“Do what you want,” she says.
And she means it. It is the Bay Area, after all; California’s fog-ridden region infamous for rule breakers and trendsetters just like Dee Dessault, the creator of the uniquely delightful San Francisco gem ganja yoga. She stands in the front of the modest-sized room instructing attendants to ever-so-gently stretch this way and that, to lovingly release the burdensome worries of the day and totally engage in the bountiful serenity of the present moment. That is, if you feel like it. Dee may be calmly calling all the shots in this spiritual stoner’s paradise, but it’s your world, baby.
For this particular session, she has gathered participants at a historic, minimalist art space called Merchants of Reality. The gallery holds a number of events and works with a network of artists from around the globe to provide an outlet for creatives of all types. Dee’s medium of choice is yoga.
Thick, delicate spirals of smoke twirl towards the ceiling as the SOMA (South of Market Street) sunset projects the colors of dusk into the tranquil room – a kaleidoscope of sherbet orange and pink hues tinting the bare walls. Some people are blazing nice-sized joints, others indulge from their trusted, beloved pipes packed to the brim with their strain of choice for the enchanted evening. It’s a one-of-a-kind intersection of holistic, healing hobbies where we’ve not only been invited but sincerely encouraged to use cannabis to enhance the heights of pleasure our practice could scale.
“Might as well breathe,” she adds and everyone exhales together, sinking deeper into the wonderfully lazy haze of cannabis-induced euphoria.
It’s almost like a scene out of a movie: just a few moments earlier we were all sitting cross-legged in a circle, giving light-hearted introductions before launching into an impromptu community smoke session and now we’re doing downward dog wrapped in a warm cocoon of sativa bliss — all thanks to one woman who took her affinity for spirituality and yoga to another level.
“Do you need to breathe deeper? Do you need to stretch a little more gently? Ask your body, ‘What do I need right now?’” Dee suggests.
Right on cue, the woman in front of me casually hands me a joint someone just passed to her. She stretches to the floor to touch her toes, reaching for the pipe next to her feet and stands, inhaling a hearty pull. She stops to cough, taking her sweet time to recover before joining everyone else in their wobbly-but-determined tree poses on the sleek wooden floor.
“This is for you,” Dee says periodically throughout the session. “This is your practice.”
She is gentle, relaxed, whimsical, professional, methodical, thorough, funny and genuinely pleasant. She smiles, coos, laughs, sighs, exhales with gusto and encourages her students to take full advantage of their moment to let go. Her cool, calm and collected demeanor stems from more than two decades of immersing herself in her own personal yoga practice and learning about different ways to engage in the mind-body connection. She has made it her life’s mission to lovingly share how to connect to bliss through the relaxation, mindfulness and sensuality that can be experienced by practicing different types of yoga from hatha yoga to nude yoga to ganja yoga.
“Ever since I was a little child, I have been very interested in spirituality,” she explains. Noting that it’s something she was drawn to herself, outside of parental or other familial influences.
This flame of individuality helped to spark her successful career and enabled her to help thousands of people connect to their inner peace through intentional movement. Part of what makes her and her classes so enjoyable is the non-judgmental atmosphere.
“We’re all on our own journeys. I wanted to offer a space where people can really ask themselves about what they need and what they want without feeling like they’re not advanced enough or able to be who they really are.”
Ganja Yoga is the place to be for people who don’t feel the need to separate their pleasure from their practice. It’s a bring-your-own-bud type of affair, but attendees often share with one another in the spirit of Mary Jane. After signing to become a member of the on-site collective, people can freely and openly smoke, munch, vape or dab to their heart’s delight without judgement. Really.
“I used to be 15 minutes late to my other yoga classes all the time because I was trying to hit my bong before I got there so I could be high during class,” one attendee admits. “Now I can just smoke here. It’s awesome.”
Others in attendance agree.
“Now instead of trying to smoke as much as I can before I head out of the door, I can pace myself during class,” another person shares. “That way it doesn’t hit me all at once.”
Outside of instructors in India, Dee was not only the first woman but also the first yoga teacher to offer these unique “enhanced yogic journeys” in the United States. Now she’s looking to join forces with other women in the world of weed and continue building a platform for the blossoming community of females in the cannabis industry.
“Women are now coming more into the spotlight. I love it. There’s room for everyone,” she says.
She recalls a convention she once attended where she was one of very few women who had a table as a vendor offering cannabis-related products or services.
“There I was in the corner with my yoga booth and all around me were all these bros trying to sell stuff to make bigger plants, bigger buds, bigger everything,” she laughs. “I just think it’s so interesting that cannabis is a female plant but it’s men that dominate the industry.”
Moving forward, Dee hopes to take her practice from the standard studio format and offer attendees the opportunity to enjoy ganja yoga in the beauty of the outside world.
“Although I love what’s going on here in the city, I would love to get my classes out into nature at some point. Maybe a yoga retreat,” she says.
Regardless of what the future may hold, she’ll still be helping people connect to their pleasure while making sure she snags a little bit of her own as well. She may have years and years invested in the yoga game, but it’s her humility that will guarantee her continued success.
“I’m no yogi. It’s still a practice for me. Every day,” she admits. “Every lifetime.”
Do you enjoy marijuana as part of your yoga practice? Tell us about your experiences below.