6 Ways to Deal with the Stoner in the Room.

Via Michelle Marchildon
on Nov 13, 2012
get elephant's newsletter
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

Like  elephant yoga and elephant health & wellness on facebook.


About Michelle Marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her second book, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, is for yoga teachers who want to inspire their students. Michelle is a columnist for elephant journal and Origin Magazine and a contributor to Teachasana, My Yoga Online and Yoga Journal. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches in Denver, Co where she is busy raising two boys, two dogs and one husband. You can follow her on Facebook at Michelle Marchildon, The Yogi Muse. You can find her blog and website at www.YogiMuse.com. And you can take her classes on www.yogadownload.com.


61 Responses to “6 Ways to Deal with the Stoner in the Room.”

  1. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Andrew, when you come to Denver to take class, let's light up first, okay? And, I'll skip my hormones that day and we'll have a real party. P.S. You may be disappointed with my teaching. I am sexy, snarky and fabulous in print. But in the classroom, I'm known as "mom" and I take care of everyone — even if they're impaired.

  2. Michelle Marchildon says:

    One reader has actually called every single publisher I write for and the studios where I work and told them that I should not be allowed to teach yoga because, wait for it….. I am not funny! She even got to the COO of one studio. When the manager asked if she'd ever been to my class, the reader replied she's never even been to this state! But she still doesn't think I should be allowed to teach because, I am not funny! I had to call the F.B.I., and unfortunately, this time I'm not joking.

  3. Clay Kirkland says:

    Since when does being "stoned" mean being "impaired"? Smoking herb can put one in touch with one's body in ways that are unique, helpful, and wonderful. What is your operational definition of "stoner"? The way you use the word implies that a stoner is someone who is out of touch. Excuse me, I can do great yoga straight or stoned. I'm usually straight but I love it both ways. And I guarantee you, I do not hold up the class. In fact, I think I kick it pretty hard.

  4. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Hey Stoners, I was right! Or at least the New York Times agreed with me. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/fashion/marijua

  5. […] was sick, grumpy and stoned as a goat off the medicine. I arrived at the studio dazed and over an hour early—an accident. I was so […]

  6. befunknote says:

    This article really makes you sounds like a square. But seriously, I am a stoner but yoga is the one thing that I will not smoke weed before doing. That's not to say I haven't gone to class stoned but over time it just seems better not to be impaired while doing yoga. Everyone's body is different so some people enjoy stoned yoga. For me it creates more crazy thoughts for others it actually clears their head.

    It's pretty rude of you to call someone out on being stoned and very condescending to imply they won't be able to tell their left from their right simply because they smoked a little herb. You may want to rethink your judgmental attitude.

  7. Victoria says:

    I think the author differentiates just fine between 'stoner' and recreational use. Stoners are always high, always slow, and often – though maybe well meaning – disruptive, if they are in a group learning environment. This can be time consuming for teachers. I see nothing mean spirited about this post, even if people who enjoy being publicly high take offense. Yes, persons with dependency issues want to be loved like everyone else, whether they an alcohol/pot/caffeine/steroid/heroin addict, or whatever. But they do present challenges to the rest of their community, and a little tongue in cheek venting has its place amongst all the 'tolerance' posts as well. Also, there is some good advice in here. Live and let live, unless the person is being disruptive, and then do what you need to do to create an orderly environment. Nice post.

  8. Fay says:

    I understand the sauca-cleanliness. I think it's appropriate to ask for someone to be a little more conscious of the way they may smell whether its marijuana, perfume, or BO because some people are sensitive to certain smells. However, saying that a stoner doesn't know their right foot from their left foot is a bit ridiculous. Everyone should be welcome in a yoga class…judgement free. There is always going to be someone who is going to switch left vs right or is moving at a slower pace but they are there and that is a wonderful thing. As a teacher I mess up sometimes and say right when I mean left and I'm never stoned when I teach, it's a common human error. Sorry but this article is a little over the top and I don't agree with using yoga to share YOUR belief with the public.

  9. courtneyh90 says:

    This article makes me sick. Aren't supposed to have an open mind? Isn't that something yoga is about? Shame on you for this.

    And so you know, you are just being stereotypical. Stoners can understand instructions. You are just being insulting, and a bigot.

  10. elephantjournal says:

    Isn't part of having an open mind to just listen to someone's opinion without letting it send you into hysterics?

  11. elephantjournal says:

    Part of our mission of the mindful life is laughter! Maybe you don't find it funny, but please understand that it's supposed to be humorous rather than offensive. ~ ed.