Interview: Dee Dussault
Ever thought about getting high before yoga? Ever gotten high before yoga but felt like you had to keep it a secret? Hatha Yoga instructor, Dee Dussault, found herself asking the same questions. After founded a studio that offered cannabis-enhanced yoga in Toronto, her interests were piqued. Shortly after, Dussault founded Ganja Yoga—a practice she offers to her students alongside her sexual awakening yoga classes in San Francisco, CA. We caught up with Dussault in between sessions to give us the rundown of her weed-fueled classes, and how they’re helping students tap into a deeper sense of self and community in their practice.
How did Ganja Yoga get started?
I finished my yoga teacher training in 2009, after training 500 hours. Before that I was doing a master’s degree program to become a sexual teacher, but I wasn’t feeling very satisfied by grad school and talking about sexuality through the brain, so I decided to switch careers and become a yoga teacher. Then, about a month after I graduated the teacher training, I opened a studio in Toronto and offered cannabis-enhanced yoga.
Through the training, I talked to my teacher about cannabis and sexuality—about how cannabis enhances spiritual practice and she didn’t really have much negative to say—she didn’t have much positive to say—but her only concern was to be careful that cannabis could awaken an external energy line—how it can affect and alter chakras. That being said, I decided, ‘I think I’ll take my risks.’
What does a Ganja Yoga class look like?
It’s different every time, but some things are similar. Like every Wednesday class, we all share cannabis; we’re all medical patients right now so until it’s recreationally legal everyone needs to have a recommendation from their doctor.
We have sponsors who provide complimentary pre-rolls, and their sun-grown, organic joints. First-timers get a free one, but there’s enough for the class to share, and there’s also vape pens. It’s usually about a half-an-hour of social, hanging out, chatting—most people end up talking about cannabis. And when the yoga formally starts, we start with an introduction circle and everyone gets welcomed to the class and is given a chance to say hi. So we have a really strong community where people start to know each other’s names and start to get to know each other’s personalities—much more so than in a regular yoga class. The cannabis smoking circle creates a very social and friendly vibe. All different types of people use cannabis and all different types of people come to yoga, and it is pretty gender-balanced—there are more men than most yoga classes—and different ages because it’s more of an all levels practice. It’s just a welcoming group of people and a relaxed yoga class. People may not be used to it in other studios, but the people who come really like it—and not just for the cannabis, but also for that different approach to yoga.
Does consuming cannabis through social interaction in the beginning help people get deeper into their practice?
Even with cannabis, you can feel socially awkward or overwhelmed or shy, but I think if you get to know people and see others doing it, you can give yourself more permission to join in. I’ve had students come into class saying they used to get high before their other yoga classes anyway, so they love having a comfortable place to relate.
Do you think the upcoming election for recreational will change your turnout?
Oh I hope so, yes. But I’ve had a lot of people—from California and visitors from other states—come and ask me if they can come to class and I’ve had to decline to abide by the law.
How do you feel cannabis in Toronto and using it differs from California?
Fairly similar right now actually, I mean Toronto is becoming legalized with Justin Trudeau. The environment when I was there in 2009, it was pretty open—it was technically federally and provincially illegal, but the likelihood of getting caught was slim because some of us had medical cards, and if you do get caught, the punishment was pretty small—like a ticket. Just the environment around cannabis specifically, most people didn’t really think twice about it; it wasn’t in the front page of the health section of our national newspaper.
How do you think your yoga practices play a role in a healthy lifestyle?
Well I’m going to be teaching yoga tomorrow at the 420 Games, and there’s going to be hundreds or even thousands of runners—and walkers—doing this 4.0-mile course. Obviously I believe cannabis can be a part of a healthy and active lifestyle for sure. For somebody who is new to cannabis or new to yoga, and especially somebody who’s new to both, I think a mindful yoga that has a lot of emphasis on good alignments is really crucial. To the beginner yogi, just make sure your alignment is right, because you want this to serve you down the road and not hurt your body. Similarly, if you’re to do yoga and new to weed, you probably want a really slow, relaxing class and not some sort of competitive or task-based class.
Having said that, if you’re not a beginner—if you’re used to cannabis and used to yoga, and you feel confident, go to a Vinyasa class high. Be my guest, I think that’s great for you. I just wouldn’t recommend it to a beginner.
Look for Dee Dussault’s book, Ganja Yoga, available April 2017.