November 13, 2012

6 Ways to Deal with the Stoner in the Room.

Light up to practice?

Now that Colorado is perhaps the first of many states to pass a law that allows for using marijuana recreationally, it’s not unlikely that we’ll have more and more stoners in our yoga classes.

Since I currently teach in Colorado where you can legally light up if you have a headache or a splinter, I have had many stoners in my room. I want to share my hard-earned wisdom, because up to now, this is how it’s been for me:

Me:  “Step your right foot forward to a lunge.”

Stoner:  “Huh?”

Me:  “Right foot forward please.”

Stoner:  (Moves left foot forward.)

Me:  “Um, please move the other right foot forward.”

Stoner:  “Man, what’s her problem?”

Right? Because it’s never the stoner’s problem when they hold up the class—it’s our problem. Impaired students become our challenge because we must manage our classes for the good of the many and not just for the one. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Set good boundaries. I teach an alignment-based yoga; therefore I’m constantly asking students to discover the right side from the left side, inner thigh versus the outer thigh and pinky toe or big toe. I am not the stoner teacher! When students check in who are obviously impaired, I say to them, “You must be conscious enough to know your right side from your left side, and if you aren’t, you might want to wait until the meditation teacher arrives.”  Alignment-based yoga systems aren’t particularly suited to being stoned. However, there are other styles that being in a semi-conscious state might enhance and you can direct your stoners there.

2. Sauca is essential. There’s a yoga sutra for cleanliness, Sauca. I’ve had stoners come in with a cloud around them. The ganja is so strong the entire side of the room is getting stoned. It’s okay to ask for clean clothes, clean mat and a clean body for practice.

3. Be kind. Most stoners who come to practice are really sweet people. Try to visit the planet of your stoner, as in, put yourself in their position. This will take you further in communicating to them than say, speaking to them as if they were children. I am giving you the best of my experience here because, truthfully, I’ve tried it both ways. Apparently, though they may place themselves in a state where they take no responsibility, they do not want to be spoken to that way. They yearn to be taken seriously.

4. Ignore the elephant. You can try to overlook the stoner in the room. Here’s the thing. When everyone in the room is practicing on the right side, and the stoner is on the left, or when we are practicing pranayama and the stoner is dozing off, there’s a likelihood that everyone else also knows there is a stoner in the room. The most important thing is you must manage your room for the many, not the one. If the stoner is causing no harm, then by all means let him be. But if his actions seem to be disrupting the class, then it’s your responsibility to make peace for all and that may look like moving the stoner to the back of the room.

5. Offer Stoner Yoga. If there’s a large population of stoners in your area, you may want to consider setting aside a specific class at the studio where everyone is welcome. For example, I used to teach at a studio in Denver which had nine medical marijuana shops sharing the same block. I think it would be terrific to offer them Stoner Yoga. I understand, it’s already being offered in Los Angeles.

6. Suggest the subtle benefits of being sober. This is optional, but if you’re looking to transform lives, then your stoners are ideal opportunities to practice what you preach. Yoga has the transformational power to help everyone find more in their life without lighting up! The high you get from yoga lasts much longer than what you can get from weed. Mine has lasted 15 years. If you can persuade your students to wait until after practice to light up, they might just benefit from both yoga and an occasional recreational high. If not, that’s okay too as there’s always the meditation class that starts in an hour and no one will need to know their right side from their left.


Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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