Should you, too?
When I told friends and colleagues I had signed up for a Ganga Yoga class, it was met by a few giggles, a couple pairs of goggly, stary eyes (the ones that say: “are you mental, woman?!”), and a lot of questions. Why would I do such a thing? And when is it and how much is it, and again, why are you doing this? There were actually a few reasons behind my choice to register to a Ganga Yoga class.
I came across this class on meetup.com, on which I am a member of no less than 39 groups, ranging from Dutch language practice to women entrepreneurs in Amsterdam and from meditation to co-working. I haven’t participated in any meetup meetings (or meetups) for a while, as I am trying this new concept of always keeping my word. That means I don’t commit to things lightly nor sign up for numerous, very interesting meetups I will never go to. Anyways, I am there, browsing away and looking for Cannabis related meetup groups in Amsterdam. Surprisingly enough, there are none. Zero. Nada. I must create a Cannabis meetup group! Cannabis Industry Group! Women in the Cannabis Industry Group! No, better, Women & Cannabis Group! Eventually, I come across the Ganga Yoga group. Its Meetup page reads: “Cannabis-friendly yoga gives people an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the enhanced mind in combination with gentle yoga to go deeper into the practice. We hope to feel unity in community and generate good vibes for everyone whether on the solo inward journey or linking in with the group. It’s a no stress/no pressure environment.” I’m thinking: I want to enjoy the benefits of the enhanced mind in combination with gentle yoga to go deeper into the practice! I want to feel unity in community and generate good vibes for everyone whether on the solo inward journey or linking in with the group!
The Decision-Making Process.
The Ganga Yoga classes are scheduled every Sunday at 8pm in a community center in the west of Amsterdam. 15 euros for 2 hours, including 1 hour of elevated yoga. Ganja is included, pure only (no tobacco). Very interesting. Instead of staying home and having a smoke in front of the tv on my Sunday night, why not get out (of the house and of my comfort zone) and smoke with people I don’t know somewhere I don’t know before doing something I love: yoga. After the initial barriers I’m all too familiar with, such as ‘I don’t have any money’, ‘it’s on a Sunday night and no one likes to go out on a Sunday night’, ‘I’m too busy’, ‘I won’t go if I sign up anyway’, and more; well, I decided to sign up. Bim, paid, committed.
As an experienced weed smoker and a home yoga enthusiast (youtube, anyone?), there have been the few occasions I’ve practised yoga while mildly elevated. It helped with centering myself, quieting my mind, being in the moment. I’m quite excited about being able to share this experience with a group of like-minded people and, on the other hand, absolutely mortified.
I had a few weeks ahead of me to get used to the idea, and made sure to tell EVERYONE and their mothers about it to reduce the risk of getting cold feet at the last minute, since that would mean I’d have to disappoint EVERYONE (no pressure). Despite my best efforts to convince one (any!) of my friends to join me on this adventure on the journey to self-awareness and love, I fail miserably. So this one I’ll have to face alone.
Today’s the day.
On the day things get complicated. I waver between excitement and anxiety, and very nearly end up staying home at the last minute. I am so proud I was actually able to push myself out of the house, even though I knew I was going to be a bit late (which my mind finds completely and utterly unacceptable when confronted with a challenging situation, to the point she tries to convince me that I’d be better off not going). I can even recall a couple of occasions on the way (road block and traffic jam) where I almost gave up and turned back. I didn’t though, and I eventually arrived at Zaal 100, a wonderful spot I’m so pleased to have discovered. A community center converted into a music venue and restaurant/bar, with a cozy little back terrace and… a ginger kitty! That cat was definitely the highlight of my evening, so fluffy and majestuous, and that is almost definitely beside the point.
I was welcomed by Lisa, the organiser, who was warm and friendly, and asked me a few questions about my Cannabis use. I assume that was to ensure I wouldn’t pass out or feel too overwhelmed too quickly. I was one of the last ones to arrive (late, yes, but not last, hooray!) and there was a group of 25-30 people already sitting in a huge circle around a table, speaking in small groups and passing a huge joint around. Lisa made sure to try and make me feel at ease, and a very interesting-looking old man approached and handed me a huge joint. They explained he was providing the sacred herb and I cannot remember his name to save my life. We briefly talked about being a ‘pure’ smoker, meaning not using any tobacco products in your joints (because, let’s face it, ew), before I found a chair and joined the group. Everyone was speaking in English, and I think the only Dutch people present were Ilma, the yoga teacher, and perhaps a couple others. I had an internal debate as per whether I should make an effort and speak to someone. In the name of research, courage and commitment, I did. I spoke to the woman next to me, who was there with a friend, in Amsterdam for the weekend. She had never done this before and smoked weed occasionally. I quickly realised that most attendees were there out of curiosity, to try something ‘so Amsterdam’ as they described it. I guess I was slightly disappointed at the time by this outcome, having already imagined myself connecting with these wonderful like-minded beings and creating life-long friendships based on common values, including Cannabis. Turned out we weren’t so like-minded at all, by the look of it. I realised that when a guy in the circle called Cannabis a ‘drug’. This prompted our cannabis provider to correct him and explain that Cannabis is merely a plant and that you cannot prohibit something our mother earth kindly offers to us. This conversation went on for a few minutes, under the stares of the group, and I remember our Cannabis provider mentioning the importance of consuming with intention. This is when I started to relax a bit, and to realise that I was most definitely in the presence of like-minded people. At one point I remember asking myself if I were too high, if I’d be able to do this, if I should go home, what to do?! I don’t smoke much in public and usually prefer the privacy and ‘safety’ (in the non-judgmental sense) of my own home, so this brought up a lot for me. When we finally moved inside however, I wasn’t very high at all anymore.
I found a narrow spot at the back of the room to install my yoga mat and off we were. We started off with some stretching and warm up poses. Quickly I got the impression the yoga teacher wasn’t taking this very seriously, or didn’t know what she was doing. She was giving approximate instructions such as “go like this” or “bend like that”. Considering I was at the back of the room and that between us stood 25+ high yogis, it was quite hard for me to follow. I had to keep glancing to the front of the room and hope to understand what was going on. About 15 minutes in, I’m starting to get bored, and I come to the conclusion I am not high enough for this. This is when Ilma started giggling uncontrollably. Then it hit me. Duh. It was not that she wasn’t taking this seriously nor that she didn’t know what she was doing! Ilma was high! She confirmed the obvious (I’m pretty sure I was the last person in the room to come to the realization that our teacher was high) when she slumped on the floor and said: “you can stay like that if you like, it’s up to you, but I can’t be bothered”. This continued for another 30 minutes and the class was dismissed early.
It was a very interesting experience, to say the least. If anything, it was one of those things I needed to do. I needed to show up for myself that day. To show the skeptical ego that I, too, can attend random classes with random people and do new things. ‘Out of the box’ things. It was a commitment I made to me and I honoured it and I am so proud. So there’s that. The weed was great too. The Yoga, not so much. That’s ok. I’m so glad I went. Would I do it again? Probably not. Although who knows. Maybe one day…