Of the many things best enjoyed outside, yoga and cannabis are at the top of the list. Both are wonderful
on their own; in tandem they make a perfect pair; and when mixed with sunshine and fresh air, they are absolutely divine. Beneath a cloudless sky and a canopy of trees on a Sunday in Portland, May Day Yoganja at Prism House came primed with all the right ingredients for success, and it delivered – big time – on the bliss factor.
Attending a cannabis-friendly yoga class has always been a fantasy of mine. From the confines of my prohibition state I’d dream about such an occasion, the opportunity to combine two of my sacred practices, like the college-student version of me once imagined traveling to Amsterdam for the first time. As soon as we moved to the west coast, though, the fantasy became a possibility and therefore a life goal, and I signed up for the first class I found.
When the day arrived, I was nervous. Yoganja reassumed its mythical status in my mind as reserved for only those who had already achieved enlightenment. I was in a new city and wanted to meet people, but was I ready to share all this? It didn’t help that my yoga clothes were still on the east coast and when I’d put on my new Target leggings, my daughter looked at me and said: “Are you wearing that? You know you have camel toe.” Comments like this one are the reason I meditate. At that moment, it was enough to get me out the door (after I changed my pants).
Prism House is a rambling, white, multi-level home and community space, tucked into a corner lot in the
Parkrose neighborhood of Northeast Portland, with a sprawling yard full of trees, garden beds, and chickens. By the time I arrived, a rainbow of yoga mats was already spread out on the lawn, where sunbeams played off the shadows of branches, and the back door was open in a gesture of welcome. There, our host and Prism House’s owner-operator, Samantha Montanaro, greeted each participant and directed us to the kitchen, to fill up a glass of cool water and peruse the samples offered by the event’s sponsors.
Any residual anxiety about Yoganja dissipated once I stepped inside. The homey environs and everyone’s warm friendliness set me at ease right away. Also, there was cannabis. Several products, each carefully selected to enhance the afternoon’s activities, were available to try: Cascadia Herbals strain specific, glycerin based tinctures; low-dose cannabis extract and essential oil blends in individual vape pens from Titrate; and Hifi Farms craft cannabis flower. Yoga teacher Hollie Leilani Hayes selected the legendary Island Sweet Skunk as an ideal accompaniment to the sequence she developed especially for the class, and the Titrate pens were formulated with the same strain.
Once students arrived and had a chance to introduce ourselves and check out the samples, we gathered on a blanket in Prism House’s yard (out of street view, of course) to share a joint of Hifi’s Island Sweet Skunk and learn more about the elements of the afternoon. Hollie spoke about what to expect from the day’s session and why she chose Island Sweet Skunk for this experience, including its citrus and tropical flavor profile and its energizing, but not zippy, effects. As we passed the joint in a circle, she encouraged us to go inward and discover what the strain was activating in our bodies – I distinctly felt the energy in the center of my forehead, the third eye, as openness and receptivity and appreciation – and invited us to our mats.
Clearly Hollie designed the Yoganja class with May Day and its symbolism of springtime and rebirth in mind,
and the setting – the heat of the sun, the aroma of flowers, the view of Mt. St. Helens – contributed to a profound sense of being held by the earth. We began on our bellies, grounded, and went through a series of postures that strengthened that sense of connection, including floorwork and lots of low, wide-legged asanas ripe with opportunity to let go of burdensome energy, to release it back to the steadfast and resilient earth. Hollie offered gentle guidance, a variety of options to ensure accessibility, and the consistent reminder to check in with your own body and listen to its needs. Like the rest of the afternoon, the class proceeded in the most unhurried way, almost meandering, with space to unwind fully into each posture. This can be challenging for a person like me, who tends to anticipate whatever might be coming next (and want to get there now!), but it is also a great relief and an imperative practice to lose that expectation. Toward the end of the session, before the final savasana, Hollie instructed us to move in the ways our bodies felt inclined to move, to go to whatever pose felt right. Then we lay flat on the earth and breathed together. Afterwards I felt light and vibrant; stimulated by the breeze, the outdoor sounds, the energy of the community around me, and the Island Sweet Skunk; content.
Once we all rose, we gathered again on the blanket to pass joints and eat oranges, cheese, and rice crackers. We chatted and laughed, fell into easy conversation with our neighbors and new friends, still in awe of the beauty of the day, lingering into the evening, puffing on our Titrate pens. Yoganja at Prism House is a powerful way to bring people together through the rituals of cannabis and yoga, and May Day Yoganja was incredibly special. I plan on becoming a regular; hope to see you there next month!