Yeah, like yoga on its own, super yoga can provide some of these just the altered states. There’s so many different types of altered States. So you’re right, CBD can even get people to want to do yoga or, or, or actually feel their body in the yoga instead of kind of going through the poses. Almost like exercises where they’re not really like present to the poses in that regard. It’s still immensely helpful.
Sarah Dittmore: 35:50
Yeah. So from a teacher perspective, how does that work in a class? I’m just imagining, you know, I’m imagining me and my friends all being high and doing yoga together and I’m imagining like trying to facilitate that process because everyone can kind of go into their own experience and there’s a presence that’s almost an intense presence sometimes where someone can be so focused on their own physical experience and physical body that they might dissociate from like the class or the experience as a whole. So how do you as a teacher kind of navigate everyone’s simultaneous experiences?
I really give a permission or like a container in which doing your own thing is really like wildly accepted and encouraged. So, um, you’re, you have permission to go into your trip and if that means you want to stay in that same pose, even the world getting out of the pose and doing something else, you totally can. And I really spell it out at the beginning, like, you know, I say, feel free to modify. If anything we don’t do feels good. You could skip it. You can stay in corpus the whole practice. We really don’t care. Um, so really you could stay in corpus, like it’s, it’s, I’ve been to so many Vinyasa or kind of regular normal gym style yoga classes, um, where I felt like I wanted to take a rest in Childs or something and I felt like I didn’t really have permission that I had to stay with the group and almost like a military, the way they all walk together, you’re supposed to kind of do this thing together and that has benefits. I’m not trying to completely disparate. Um, but I, I just think personally we’re all so unique and we don’t know what each student’s coming from in terms of their injuries or even what kind of day they had. So to insist that we all kind of transition at the same time and breathe the same way. And I, I just think that that’s a bit controlling and, and cannabis doesn’t like control and it’s like freedom and play. So maybe other yoga classes, having everybody kind of in a more synchronized way, you know, make sense in terms of the energy of the group. Um, but there’s, I like the freestyle spirit that, that I’m advocating for it with cannabis. So,
Sarah Dittmore: 37:42
Yeah. And how do you see, you know right now? Well, first explain to me right now, like how does the practice work in the city? Like yes, you’re in California where it’s legalized by imagine there are still rules about when and where and how you can practice.
Yeah, yeah. They’re, I mean there’s still so many silly regulations like, um, for example, you know, here in California it’s, it’s totally common for there to be two or three bars on the same street or the same block. Um, but you’re not allowed to have to spend, you know, near each other. Why, you know, that doesn’t make sense if you can have two, especially ‘cause one medicine has proven scientific benefit and one does not. So, you know, there’s things like onsite consumption lounges or places where you can get high or you know, kind of few and far between. And so that’s sort of a prohibitive. And then, you know, a lot of yoga studios don’t necessarily want to be affiliated with cannabis at this point. Maybe CBD, may be vaporizing in time, but smoking is still kind of like, I might be a little bit ahead of the curve there. So finding venues in that way or like yoga studio type venues in that way is also challenging. What we do at ganja yoga is I, you know, me and my certified ganja yoga teachers. We run our events as private events, meaning the address is not publicly listed. You can’t just show up to the class. So it’s more like a private guest list or private party where adults are allowed to share cannabis. Um, and so it’s got this sort of, um, legal container where it’s not like we’re not providing a public place for people to get high. We found a venue where we smoke and we’re having a party, you know, so that’s what we do. And I have, you know, teachers, uh, certified ganja yoga teachers in Oklahoma. I have one in New York, you know, I have one in Hawaii, you know, there’s about a dozen of them right now around the country and Canada. And so each state or province will have its own rules around, you know, onsite consumption and even smoking indoors, you know, you know, so you know, ‘cause uh, in San Francisco for example, cannabis smoke, uh, so cannabis is fine, but cannabis smoke is considered equal to tobacco smoke. So you can vape, well I think even vapor they’re putting in, people are trying to change that law, but these vapor certainly is not smoking so, so it’s like you can, you can consume cannabis here, but you can’t smoke it here, you know, these kinds of rules.
Sarah Dittmore: 39:53
Yeah. So it gets kind of weird. And I’m doing a ganja yoga, you know, 10 year anniversary tour this summer and fall. So like I said, I started all of this in 2009. So it’s the decade anniversary and I’m going to be taking the class and I, and I do the teacher training where I train these ganja yoga teachers. So I’ll be taking a class to a New York, Detroit, Montreal, and Toronto. So for each city I have to figure out exactly like, well, you know, what are we allowed to do? What are we not allowed to do? You know, for example, New York is medical only or you know, at this point. So I’m hosting it as a CBD class so we won’t have psychoactive THC component just because legally we’re not allowed, you know. But what people want to do on the sidewalk outside the studio is I have none of my business but illegally, I have to say that it’s, it’s a CBD only class. So I have to kind of, you know, work with a pause and…
Sarah Dittmore: 40:42
Yeah. Because I was wondering about that, ‘cause you mentioned that you have a teacher in New York. Is it the same thing for like that regular class she kind of has to be like, or he has to be like it’s, it’s a CBD class. If you choose to do something on your own, that’s your business.
Yeah. Right now unfortunately that’s the way we have to do it.
Sarah Dittmore: 40:58
You know, at least there’s so many great CBD products. There’s, you know, ‘cause there’s topicals and creams that you know, and you can vaporize it and you can take a tincture. So there’s still lots to learn and play with and enjoy and benefit from with CBD. So that’s a good start. You know, we just have to keep pushing the conversation and you know, voting and educating really are our parents. ‘Cause that senior population, that baby boomers, they’re the ones with a lot of voting power and a lot of money and they’re just not educated, but they have the most to benefit from cannabis ‘cause they’re in pain, they’re getting cancer. So we just need to let them know that this is actually gonna help them, you know? And, and I think that that will be a huge…
Sarah Dittmore: 41:32
And I think it’s happening. Like I see, you know, we were just joking about this in my family because I have a family member who is sick right now. And my mom was asking me about like where to get cannabis to help her out. And my brother’s sitting there just with a shocked look on his face. Like, you yelled at me when you found my weed, like what is going on? But then, you know, it’s like things are changing.
Totally. It’s so great. It’s so exciting how many people will be, you know, just once you start researching it, you, you, it’s, people are going to be radically changed. Like cancer incidences can go down and inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, like it’s just the endocannabinoid system really is related to so many diseases and dysfunctions that if we can balance it, which doesn’t, isn’t just smoking cannabis, there’s other ways to balance it, you know. But using a supplement is a good way to balance, you know, just the amazing health potential and wellness and wellbeing potential is really, really exciting.
Sarah Dittmore: 42:28
Yeah. And so I, and I think it just is so natural that it would be combined with something like yoga where both of these are such healing, like mindful experiences, you know?
Yeah, totally. It’s like, as I said, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, but you can also use cannabis, you know, with, you know, art, and I use the word art just to mean like create, get some pastels or paints or you know, just doodle. You can use it to enhance, you know, comedy movies and you can tap into your sense of humor and you can use it to, for nature, you know, enhancing your hike or stargazing or some people, there’s a whole movement right now of people seeing it makes them better parents, you know, smoking a little bit before their kids get home from work. They’re more patient, they’re more embodied, you know, more present. So it’s not just yoga, it’s, it’s, you know, really there’s so many other modalities or ways of being that, you know, not, I’m not saying every single thing all the time needs to be enhanced with cannabis, but there’s so much potential.
Sarah Dittmore: 43:22
Right. Well, and I think it’s also reeducating people that that doesn’t have to look like, you know, I think part of it is when our parents and our, the older generation looks at cannabis, they think about what it meant to them, which meant, like you said, just getting as high as possible. And so re-educating to say like, you know, smoking a little before your kid comes home doesn’t mean that you’re like super high before your kid comes home. It means you just take a little, you calm down, you know, it brings you down a notch and you go from there. And kind of recognizing that we’re in a place now where we can use this as an herbal medicine and not as necessarily this massive psychedelic trip.
Totally, yeah. Like the right to alter our state and to get, you know, F’d up or you know, um, intoxicated or you know, that’s a human right and it’s really a human, I think impulse, you know, the right to kind of lose yourself or you do drugs really of all kinds. So you know, I don’t want to denigrate getting high and say, well medical…
Sarah Dittmore: 44:21
No, not at all.
If people want to get high, that’s I think to be celebrated. But if they only want to get a little high, like getting high has such, such a spectrum, there’s like a little high, which is don’t really functional and then there’s like obliterated, which you know, maybe has its time and its place. If you want to throw on planet, you know, zone it on your couch like the whale. Cool. You know, so, but just to say that you don’t have to get high or you could get a little high or you could get very high, you have the, you know, we should, we should be arguing for our right to, to do these things, you know, and see of each sort of place on that spectrum.
Sarah Dittmore: 44:52
Yeah. And recognizing, like you said, the benefit and also like the time in place that each of these things serve a different purpose for a different time and that doesn’t make one more or less worthy or acceptable than the other.
Sarah Dittmore: 45:06
So with that all in mind, you know, what would you say to someone who wants to come and try, let’s say for first starters, someone who wants to come try ganja yoga but is concerned about the ganja side effects. So say they’ve never smoked or consumed cannabis of any form. Do you think ganja yoga is an appropriate place to do that for the first time? Or is there another way you would recommend them kind of exploring that before coming to a class or…
I think it’s a perfect place to explore for the first time. You know, all the teachers that I train, you know, in the ganja yoga brand, we’ve, we spend a great deal of time talking about beginners and you know, my own history with feeling anxious because of cannabis and you know, really setting the setting or comfort relaxation, community inclusivity. So if someone did have like a negative experience from cannabis, we, you know, we reduced the likelihood but then we have a container or an environment that it’s okay, you know you’re going to be taken care of. Um, and so it’s, it’s a really, you know, my teachers are really trained in preparing for that and at the same time we don’t actually have, a lot of people have negative experiences. The time that comes to mind where someone did is they were watching regular user so that the person they’re watching, they’re like, Whoa, she, I’m going to take a toke every time she takes a toke. But the regular, you know, it’s really high tolerance, right? So the guy who’d never smoked before, you know, just smoke too much. Now we have a sign up in my Bay area classes. My Oakland teacher has the sign up in her class. I think, I don’t know if the San Francisco does yet, but I hope so. Um, that says, you know, if you’re new to cannabis start low and go slow, you can always add more as you go. Um, and it’s just this really pretty little sign that we have with all the products. And so it’s really visible, you know, just to say like, you know, some people have a much higher tolerance, you might need honestly one puff and then wait 10 minutes and then maybe you need to take a second puff. But you know, other people can very honestly smoke 20 puffs and barely feel it. You know, Willie Nelson for example, you know, or whomever. Um, so, um, some people can’t compare. You know, we have to be careful in that regard. Like if I were to be worried about a first timer, it would be them kind of mimicking somebody else knowing what normal dosing is. So I think the sign helps.
Sarah Dittmore: 47:14
I think you’ll see that same thing with asana in yoga. You know, I’ve, I’ve seen that where students will come in and be so focused on the person who can touch their head to their toes and try to do everything they do and end up injuring themselves. It’s like you have to learn to move at your pace.
Totally. And so the teacher can be really helpful in, you know, even one sentence, you know, this is, this is a personalized practice, so don’t worry what other people are doing, you know? And that imply that that talks to the cannabis and the, and the asana and the postures, you know, just there can be really helpful in setting that at, you know, non-competing or non-comparing tone. And I didn’t say this earlier, well I might have mentioned it, but just to reiterate, when I said, you know, having lower THC strains or higher CBD strains, one of the other benefits of CBD, you know, THC is the component or cannabinoid that can cause anxiety. And CBD reduces anxiety. So I always have a CBD tincture at class and I make it clear, I tell everybody like, Hey, for whatever reason the THC is like a little strong, you know, it’s not feeling wholly good. Take some of this CBD tincture, it goes under your tongue, works within minutes, enters the bloodstream and it can just, it doesn’t completely take away the THC paranoia, but it definitely softens the edges. And like I said, it doesn’t happen often, but that preventative is, or not preventative, but that our access there… is that the word or that treatment is there if anybody needs it.
Sarah Dittmore: 48:34
Yeah, that’s really nice I think. And I think it’s important to have teachers who can guide students through that and kind of help them because you are probably going to get a lot of students who either don’t know anything about it or only know about their experience with the one context in which they’ve gotten high. So having people who can kind of guide them and assist them and I think is really important.
Totally. Yeah, I’m excited ‘cause I’m, I have this teacher training programs. I’m, you know, we’re building our little army of ganja yogis kind of over the… and then I’m launching ganja yoga online in September. And so it’ll be, you know, for people who can’t make it to a ganja yoga class and at the beginning of most of them have like a little bit of a Dharma talk about cannabis, you know, why is consumption dosing cannabinoids, you know, just like a little bit of education. So I’m hoping, you know, we need to raise that conversation through these online classes.
Sarah Dittmore: 49:24
That’s awesome. That’s… I think that online makes so much sense because I think there is, while the community is super valuable, there’s also a really unique and valuable experience to enjoying cannabis and yoga on your own in the privacy of your own home where you can kind of dive in at a different level.
Totally. You won’t be… Oh sorry to cut you off. I was just going to say you won’t be comparing yourself to the person on the map besides you. ‘Cause there is, you know really just like thinking of all the people out there that aren’t able to come to a conventional class for whatever reason. Some people are really afraid to come to yoga. You know, they, they feel like they’re not in the right, they’re not in shape or they’re not the right size. It’s really unfortunate. But you know, giving all these people a chance to stretch and relax I think is really huge.
Sarah Dittmore: 50:07
Yeah. And that actually brings me to another question. You know, we just talked about people who might be more nervous about the cannabis side of the class. What about people who are regular cannabis users feel totally comfortable with that but are new to the yoga experience? Is this a place where like, how do you facilitate a culture in which a new yoga practitioner could feel safe and welcome and…?
Yeah, yeah. We definitely get these people and it’s oftentimes, uh, like stoner boyfriends, um, meaning like the girl friend, she does yoga. She’s like, honey, I have something you might be interested in. So, you know, and, and we do at our classes, kind of like an opening circle, so we get to hear what, what people, why they came or what brought them. So we hear the boyfriend saying, my girlfriend brought me, I figured at in the yoga class at least I can get high. Right. And so that’s really cute. But like I said at the beginning of our conversation, the type of yoga is really back to basics. It’s really the stuff your grandmother could do. Um, I really endeavored to make it available you know, for all body sizes, experience levels and ages, um, really, really intermediate or advanced yogis might find it physically boring. But then the real challenge of course is like, can you stay present the whole time while we do the simple pose? So it really is available for, you know, so, so it’s, it’s natural to feel nervous before doing anything new, whether cannabis or yoga, that nervousness is very common or very natural. But I hope that the relaxing environment and this this socializing and the easy yoga as well as like the type of imagery I use on Instagram. I know I don’t put pictures of myself doing really hard postures. I don’t, I’m trying to rewrite the script that yoga is not only for this like athletic elite. Um, so I hope that I’m, you know, creating a culture where people can feel relaxed even before coming to class. Just if they look at my Instagram, the types of poses I’ve put up are pretty chill.
Sarah Dittmore: 51:51
Yeah. And that’s definitely something I noticed coming to the class I went to. I am someone who’s experienced with yoga asana and would go to a, normally a more advanced class there. I’m someone who, you know, consumes cannabis fairly regularly in my own life. I’m experienced there and yet both things felt like I was having a new version of them. You know, it’s, it doesn’t matter how advanced you are in either field, when you go to a cannabis yoga class for the first time, it really allows you, I think to explore both experiences from a really new and different, uh, perspective.
Definitely. So like a really basic pose like table, um, or downward dog or something. You know, you may have done a thousand times, but if you haven’t done it, you know, in altered states of cannabis or CBD, it’s, you know, you, it really does feel like a whole new expression of the posture.
Sarah Dittmore: 52:41
Yeah, definitely. And it, and it just invites you to, you know, that’s the nature of cannabis, right? It invites you to explore it in a way you might not explore it in an unaltered state.
Sarah Dittmore: 52:53
And so overall, what kind of tips would you have to someone who’s just starting, whether they’re just starting to practice this way at home, or if they’re interested in going to a class or anyone who’s interested in sort of exploring this a little more?
Yeah, I write about this a little bit in my book. Like I have, um, a book, two years ago I released with Harper Collins called “Ganja Yoga.” And one of the chapters is about either, you know, going to, if you’re going to go to a sober class, a normal yoga class, high. Or if you’re going to, you know, find a cannabis yoga class that you’re going to go to, you know, whether Ganja yoga or some other brand or whether you’re going to kind of get high at home, you know, maybe with friends or maybe by yourself and you know, do a yoga video or in time there’ll be ganja yoga videos. So they’re all kind of different. But overall, some of the, you know, the, it’s slightly different. For example, if you’re going to a regular studio where no one else is using cannabis, you want to keep your dose pretty small. So you’re not, I think not obviously in that intoxicated or super F’d up place, you want to be an… that’s the respect for the teacher and the rest of the students there, not, you know, cannabis is nothing to be ashamed of, but you know, if you’re so high that you’re kind of stumbling or giggling out loud, like if you’re disruptive, you know, then you just have to be realistic that you might impact others if you’re really, really high. So you know, being, being mindful that you’re the only one high and keeping your dose smaller or, so that’s one piece of advice or one tip, but it really depends on if you’re, you know, if you’re going to a cannabis yoga class or doing it at home, maybe if you’re going to a cannabis yoga class, like I said, check out the Instagram or the website of, you know, that brand or that company or whoever you’re going to and just really, you know, get a sense whether you feel like the class is really suitable for all levels. I’ve been to cannabis yoga classes where they’re doing, you know, they’re taking us through really pretty fast. Vinyasas and we’re kind of flying through it and I know yoga well, so I know how to get good alignment, but they’re not taking the time to set up a good alignment. So I don’t think that that’s a responsible cannabis yoga because you know, students probably find it difficult to, you know. So you want, I’d say an easier kind of hatha yin restorative or the slowest of flows. I wouldn’t do anything faster. I go slow flow.
Sarah Dittmore: 54:57
Wonderful. And, and so if people are interested in sort of following along with, you know, you mentioned this book, you mentioned the online classes and the teacher training. How can they find out more about ganja yoga and where it’s going from here?
The best would probably be either my Instagram account or my website. So both are called ganja yoga, like ganjayoga.com or Instagram is ganjayoga. I post pretty regularly and I have a lot of like tips on my IGTV, the Instagram TV. I have a bunch of useful little videos and tips up there. And so yeah, there’s, there’s some good places to stay in touch and people are also welcome to reach out and email me with whatever city they live in so I can keep them on that city’s email list and update them when I’m visiting.
Sarah Dittmore: 55:37
Amazing. And do you have any other, uh, thoughts that you’d like to share in regards to anything I missed about ganja yoga? Yeah, you’re the expert, not me.
I don’t think so. That was pretty comprehensive. I think you asked some good questions. I feel like, you know, someone who, who’s new to the concept got a really good understanding about, you know, just some of the medicine and some of the history and some of the best practices. So I feel good with that.
Sarah Dittmore: 56:03
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for sharing all of this Dee, you know, I did the class a couple of weeks ago and loved it, but I haven’t, you know, this was so much new information and I feel like I learned a lot about it and I’m excited to try more in the future and I think this is a really interesting field that I hope kind of grows in the yoga community.
Me too. I’m looking out for that journal article.
Sarah Dittmore: 56:24
Amazing. Well, thank you so much and enjoy the rest of your day. Thanks, you too.
Sarah Dittmore: 56:39
Thank you again to Dee for this amazing interview. I learned a lot and have definitely, I don’t know if my mom’s listening, so I feel awkward, but definitely enjoyed the ganja yoga experience and it’s definitely a part of my personal at-home practice at times. But as I mentioned, I’m really interested to hear your guys’ thoughts and feedback about anything brought up in this episode, but particularly this question of the cultural appropriation side of things. As always, you can reach out to me on Instagram at TBM podcast on Facebook at The Beginner’s Mind Podcast or directly via email at Sarah Ditmore. That’s email@example.com. You can also connect with Dee and learn more about ganja yoga. She is on Instagram at ganja yoga. You can also find her online atwww.ganjayoga.com as well as on Facebook at Ganja Yoga. She offers teacher trainings, ganja yoga classes, um, sex counseling retreats. She has a book, private sessions. There are lots of opportunities to learn from her and connect with her. So definitely check that out. I will be back on December 18th with my next episode. We will be talking about yoga and body image. That’s going to be a really great and interesting conversation. I mentioned this last week, but for those of you who didn’t hear it, um, the tea time talks are going to continue. I will try to do them every other week. I have a lot going on right now with some new clients and some new work stuff. So that’s a little bit irregular, but these episodes will continue to be every other week. Um, the 18th will be our last episode for the year. That’s wild. And then I’ll be on a break for the holidays and I will come back at you on January 15th. So I’ll talk to you guys in two weeks and until then, have a great day and stay curious.