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Meditate and relax: Local company offers the first yoga and cannabis class on the Central Coast

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The practice of yoga is widely seen as a form of meditation, harmonizing the core through body postures, disciplined breathing, and a centered mind. Vanaspati Yoga based in Cambria has taken this meditative practice a step further by bringing cannabis products into the mix with a Restorative Ganja Yoga class. 

Vanaspati Yoga is a small company established last August by couple Miho Watanabe and Mike Coulson. Watanabe is a Yoga Alliance certified instructor who has been practicing yoga for seven years and Coulson has been practicing for 10. Watanabe said that one of the main goals of their yoga classes is for all practitioners to join in a comfortable and safe setting. Watanabe is the instructor for the yoga classes and she strives for all attendees to go inside the self with these meditative practices and focus on the awareness of breath. 

“By following the subtle sensations in the body, our goal is for people to let go of the physical resistance we hold and the excessive mind chatter we tend to experience on a day to day basis,” she said. 

TEACHING :  Miho Watanabe of Vanaspati Yoga seeks to enhance the relaxation experience of practicing yoga by adding low dosage cannabis treats in the classroom. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VANASPATI YOGA
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF VANASPATI YOGA
  • TEACHING : Miho Watanabe of Vanaspati Yoga seeks to enhance the relaxation experience of practicing yoga by adding low dosage cannabis treats in the classroom.

In October 2016, the couple introduced the Restorative Ganja classes offering complimentary cannabis to vaporize and edibles. The class operated under Proposition 215 at the time, requiring a medical marijuana recommendation to attend. But with the passage of Proposition 64, the owners opened up the class for attendees 21 and older. Watanabe said that with the right strain and dosing, cannabis can provide muscle and nerve sedation and anti-inflammatory properties. 

“With proper breathing and awareness after consumption, it can allow users to stretch deeper and perhaps even longer than they would otherwise,” she said. 

Watanabe said that they choose to use a vaporizer for the cannabis because it brings the health benefits of cannabis without the harm of smoking it. The edibles come from Baceae, a local company that was also created by Watanabe and her husband, Coulson. She said they pride themselves on using organic and fair trade ingredients in their products: peanut butter cups, granola bars, hemp bars, truffles, and chocolate turtles. Coulson said each piece has 10 milligrams of THC—equal to one serving and considered to be a low dosage. They sell their products through HWY 1 Organics, a medical marijuana delivery service that delivers throughout the county. 

“The main goal of bringing cannabis into the class is to enhance the entire experience of relaxation, awareness, peace, and community,” Coulson said.  

Something that Watanabe sees in her classes is the increase in attending yogis, but also two different worlds coming together, yogis and cannabis users. She said many people who have never tried yoga exercises are practicing because of the cannabis products that are offered; likewise, many avid yogis have never tried cannabis but are now open to how it has enhanced their experience. 

“What’s wonderful is that we’re starting to see the wellness communities open up their minds, using cannabis to enhance their workouts,” Watanabe said. 

Although the couple is seeing more interest in their classes, there are still many people who aren’t completely comfortable with the idea of mixing the two activities. Watanabe said she believes that many people are just scared to be public with their cannabis use because of the stigma that’s associated with it. 

ELEVATE:  The Vanaspati Yoga classroom creates a relaxing atmosphere with candles and essential oils while providing complementary vaporizer usage and edibles for its students. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VANASPATI YOGA
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF VANASPATI YOGA
  • ELEVATE: The Vanaspati Yoga classroom creates a relaxing atmosphere with candles and essential oils while providing complementary vaporizer usage and edibles for its students.

“As we enter this new era of ending prohibition, our hope is for more people to step out of their comfort zone and try something new,” Watanabe said. 

The couple said that although many believe that the yoga class is focused around the cannabis and solely for cannabis users, all yogis are welcomed whether they would like to participate in taking cannabis or not. Watanabe said that she also offers warm tea made from fresh organic herbal leaves, flowers, and berries. Essential oils are also an important part of the class because both oils and tea are elements that provide at atmosphere of calmness to the activity. 

Ganja yoga is a movement that Watanabe and Coulson were inspired to pursue after experiencing the class from Dee Dussault. 

“She is our ganja guru, as we like to call her,” Coulson said. 

Based in San Francisco, Dussault is a yoga practitioner of 22 years and an international speaker. She was the first yoga instructor to offer cannabis-enhanced yoga classes to the public in 2009 and a pioneer of the course. She specializes in working with beginners and elderly student as well as couples and individuals. 

Vanaspati Yoga doesn’t have a permanent home; Coulson said that it had been a challenge to find a studio that is open to the enhanced form of exercise. The couple uses two locations for their classes; Tula Yoga in Cambria (for the ganja class) and Sandspit Beach in Montaña De Oro State Park. 

For avid and beginning yogis, visit vanaspati.yoga to learn more about ganja yoga. Watanabe said that yogis interested in attending a ganja class should register in advance as classes have been filling up fast. Vanaspati Yoga offers Restorative Ganja Yoga three times a month, usually on Thursday and Sunday. The hope is to eventually expand their class offerings through the Central Coast to more studios and work with other experienced instructors, whether the yoga is cannabis enhanced or not. 

“We want to provide a space for people to be in the present moment, go deeper inside of themselves, and to find a sense of peace and well-being even if it’s just for a couple of hours,” Watanabe said. 

Staff Writer Karen Garcia can be reached at kgarcia@newtimesslo.com.

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