Hannah Mason is a dancer, aerialist, and yoga instructor. She also happens to love cannabis. After opening the first cannabis yoga studio in California, Lit Yoga in Venice Beach, Hannah has become part a community of wellness entrepreneurs openly embracing cannabis in their health and fitness practices. Cannabis yoga classes have been popping up in legal states across the West Coast and are quickly gaining popularity, but incorporating cannabis and plant based medicine into your yoga practice, isn’t just another excuse to get high.
Through Lit Yoga’s instructor workshops in LA and New York City, Hannah and her team are educating yogis everywhere on their unique approach of leveraging the power of THC and CBD in their practices. Informed research, advocacy, and creativity are at the foundation of Lit Yoga’s philosophy, allowing yoga teachers to explore a new way to share their knowledge and awareness.
Hannah’s New York based training in March, co-taught by Vance Vlasek, has an emphasis on CBD, the non-intoxicating compound found in the cannabis plant that offers many health benefits. The three-day training covers the science and history of yoga and cannabis, altered states of consciousness, types of products and topicials, sequencing vinyasa flow, and more. Students can expect a hands on experience with infused topicals, and engaging discussions on cannabis healing and physical and spiritual awareness.
MARY sat down with the yogi canna-prenuer and Herbalist Educator to talk about flowing while high, and why it may be something you should think about on your quest for zen.
What is your relationship with cannabis and how did it influence you starting Lit Yoga?
I was first introduced to cannabis as a teenager while growing up in San Francisco. When I turned 18, I got a Medical Marijuana Recommendation and began going to dispensaries. I loved how I could smell and see the options and pick out what felt best for me. After high school, I moved to Boston for college and there was a stark contrast between the flower I could get in San Francisco compared to the East Coast. While cannabis was first introduced to me as what felt like a rebellious way to connect with friends in high school, it became a true medicine for me during college. I was studying dance and used it as a way to relax my muscles and soothe my depression during the winters. I would smoke out the window of my dorm room and stretch on the floor, feeling divinely in tune with how my body needed to move to release tension and heal… the beginning seeds of Lit Yoga were forming.
I faced judgement and stigma for my love of cannabis in the dance community, even though drinking alcohol was totally acceptable. Once I graduated college and became a yoga teacher and began training as an aerialist, I continued using cannabis in my at-home practice to connect to my body and to relieve pain. When recreational legalization was moving forward in California I realized there was a real need for cannabis education, a safe space for consumers, and so many yoga practitioners who also used cannabis before or after yoga!
Tell us about your first ever experience with cannabis. How has that first impression changed or stayed the same?
My first experience with cannabis was on Halloween. I was 15 and I smoked out of a pipe while walking around the streets of San Francisco. I felt euphoric, calm, buzzed in my body, and hungry haha. I no longer like to use cannabis in a very social way and without intention, as I’ve found the plant most supports me most when I consume it with intention in a calming environment.
How is Lit Yoga different than other yoga studios?
Lit Yoga is an all inclusive, non-judgemental, and open-minded studio. While our teachers are trained in traditional styles of yoga, there is also a lot to freedom and encouragement to provide a practice that is relevant to our current times. Lit Yoga also has a strong communal aspect. We begin our classes with a tea ceremony, and while sipping on herbal teas, checking in with each other, and consuming cannabis – there is a bond formed between the group. In many studios, students show up for the practice on their mat and then leave. The opening cannabis + tea ritual provides a place for people to really meet and connect so that when they begin the practice on their mat there is a sense of union (union = yoga) between everyone. Breath, or pranayama, is also noticeably more present and engaged than what I’ve witnessed at other yoga studios.
Tell us about your philosophy of using cannabis in your yoga practice. Why is this type of yoga experience different than what yogis are used to?
I believe using cannabis is conjunction with yoga is one of many ways to practice yoga. I love practicing both sober and high. Both are important to me, and having the duality of these experiences provides new insights and levels of self-awareness. When we look at the benefits of yoga, and the benefits of cannabis, there is a lot of overlap; relieving physical tension and pain, reducing inflammation, enhancing relaxation, changing your state of consciousness, illuminating self-awareness, improving digestion, calming the nervous system, enhancing communication between all the systems of the body (activating the Endocannabinoid System), and many more.
For yogis who have never practiced while elevated, it can be both like traveling to a new country, and coming home to themselves at the same time. When practicing high, it is common for students to make deeper connections between the sensations in their bodies, and related emotions or life experiences they have endured. Simultaneously, students may experience the movement of their body, or the presence of their breath, in a totally new and foreign way. This can allow for new neural pathways to form and lasting body-mind connections to develop.
What would you say to someone who does not understand the relationship between cannabis and wellness?
I would remind them that plants have been used for health and healing for thousands of years, including cannabis. Cannabis is a plant and it grows from the Earth. I define wellness as the consistent practice of seeking health and wholeness. When we backtrack the words health and whole in Old English they originate from the same word that also means holy. There is a sacred element to being alive and our ability to live fully is directly connected to our health. When we feel good, we can fully engage with the world we live in. Cannabis, along with many many other plants, have been used for thousands of years across all cultures to contribute to feeling whole, holy, and healthy.
What are some of the things yoga instructors will learn in your NYC CBD training?
We will cover the history of yoga and cannabis (there is evidence that ancient yogis in India were engaging with the cannabis plant in their spiritual and physical practices), the science of cannabis and how it works in the body (ECS, cannabinoids, terpenes, etc.), how to sequence both vinyasa flow and restorative classes, how to incorporate adjustments and cannabis topicals, the importance of safe consumption and holding space for altered states of consciousness, and legality and business of being a cannabis yoga teacher and advocate.
How is a CBD yoga experience different than a THC experience? Which one do you prefer?
The main difference between a CBD and THC infused yoga experience is the “high”. CBD interacts with the body in a more subtle way than THC because it does not create a euphoric state since it does not interact with the CB1 receptor in the way THC does.
My preference for which experience I am looking for depends on my state and needs of that moment. When I am feeling really overwhelmed and stressed, CBD can be a gentler way to move me into a positive space. CBD can still be mood altering as researchers have found it has anxiolytic (anxiety reducing), anti-depressant, and antipsychotic effects. When I am feeling more grounded and adventurous, THC provides the expansion and new insights that can initiate deeper transformation. THC has been found to have a euphoric and potent psychoactive effect compared to CBD.
I always advise students to check in with where they are on an emotional, physical, mental and spiritual level, and choose what and how much to consume based on their specific needs, rather than make choices from habit. On this note, there are other cannabinoids beyond THC and CBD (i.e. CBN, CBG, THCA), and there new products that isolate these cannabinoids so that consumers can get very specific with what they are taking and for what reason. I see this being the future of cannabis wellness (cannabinoid therapy, DNA testing for individualized treatment, etc.). Overall, it is important to have mindful consumption and being an active participant in altering your mood or state through this plant medicine.
Why CBD for the NY based workshop/training?
While recreational cannabis is moving closer to legalization in NYC, it is still illegal. Therefore consuming or purchasing THC products is illegal unless you are a medical patient. Emphasizing CBD during this training will provide teachers with the knowledge they need to teach in a medical-only legal state and be experts on how CBD works in the body to provide their students and clients with the best experience possible and have accessibility to the medicine.
What has been the biggest challenge so far as a entrepreneur in this space? How have you worked past these challenges?
Navigating the constantly changing laws in California has been difficult. For now, the legislation (except for the City of West Hollywood) has not addressed consumption, meaning it is legal to purchase cannabis in CA, but you can not consume publicly. This has limited our ability to advertise our studio as we operate privately, for now. I am excited to see how cannabis integrates into public spaces and businesses.
What advice would you give someone who is looking to get into the cannabis wellness space?
Read everything!! There are new studies coming out regularly and we are understanding the cannabis plant in new detail every day. Staying up to date on the research and educating yourself is hugely important right now, so we safely and accurately pass on the knowledge. There are a lot of products and companies popping up that are focusing on CBD, yet many are jumping on the bandwagon and don’t have the science-backed information to truly provide a healing product or service. The wellness industry can sometimes become fad-like, rather than focusing on health and optimal living for everyone. So, educate yourself and know why and what you offering. Become the researcher and take note our your own experiences with cannabis from a wellness perspective.
Where do you see Lit Yoga in 10 years?
I see Lit Yoga studios in all major U.S. cities and across the world, offering safe spaces and research-based resources for cannabis consumers. In the next 10 years I see research studies confirming the benefits of combining yoga and cannabis, and the larger movement of utilizing plants for their healing properties to become more prevalent and accepted.
Lit Yoga will be at the forefront of the cannabis wellness movement, educating people that healing occurs in the day to day practices we choose to do, and that tending to our health and wholeness is about building a strong relationship with your emotions, thoughts, and desires; your whole SELF!
HANNAH MASON: Hannah Mason is the founder of Lit Yoga, a safe and educational space for students to explore the blending of yoga and mindful cannabis consumption. She has studied the body, mind and spirit for over 10 years including trainings in Yoga, Dance, Aerial, Somatics, and Developmental Movement throughout. Hannah is also a Herbalist and Cannabis Educator with a deep love for plants and their ability to heal. She recognizes the power of energy and is passionate about guiding fellow yoga educators to be fully empowered and expertly tuned in, in order to create positive change in their students’ lives.
VANCE VLASEK: Vance has received over 500 hrs of certifications in Yoga trainings from Light On Lotus (LA), Laughing Lotus (NYC), Wanderlust (Hollywood), and 305 Yoga (Miami). He teaches studio classes in Los Angeles at the aforementioned studios, as well as Equinox and The Griffin Club LA. He has taught for music festivals and events including Lightning in a Bottle and Daybreaker, and for companies such as Lulu Lemon, Y7, Hulu, Warner Brothers, Sony Playstation and more. Joy and support are key aspects of his classes. He offers an impactful, safe practice permeated with intelligent alignment, marked mindfulness, purposeful sequencing, and a light heart. Dharma is imbued in his classes and reflected through curated musical arrangements and intentional movements. Students will explore their consciousness and imagination along with their physical and mental states.