Yoga and Beer or Yoga and Cannabis: Which is the Most Elite Retreat?Rebecca KelleyDecember 20, 2015
At least 8.7 percent of U.S. adults, or 20.4 million people, practice yoga, and nearly 45 percent of Americans who haven’t tried yoga are interested in giving it a shot. The ancient discipline has exploded in popularity over the past several years, with various types (classical, Ashtanga, Hatha, to name a few) appealing to yogis of all abilities. But after a few years of practice, donning spandex and unrolling your mat can feel a little stale or uninspired, which is why some instructors are trying to spruce up the age-old exercise by pairing yoga with other adult lifestyle activities like beer and cannabis.
I recently attended two such events, first tackling a cannabis and yoga brunch before downward-facing dogging my way into a beer and yoga brunch. While there were plenty of similarities between the two events, I was amused to experience firsthand the nuances that made each pairing unique.
Yoga + Cannabis = Bliss
First up was the “Yoga with a View” yoga and cannabis brunch hosted by Mason Jar Event Group and catered by Blackbelly Market, a restaurant and catering company owned by "Top Chef" season five winner Hosea Rosenberg. The event took place last month in Longmont, Colo., an hour’s drive north of Denver.
Pairing cannabis with yoga is becoming quite the trendy activity, but this event went above and beyond in pushing the boundaries of decadence. Sponsored by Green Dot Labs, Headquarters Cannabis Company, Love’s Oven, and, yes, Leafly, the brunch was steeply priced at $200 a ticket, but the approximately 75 attendees definitely got their money’s worth.
Each participant picked up a goodie bag from Headquarters’ Longmont dispensary containing the following items:
- Leafly rolling papers
- Non-cannabis-infused teas from The Tea Spot
- A candle from Headquarters
- A freshly baked, cannabis-infused muffin from Love’s Oven
- A gram of B4 cannabis from Headquarters
- A pre-rolled joint of CBD Diesel from Headquarters
- Live resin wax from Green Dot Labs (0.5 grams)
My coworker and I pulled up to Lone Hawk Farm and marveled at the rustic-chic surroundings on a cold but clear and sunny Sunday morning. We set up our mats in the main barn (which, with its string of hanging lights and warm wood tones, looks like a Pinterest-addicted wedding planner’s dream venue) and joined the participants outside for a pre-yoga spread of pastries and hot tea. Yogis of various abilities enjoyed the outdoor dab bar and passed pre-rolls back and forth between bites of sticky buns and muffins. To fully embrace the day’s pairings, I puffed on my CBD Diesel joint prior to the yoga portion of the morning, easing into its relaxing effects right as our instructor, Larissa Ortiz, announced it was time to begin.
Ortiz addressed the crowd, easing our trepidation by saying, “Considering you’re all here to smoke weed, do yoga and eat good food, you’re probably less Type A than the typical Boulder yoga crew.” We all laughed, our nerves dissipating as we began the session with 10 minutes of meditation and mindful breathing. My body felt heavy, but not overwhelmingly so, and my mind allowed itself to become engulfed by the warm serenity of my surroundings. I let the week’s tension slip away amidst the glitter of dust particles swirling in streaks of sunbeams, the faint chirp of birds singing in the distance.
Once our meditation period concluded, we eased into an hourlong yoga session. Ortiz adjusted the workout to accommodate the large number of beginners in the room, gently guiding us from one pose to the next at a comfortable pace. She occasionally poked fun at our mildly stoned and oftentimes clumsy group, at one point joking, “Lift your right leg… some of you are lifting your left leg, and that’s cool, but now try lifting your right right leg,” as we laughed in response.
We concluded our yoga session with another 10 minutes of meditation to reflect on our experience before sitting down to a delectable family-style brunch, where we made new friends while feasting on glazed organic root vegetables; farm-fresh scrambled eggs (served naked or with Rocky Mountain smoked trout); crisp arugula salad dressed with lemon, salt, and pepper; thick slabs of bacon; herbed breakfast sausage; a crunchy-sweet granola parfait; and mimosas.
I chatted with Ortiz, who did a great job keeping the yoga session fun and approachable for all levels, at the event’s conclusion to see how she thought her first cannabis-paired yoga class went.
“I thought it was great in there! It was so much fun. It was a lot more people than I personally expected, and quite a range in terms of abilities, but I thought it was great. Everybody seemed super psyched in it, whether they were a newer practitioner or more advanced.”
She laughed as she confessed that she recognized a few people who attended the event, saying she knew some as students and others as fellow instructors. “I thought, ‘Hey, look who’s coming out of the closet!'”
The attendees, who were a mix of industry and non-industry types as well as cannabis consumers and non-consumers, reflected on the morning’s activities. Stephanie, who is an occasional cannabis consumer but doesn't work in the industry, said, “I thought that the yoga was amazing. It was fun. I had never actually smoked before I did yoga, and it made me kind of go more inside myself. Larissa [Ortiz] did a great job of leading the class. It was challenging, but you could kind of back down, too.” She insisted that consuming cannabis before the yoga session seemed to help with her movements, noting with a laugh, “I always have tension in the back of my hamstrings and I didn’t [during class] — I felt like I was more flexible.”
Ortiz was thrilled with the feedback, noting, “I’ve actually been in classes when I’ve been high and it’s been too serious, too intense,” making her efforts to lighten the mood a success.
Non-consumers offered rave reviews as well, with one participant named Janet saying, “Not partaking doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the cannabis scene. You can still appreciate the culture and the education.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Yoga + Beers = Cheers!
Later that same month, I popped into an impromptu beer and yoga brunch with a friend of mine. The setting for this event was decidedly more low-key, taking place in a bar located in Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood. At a cost of less than $30 per ticket, it was certainly a more affordable option than the farm-to-table cannabis and yoga event I had recently experienced.
Word of mouth quickly spread for this casual Saturday morning affair, and our group of approximately 50 amateur yogis cozied up next to each other along the worn, wooden bar floor like giggly sardines in a hops-scented can. The session was led by Jes Fleming, owner and coach of The Movement Cooperative. She and a fellow instructor guided us into a fluid and somewhat fast-paced set of movements, urging us to hold our poses long enough to really feel the impact of each position.
The vibe of this class was decidedly less meditative and more laid-back, with waves of laughter rolling across the dimly lit bar as people accidentally smacked each other’s feet or struggled to stay balanced on one leg. And no, this wasn’t the booze’s fault – unlike “Yoga with a View,” there was no consumption prior to the start of the event (which was probably a smart move, as I can’t imagine feeling especially comfortable practicing an hour of yoga with a belly full of beer). Instead, our amateur yoga efforts were rewarded with suds after the session concluded.
When asked what inspired her to pair yoga with beer, Fleming said, “Dawn [Fleming’s business partner] and I desire to create a new and interesting entry point into yoga as well as create a sense of community in a place known for 'freezing' people out. Yoga has had such a positive effect on our lives that we had to find a way to share it.”
“We want to show that yoga does not have to be so serious. You don't have to be able to do the splits or stand on your head. You don't even have to be able to touch your toes. We figured that we love yoga, we love beer, and there couldn't be a better way to share our passion for both as well as connect as the community.”
Connect we did. Overall, the group’s response to this beer and yoga pairing was overwhelmingly positive, and although some struggled to get the movements down, everyone felt comfortable and were eager to raise a glass of their favorite beer (I opted for a seasonal winter ale) and laugh together afterwards while already committing to the next yoga pairing.
Speaking of which, Fleming said her company is exploring the idea of combining yoga with champagne, wine, cider, whiskey, coffee and, yes, cannabis, at future events. Fleming, who occasionally partakes in edibles and smoking, supports legalization on both the local and national level, and although she’s never personally tried cannabis and yoga together, she admitted that it “could absolutely be a great pairing.”
While the post-yoga beer brunch wasn’t quite as lavish as the cannabis brunch (participants noshed on frittatas, breakfast potatoes, and parfaits while sipping either mimosas or a variety of beers on tap), the sense of camaraderie and community was alive and well. In that sense, the parallels between both the beer and yoga pairing and the cannabis and yoga event were profound. Each afternoon’s goal was the same: to bring together a group of open-minded people and unite them under the common bond of promoting wellness while making new connections and having a little fun.
While one cannabis and yoga participant lauded the pairing as a “highly, highly symbiotic marriage,” I wouldn’t discount the idea of cracking open a cold one after a yoga session, either. And while beer isn’t likely to heighten your yoga session like cannabis can, it has the ability to, like cannabis, bring individuals together and form a lasting bond. I can’t help but raise a glass and cheers to that… after I finish vaping this hybrid strain, of course.
Time for you to weigh in! Which would you be more willing to try with your friends, cannabis and yoga or beer and yoga…or both?
Interested in exploring these pairings further? Check out these resources: