It is widely accepted that the right strain of cannabis can inspire creativity and facilitate relaxation. Because of its versatile applications, some use cannabis to medicate a specific condition, some use it as a recreational outlet, and some use it as a vessel through which to achieve mental, physical, and spiritual homeostasis. This is what practitioners of Ganjasana hope to achieve.
Ganjasana is a ceremony that facilitates the symbiotic relationship between the therapeutic use of cannabis with yoga: ganja (cannabis) + asana (yoga)
More than just an exercise, Ganjasana is a movement that celebrates the cultivation of the plant along with the transformative experiences it can provide when paired with the spiritually and physically powerful practice of yoga. According to the movement’s founder, Rachel Carlevale, this isn’t a new relationship.
In an interview with The Cannabist, she stated, “If we look at the roots of yoga practice you can see that ganja was a part of that. In India you see the Sadhus (Hindu holy men) sitting in meditation; they are smoking ganja. And if you look at the ancient Vedic texts there is evidence that they used a (cannabis) drink called bhang, for example.”
Ganjasana ascribes to the practice of permaculture, or the principals of organic gardening with special attention to the health of the plant and planet. Cannabis used in Ganjasana is chemical, fertilizer, and pesticide free. In Ganjasana, a deep respect for the natural environment’s integrity is an essential part of the practice.
Carlevale wasn’t always headed in the direction in which she ultimately chose to embark. Before delving more deeply into yoga and cannabis, her life was defined by conventional discipline. She was a ballerina who performed with the Boston Ballet, and her aspiration was to get good grades and serve the world by becoming an excellent doctor. Carlevale would go on to become a healer, just not the kind she originally set out to be.
Inspired by her studies with the Shipibo tribe Shamans of Peru, Carlevale founded Ganjasana instead. Her classes focus on what she calls the “cannabis master plant.” Carlevale teaches her students to regard the plant as their guru and to fortify their relationship with the plant’s spirit, learning to synthesize the therapeutic properties of cannabis with Hatha yoga, pranayama, and mindfulness.
Carlevale’s experience in the eco-conscious movement has deep roots. In order to conduct research on Ayahuasca Psychedelic Therapy in the Peruvian Amazon, she was awarded the first Cosmic Sister Plant Spirit Medicine Grant. This merit-based grant program sponsors outstanding women so that they may experience the transformative journey promised by Ayahuasca. Rachael graduated from the Honors Commonwealth School at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a Pre-Medicine Plant Biology degree. After graduating, she played a key role in the development of the university’s first campus permaculture garden.
Carlevale received her Yoga Certification from the Shambhava School of Yoga and her Mindfulness Educator Certification from the Greater Good Institute at UC Berkeley. A dedicated Yogi, Carlevale facilitates Women’s Red Tent Yoga Workshops, mindfulness meditations, and Vinyasa flow Yoga classes.
Originally from Massachusetts, Carlevale chose to move to Colorado with the man she would marry in order to pursue her dream of legally growing organic cannabis. This was a pivotal moment in Carlevale’s journey. Her passionate pursuit of cannabis very well may have saved her life. It certainly gave her a life worth living at a time when she was crippled by an unpredictable and unfair disease.
Ganjasana blossomed from Carlevale’s own physical need. When she was 23, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer that left her in severe pain, extremely underweight, and hospital fed by IVs. Traditional doctors recommended a hysterectomy, but Carlevale chose the more unconventional path. It was through the ingestion of organic and chemical, pesticide, and fertilizer free cannabis along with yoga practice, acupuncture, kinesiology, and nutritional changes that Carlevale regained her health.
Ganjasana has helped Carlevale to shrink her tumor by over 20mm
This experience inspired Carlevale to develop Ganjasana into the program that it is today. Her academic background in medicine drove her precision and devotion to data-based techniques. When discussing the origins of Ganjasana, Carlevale stated, “I ran two years of pilot studies. With my educational background, I always like to make sure that the programs are actually being effective and efficient. I did clinical studies; I tested different cultivars and strains to see what would really work for one and doesn’t work for another.”
Carlevale understands that not everyone is prepared to take cannabis yoga seriously, but that skepticism hasn’t deterred her from doing everything she can to make it accessible to everyone interested in what Ganjasana has to offer. In response to skeptics, Carlevale said, “There is a science behind this, in that cannabis is a true medicine. I like to admit that this plant has literally saved my life. So we’re really passionate about letting everyone know that. No matter what you think, this plant heals.”
The Ganjasana Ceremonies
Ganjasana ceremonies are not simply places to get high and a good workout. Carlevale’s students are required to show up sober and clear headed. She provides them with chemical-free cannabis grown in a regenerative, living soil system. Students begin the ceremony with breath work. Then they consume cannabis and go through various asanas. The cannabis certainly has an effect on the students, but Carlevale claims that it is the yoga that truly enhances the experience because of its emphasis on mindfulness.
Driven to empower women, Carlevale also hosts the “Green Tent,” a safe space designed to celebrate femininity and the cannabis plant spirit
Women who partake in this ceremony will learn to align their bodies with the rhythms of nature, use cannabis to create homeostasis during uniquely female life stages such as menstruation and menopause and to alleviate the symptoms of stress, PMS, headaches, fatigue, and menstrual cramps.
You can become a certified Cannabis Yoga Instructor by attending the first Ganjasana Yoga School from October 13-16, 2017. The program will take place at Aspen Canyon Ranch, Colorado. The workshop will teach students about sustainable methods of cultivation and delivery, proper dosing, cannabis history and precautions, cannabinoids, and how to use the right strains to enhance your yoga practice.