If you don’t already know who Dee Dussault is, well you're about to find out.
She is the creator of Ganja Yoga, a cannabis enhanced yoga experience that was established in Toronto in 2009 and is now something that is offered internationally.
I had the absolute pleasure speaking with Dee and was able to ask her some burning questions I had about the Ganja Yoga movement and where it all began.
Below are details of the Q and A.
1. What did you discover first, Ganja or Yoga?
I discovered yoga first, I was 15 and I started a VHS and really loved it, from there I haven’t really stopped, but I didn’t get into cannabis until my late twenties, so I’d been doing yoga for 12 years without cannabis. I tried weed beforehand, in high school and in college but I always got really paranoid, so I just thought it didn’t work for me. I tried it again when I was almost 30 and found, just with the right environment, right mood and a smaller amount that I actually really loved weed, a couple years later I started putting them together publicly as classes.
2. Is that where the idea for Ganja Yoga stemmed from? After you’d smoked and realized hey, I like this...
Yeah definitely, because I had already done quite a bit of yoga, especially during the formative years of high school and it really influenced my spiritual practice and my relationship to my body, so then experiencing it with cannabis after having done so many sessions without cannabis I could really feel a profound difference. So, I wondered if other people would benefit from it in the same way I did, so I wanted to put it out there.
3. What does a ganja yoga class typically look like?
So, a class with me consists of a stoner social, for the first half an hour, people are invited to come within a window so their trickling in on their own schedule, you don’t have to feel like you’re running late, and if you're nervous you can come on the earlier side. So, people will trickle in, and they bring their own cannabis here in California just so we are in accordance with the laws, adults are allowed to have cannabis but not allowed to sell it. We can share it, we can possess it, so people bring their own and pretty much just smoke or vape, some might do edibles before coming or maybe they're using CBD products and not getting high but just sort of using a topical, some people are sober you certainly don’t have to consume weed but there’s plenty to go around if you want to. We then start a really relaxing yoga class for all levels, usually goes between 1hr to 1.5hrs. Then on the other side of the yoga class, it’s a leisurely departure, some people want to leave right away they roll their mat up and go home but other people can stay for tea if they wish, there’s a sort of community element that I think a lot of other yoga environments don’t have as much, it’s just as much as about the community as it is about the yoga and the weed.
4. Do you find there is a diverse mix of ages and people of different cultural backgrounds in each of your classes?
Yeah definitely, which is really great, we have larger bodied people, a little bit of an older demographic, I’ve had students in their 60s and 70s, definitely different races, and probably more men than a lot of usual yoga classes get, I think men can sometimes be intimidated by yoga unless they’re already fit, but I think with the cannabis element a less fit man might feel like ok let’s check this out, I think something about the weed makes them feel more comfortable.
5. Do you have any advice for someone who may be new to cannabis that is coming to one of your classes?
You definitely want to start low and add more slowly, you can add more but can’t add less so you don’t want to over-consume. That would be the main thing to go slow, someone who has a high tolerance, like myself, I can smoke a whole joint just sitting there, so if you look at me and think you have to do what I’m doing, you’re not going to feel great if the medicines are going to be too strong.
6. When you first started in 2009, did you think this cannabis enhanced yoga movement would grow to be what it is today?
No, I definitely did not think that, I started from a house in Chinatown in Toronto. We ran it as a yoga studio and we could fit 10 students and I had no business experience or marketing. I was an English as a second language teacher and a sexuality academic so I didn't really know how to run a yoga studio or grow a brand. I didn't even know how to use spreadsheets and so now fast forward 13 years.. I’ve written press releases, I’ve done countless interviews and have been featured in the New York Times and have a Harper Collins book, etc. It's really quite amazing. I’m about to release a ganja yoga CBD line as well so that is my next project.
7. Can you tell our readers about any of the struggles you faced when first starting out? How did you overcome them?
Yeah so definitely a struggle was not having the business experience so I had to teach myself a lot and you know that was sort of one and then another would be that to help be part of the narrative that's dispelling myths about cannabis you know that it makes you lazy or that it will lead to harder drugs things like that. There was a sort of this myth that if you want to be a yoga practitioner that cannabis was not in accordance with the values of yoga, and so sort of just teaching people like well actually the cannabis is a superfood and it's extremely in accordance with the values of yoga and in fact was present in ancient yoga. So, if someone doesn't want to use cannabis of course we're not trying to convince people that they should but more just to say that there's absolutely nothing wrong with using it for yoga in fact there's a lot of rights.
8. I read a brief spinet that stated you once had a negative relationship with cannabis. Would you please explain how you changed your relationship with cannabis?
I used to get really paranoid from that, I tried it a couple of times in high school and college and had really negative mental effects and I think a big part of that was the set and setting as they call it, you know, the environment I was in. If you’re in a party environment with people you don't know and lots of different men and different people, you're not going to feel super comfortable on a new drug and your own mood, if you were having tension with your boyfriend cause you're 16 and emotional then it's probably not the best place mentally to be trying drugs. So, I know that if someone's going to try cannabis for the first time, they should do it with people they feel comfortable with, that's why we have the lighting sort of a little dimmer, we have really relaxing music and an hour to socialize so that people can feel comfortable using cannabis. That this really is a safe space, so yeah now I never get paranoid, but I did have to kind of overcome those initial kinds of things that sometimes people get. Not only the setting but also consuming too much, a lot of people take like huge bong rips and stuff and really like one toke is a good start.
9. I understand that you are also a sensuality coach, could you tell our readers a little bit about what that is, and what it is you do?
Yeah, I called it a sexuality coach but I'm not there while people are having sex like literally coaching them like a sports coach, but it is actually a lot of sensuality that's a big part of it and mindfulness. I'm trained in a Tantra yoga tradition; I was trained in Toronto with my teacher there Ananda Shakti and Tantra yoga is not about sex or it's not all about sex I should say but it's really about using the senses and the emotions. Really just allowing the human experience and being less contracted and controlled by limitations and things. So yeah, I coach my clients to reconnect to their sexuality if they feel like they've lost it, if stress and busyness have made them feel disembodied and not horny and not connecting to their partners. Doing yoga or talking about other ways they can get back into their bodies even going for a walk before a date to feel more in tune with yourself versus being on social media until the date starts and you're just sort of diffusing your energies so coaching people in sort of practical but also sort of sensual and spiritual ways that they can reconnect to their sexuality.
10. Do you incorporate ganja yoga in your sensuality coaching?
Yeah, it's optional but if people want to include cannabis, then it's an option. I invite people to bring it, so people book sessions with me like a date night with their partner or on their own. Yeah, it’s sort of got this ritual but also very accessible and playful kind of vibe. So, my clients really appreciate that there is that authentic sort of spiritual side. It's not so practical and pragmatic that it strips away those authentic roots but on the other hand it's approachable for them, you know the modern-day person or urban person.
11. Is there anything new on the horizon for Dee Dassault? Your Ganja Yoga experience is now something that is offered worldwide, what’s next? you mentioned a CBD line earlier?
Yeah, so that’s the next project! We have the ganja yoga teacher training which I was doing in person before the pandemic and now it's a digital product, but I'll be starting in person ones with really small groups next month so that's an exciting launch, I guess it's resuming. We have teachers around the world now, which is so cool and so the next project is this CBD line with three products. We will have two types of tincture and one pain relieving topical, so you put on your skin and so one of the tinctures will have like a superfood mushroom included in there and organic hemp. So, I'm really excited about that, so that's sort of my next exciting thing and that will be ready for the end of November, black Friday.
12. Are there any plans on the horizon for you to teach a ganja yoga class here in Toronto?
Well, I have before but it's been a while cause as you know I started it there and the first three years I was there and then I had a friend take over the classes there and she's since moved to Brazil. So, we don't currently have a Ganja Yoga teacher in Toronto, but my family is still there, so post-pandemic or whenever the time is right, I'll definitely be back but the difficulty is actually finding a space that we can host a public class legally. Canada has a lot of strict regulations with the legality of cannabis. In a way when it was illegal it was easier to do these types of classes, I mean I am a fan of legalization obviously but it's just like we can't really advertise... I have to look into it, you know, for the legal onsite consumption experience.