6 Ways to Deal with the Stoner in the Room.

Via Michelle Marchildon
on Nov 13, 2012
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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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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. johnny says:

    yeah? well.. you know, that's just like uh.. your opinion, man..

  2. Jeff says:

    Is this a joke? What happened to non judgement in the yoga room..I am glad my studio is stoner friendly, haha

  3. BarbaraH says:

    You’ve really outdone yourself, Michelle! Good times!

  4. Shojin says:

    You know, as a meditation leader at a yoga studio, I’d love to help, but I’m not sure meditation is any easier than alignment-based yoga when you are high.

  5. Carisssa says:

    I am completely offended, in so many ways, by this article. I live in Colorado as well and I will be sure to steer clear of this teacher and her lofty judgements.

  6. Morgan says:

    not a fan of this piece. surely, arriving intoxicated in any form would hinder your ability to connect in your practice. however, suggesting that anyone who has smoked marijuana at any point before a class is therefore "impaired" is simply an overgeneralization.
    i agree with above comments – everyone comes to the mat with their own "impairments". couldn't the type A over-trying through the entire class be considered impaired? what about the yogi too into their own world to follow the instructor's cues?

    boo, elephant journal. boo.

  7. pushbuttonkitty says:

    wow, seriously? stoners don't know their left from their right? do you actually know any stoners or do you just watch movies about stoners that perpetuate the stereotype that's kept marijuana illegal all these years?

  8. mevans says:

    This is the first time I find myself disappointed in an EJ article, mostly for the judgmental tone. Boo indeed!

  9. gdshr says:

    Ahahaha, a little tense are we? You know, at least stoners don't judge …

  10. GreatNorthSky says:

    Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmm, Very, Very Interesting Replies To Your Article Which I, BTW, Think Is Marvi!!!!!! I Don't Get That You Are Being Judgmental, Life Is Full Of Distinctions, Perception and Associated Choices That Produce The Results Mirrored In Our Day to Day Lives. I Get That You Are A Tremendous Teacher (Rare To Come By In My Experience) and As An Avid Practitioner Of ANUSARA, I Am Very Confident That My Teacher Would Also Take Your Approach For The Good Of Everyone, If Put In The Same Position.

    MMMMMM, WOW, Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, Good For You!!!!!! YOP, : O )

    Thank You For All That You Do and Your Inspiring Writing, Be Well नमस्ते

  11. I'm kind of surprised at the responses too, especially considering the advice given. Is it unreasonable to suggest that someone who is under the influence might have a difficult time during a yoga class or to advocate for sobriety? We have plenty of writers that advocate FOR the benefits of smoking pot…this article isn't even anti-drug, just how to address it as a teacher.

  12. I'm surprised at the responses, too. I edited this piece and being a yoga lover and having smoked pot in my shady past, I found it humorous and honest. A teaching moment for yoga teachers and students alike. Yoga students come in different shapes and sizes and levels of awareness. Here's how to deal.

  13. Karen says:

    Ya, I’d say rude and judgmental as well. Having smoked my share back in the day I agree that what I feel after practicing yoga is a thousand times better, but I had a journey getting here. I have a good friend who still gets high and can drive me crazy when she’s stoned but she goes to class every day and is beginning to choose the apres yoga high more and more. Sounds like maybe you should teach a “friends of Bill” class and not a “stoner” class…

  14. greendevil says:

    I'll bet that for every "stoner" who can't tell their right from their left, there are at least 3 functional stoners in your class that are doing just fine if not excelling.

    You have every right to ask anyone who's causing a distraction in your class to leave, but dropping the smug condescension and "reefer madness" stereotyping is something I urge you to consider.

  15. nunh says:

    I do not know any stoners who act nor sound like this. Wake up and smell the herbage – lol! And, lighten up 🙂
    When I was a stoner in my youth, I was into reading and working out – go figure. I was never lazy and most people could not tell that I was stoned. I miss those days.

  16. Diana says:

    I am not a 'stoner' and I don't think any of my friends are. I make mistakes with right and left from time to time as do some of my friends who are yoga teachers. If I have the misfortune to step the wrong foot forward in yoga class, having the yoga teacher be derisive about it is not helpful to me or other students.

  17. sitarabird says:


  18. Somehow we got the opinion, that having opinions is 'judgmental" and not yogic. In fact, discernment is critical to yoga and positive thinking. We all need discernment to discover what serves us, and what does not. By knowing ourselves, and knowing what kinds of yoga serve us, we can move forward. If we want to have no opinions whatsoever, then by all means, do not vote, do not work for animal rights, do not be a vegetarian, do not read commentary, do not work to better your community because that would be a judgment that it needed bettering. In fact, do nothing. Do not participate in life on any level. That would truly be non-judgment. However, if you maintain that non-judgment is the way to go, then do not, DO NOT, be judgmental about the writing of others. You see, the non-judgmental thing works both ways.

  19. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Dear Diana,
    If you accidentally stepped the wrong foot forward, I would say, please step the other foot forward. If you stayed on the wrong side, then my cues for which leg to tuck, which leg to extend, which arm to lift wouldn't make sense. If you feel that being asked, kindly, with the word "please" to switch your legs is derisive or offensive then by all means please do not come to my yoga class. If is really hard to have some students on the wrong side, or facing backward, or doing another pose entirely or even talking on their cell phones while you are trying to teach a room full of serious students who want to learn.

  20. Thaddeus1 says:

    Well said Michelle. It seems way too easy these days to discern who has any actual understanding of yoga beyond the western interpretation of "making funny shapes with your body exercise routine" when issues of viveka are on the table.

    Only in America would one be ridiculed for pointing out that yoga not does translate to "doing whatever, whenever and however makes you feel good." IMHO, your piece is quite congenial and liberal. Personally, if I knew an individual was "altered" in one of my classes, the next thing s/he would see would be the door.

  21. greateacher says:

    What again is the point of saying yogis in CO don't shower?
    You have made a name for yourslelf as a sarcastic writer. This piece seems to be bringing out more negative criticism to your judgmental and sarcastic fingerpointing.
    Having a student with the wrong leg forward is a much different distraction than having one using a cellphone in class.
    The lack of common sense and hurtful comical writing is yours and causes ire and hurt in others.
    I hope some day you open to a nicer sweeter person.

  22. Karen says:

    Having an opinion and being judgmental are not the same. Using discernment and being judgmental are not the same. You can decide what is right for you…even what you do or don't want in your studio. Judging the people in your studio who have their own path is something else. Maybe if they knew their teacher felt this way about them, they would make a different choice about who to study with.

  23. Auki says:

    ha-ha, funny article! You can sure tell who the stoners are by reading the defensive comments! Learning to set good boundaries is a very useful and healthy yogic quality. Everyone judges. If you think you don't judge, you are in denial. To judge accurately is a hallmark of wisdom. To pretend you never judge, or that judging wisely is somehow wrong, is a hallmark of stupidity and denial. But maybe you are too stoned to know the difference! ha-ha… I'm kidding! LOL

  24. Karla says:

    I liked this article for a variety of reasons. I'm a yoga practitoner (since 1976), and yoga teacher (4 years). I teach in studios, fitness centers and country clubs so a very broad range of folks. One of the main things that isn't always obvious is how to put together and teach a class to that wide range of ppl who show up. Modifications for those who need them, as appropriate, and also holding the intention and exercising the responsibility for a well-run class. As Michelle says, to manage the room for the many and not the one. Otherwise that group class that you're taking can turn into something tat is all about the one. So thank you, Michelle. I like your article! And I live in Washington state, so may have occasion to harken back to your and my YTT teacher's words. Peace.

  25. HeatherM says:

    Another great article is students who drink! I have had students in my class whom I knew had a drink just before. And the interesting part is it always comes from the people who might least suspect….and only proves how little we truly know of the people we work with.

  26. Maxine says:

    SO I think their may be a misconception of stoner vs the occasional smoker. I found the article to be silly. Yes, there was some great advice, yes, there was some very pointed stereotypical comments. What everyone needs to remember is that not all cannabis is the same, different varieties have different effects, for different people. If you are going to this teachers class, or any teachers class for that matter, DO NOT smoke the herb you use to help you sleep. I don't smoke that often, usually when I am having some sever joint pain, and upon smoking I end up doing about an one to two hour yoga session at home (usually in the kitchen) by myself, helping my body heal. I can not imagine going to a yoga class high, just because I am already sensitive to other energies, and certain things heighten that sensitivity, such as yoga and smoking herb. My point is don't be an ass and go to class blitz, and as a teacher don't assume every person who missteps and says "huh" is baked.

  27. SOFLY_Anna says:

    I mix my right and left all the time…so are my students. I am sure Michelle has her best intentions, but it's is silly to say people who use marijuana should be labeled as "stoners" or anything else for that matter. The marijuana was banded for economical reasons to begin with…This is the earth's natural plant we are talking about!
    Not to mention, the legalization would produce hundreds of new jobs, raise millions for the construction of Colorado public schools and raise about $60 million annually…Alcohol and tobacco are much more toxic, more addictive, and more harmful to the body than marijuana, and alcohol is more likely to result in injuries and lead to interpersonal violence.

    Coming back to the point of the article, the Institute of Medicine has reported that that there is no convincing data demonstrating a causal relationship between marijuana use and lack of motivation!!!

    <a href="http://www.streamoflifeyoga.com” target=”_blank”>www.streamoflifeyoga.com

  28. syrai says:

    ……….right. and all blondes are stupid. All black people eat fried chicken and watermelons ….go smoke a joint and figure it out…your way of thinking is sophmoric and uneducated.

  29. el stinko says:

    The Yogis in CO are a smelly bunch aren’t they.

  30. Rose says:

    I was a "pothead" in high school and college, but I stopped in my twenties because I realized it was actually harming my processing ability and my memory. I didn't smoke for about 7 years. I started smoking again with mixed feelings this fall when a friend gave me a free bag. I enjoyed smoking again and wasn't sure if I should be.

    Then the other day, my boss said something shitty to me in the morning and I was angry all day. My mind would NOT stop turning it over. Then I got home and had a few puffs and I was fine again. The cloud of anger just drifted away never to return. In this case, Marijuana cleaned my up real good. That being said, I would never want to do any sports while high.

  31. Carolina says:

    Ignorant and completely out of touch. I'm bummed to see this published on EJ.

  32. Carolina says:

    The Dude Abides.

  33. @ubermurph says:

    Wow.The pothead commentators are very sensitive on here. As a former but credentialed pothead. I feel like she doesn't say anything out of turn. Lighten up folks. I have a felony for growing the stuff and I'm not that anal retentive about weed humor. Ironically it is now legal where I got popped. Guess i was a pioneer.

  34. greateacher says:

    write to Elephant Journal about it. It's time to write the editors about this. Artilcles which show such disregard for yogis and include personal attacks and presumptions make yoga, yoga teachers and her studio look bad.

  35. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Dear Heatmort. I agree! And I'm thinking I'll also write about students in menopause, because we have all the same issues.

  36. B.B says:

    India's holy Men and women (sadhu"s and sadhvi) smoke ganja, i highly doubt they judge anyone as harsh as Michelle has done so here. "speaking to them as if they were children" Yoga is accepting and about inner self not if the person behind you is sober or not.

  37. Karen says:

    I'm not sure she was trying to be humorous…

  38. […] recently wrote a blog about how to deal with stoners in the room and apparently, some stoners were really upset about it. So now I’m going to clarify that and say […]

  39. Jees Dandy says:

    Are you in fact Krusty Nono MacCracky?

  40. Anne says:

    I love a good “pothead” humor piece. I have enjoyed many movies and articles
    that cast stoners into unflattering stereotypes. For some reason (to me at least) her authorship lacks creativity, insight and humor. I can imagine in a shrill voice her reading this and musing at the same time about how superior she is. I don’t know why, and hell, I may very well be wrong. Maybe she is a great person! But her writing never translates to the truth for me. EJ will keep posting her articles, because they receive so much attention. And I will keep reading them for the same reason I dislike them. It’s like watching a train wreck! We commenters aide in her attention, negative or positive.l

  41. Sara Mae says:

    Wow. What a disappointment. Here we are as students thinking our teachers have our best interests in mind, and there they go judging us? I can say, and I know I am not alone, that just ARRIVING to class is the hardest part. And, for most of us, this challenge resides in our safety, and not knowing WHO will be in class and if we will be judged for not being strong enough, flexible enough, or even coordinated enough.

    This kind of writing and perspective only serves to discourage fellow yogi’s. I have traveled to India and back again, and I have been gracious enough to see and experience many types of practices, and the only fluidity and sameness identified in all classes is the right to feel welcomed and safe, among a non-judgmental community of practicing individuals. We show up, and practice, because we are NOT perfectionists, we are not Gods. In other words, we don’t have ourselves or the world completely figured out. WE ARE, simply, LEARNING. And, within this process, there will be mistakes. Hell, my yoga teacher sometimes says “LEFT FOOT FORWARD”, and we all move RIGHT instinctively because THE TEACHER was incorrect, we had just done the LEFT side. Oops. And we all have a giggle and move on.

    I don’t care if an addict shows up to class or not, but the ability for a clouded individual to have a safe place to change, to be given another chance at clarity and honesty, that is a right all of us have. Remember in a moment of judgment: To arrive is the most challenging part. We all have the right to set our baggage down, and yoga is that mechanism, it teaches us not to judge ourselves or the struggle in others, for we are still learning from one another.

    We must feel safe as humans in order to change, in order to be EFFECTED by that of another human.

    I do believe WE ALL have something to learn from the yoga practice. But, there is a lot this teacher needs to learn and apply OFF the mat. This is the world we live in, there are addicts, revolutionists, religious practitioners, etc, and we all share this space. My advice to this teacher who wrote the article and started wearing the teacher hat: Learn to love all of us whom show up to your class, because without us you would have no livelihood, and without you, we would have no place to meet and share our struggles. Remember that compassion and empathy if anyone bothers to show up at your studio from now on.

  42. Sara Mae says:

    Sure, but the ability to change our behaviors and travel on the path of sobriety is hard, and showing up to yoga class is a huge first step. Readers are not disagreeing with her advocating from sobriety, they are turned off by her JUDGEMENTS. This teacher has not addressed the perspective as a teacher, she has blatantly made it apparent that she goes around the room pegging every Dick, Sue and Joe of the struggle that brought them to her studio. That's not yoga, that's EGO. No one person's struggle is better or worse than the next person's, who cares if one's struggle is a drug VS. another who's struggle is domestic violence? Her job as a teacher is not to judge or discourage, her job is to guide us in our practice of setting down our struggles and judgments and learn compassion for our own imperfections, as well as, those of other practitioners.

  43. surya says:

    I don't think she said everyone who smoked pot is a stoner. I beleive she was referring to people who come to class stoned. I smoked a lot of pot when i was younger and YES it impaired my motor skills and thought processes while i was high. I'm pretty certain she is not just "being judgemental". She teaches people. This article is coming out of her experience and it's directed to teachers who might not know how to deal with a student who is really stoned in class .

  44. Jen says:

    I agree with what some above have said. The tone of the article does sound a little bit like everyone who ever smokes pot is a wastoid, but I do not believe that is the author's point, and there is humor in there too. There's a big difference between using marijuana recreationally generally speaking, and coming to class baked. Also a difference between using some medicinally and coming to class wasted. I.E. usually the point of a yoga class, and the requirement, is to show up, and be present. If you can't do that for some reason (you are on the phone, you are out of it from cold medicine, pain medication, or hitting the bar, or smoking too much weed), the physical, mental, and spiritual exercises may not be safe for you if you are at a point where you are unable to take personal responsibility for yourself, or will interrupt the class. I have hopes, actually, that the full legalization will bring some of this differentiation more into the light – where's that line between a glass of wine with dinner and doing shots before class/same goes for the green.

  45. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Sorry to those of you who took offense. None was intended. I wrote nearly the same story here regarding the menopausal woman. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/11/how-to-dea… which more people found to be funny. Perhaps it's more acceptable to laugh at older impaired people than young impaired people? Personally, I like to laugh at myself, especially when impaired, because it makes life easier when I take it lightly.

    We all move the wrong foot at some time. We all get lost. I deal with all my students with love and compassion, and especially those who must use marijuana for a medical illness. I had a cancer patient for years who could not live without it. I do believe that students should enter the yoga room in a clean state, and whether they smell of cigarettes, pot, booze or heavy perfume I find it unfair to other students. I do not feel that all students in Colorado need a shower. How someone can get that from this article is mind boggling. I hope I have clarified some of the touchy issues in this piece.

  46. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Give a student some credit for knowing if/when they are on the "wrong" side that they will compensate with the "wrong" limb in any further movement, if they have a decent home practice in particular.

    Or, is your style that rococo and hard to follow. Been there, done that, too; and would not take that style anymore.

  47. Some of the commenters are taking themselves WAY too seriously and being just as nasty and judgmental to the author as they are perceiving she is being towards stoners (or people who smoke pot, or wastoids, or occasional smokers, or yoga smokers, or whatever the hell you want to call someone who smokes that will allow you to sleep at night in your cocoon of self-righteousness and indignation). Honestly, if you are looking for a level of scientific, wholeheartedly objective writing, why are you surfing Elephant Journal?

  48. Further, if anyone has read any of Michelle's previous articles, she writes satire, makes fun of herself, and very rarely takes herself or any of this life stuff too seriously. I was very self-righteous in critiquing one of those articles, until I finally woke up to reason and realized that she was pointing out some stuff that happens in a humorous way. Clearly, there are some very entitled people who take umbrage with this and feel that they must match perceived derision with real derision. When I tell some of you to get over yourselves, please know that I am saying it in a judgmental fashion. When I tell some of you to lighten up, please know that I am making a leading, subjective comment that is indicative of my annoyance with you. Michelle, I can't wait to take your class when next I am in Denver. Keep writing.

  49. And to the rest of you, please write to Waylon and let him know how much you disapprove of Michelle's articles. I'll bet he'll prohibit her from ever writing again. Also, maybe we should have her removed from Facebook for having opinions. In fact, I wonder if we should allow her to teach yoga since she clearly has too many opinions to be non-judgmental.