.Ganja Yoga and the Search for the Perfect High

“Marijuana, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Uhm … one … what’s the question again?”  Elizabeth Baked Browning

Co-owners of Ganja Yoga, with a studio at the end of Squid Row in Santa Cruz, Javiera Köstner and Sebastian Beca grew up in Chile and moved to Northern California in 2014. As much a love story as it is a small business, the charismatic couple now run a cannabis friendly spot where you can heal your body and soul in a safe space through the magic pairing of yoga and marijuana. Sometimes there’s live music, sometimes there’s cannabis holotropic breathwork and, in tandem with the Santa Cruz Psychedelic Society, sometimes there’s micro-dosing hikes.

There’s an undeniable romantic spark between Köstner and Beca. They’re young, ambitious, have little desire for corporate structures and bring their passion to every event they host. And like all healthy couples, they have a sense of humor. When asked how they met, they said it was destiny, they both swiped right. Now married, this power duo is raising consciousness and body awareness around the globe, but they call Felton home. “At the beginning of the year we both had COVID and our power kept going out,” says Beca recalling living in the Santa Cruz mountains during the winter of 2023. Luckily, Köstner and Beca have assembled a large community around themselves, and friends stopped by to help out. This turning towards building and sustaining community ethics and ideals is what drives the engine of everything they do.

According to their greenmagicyoga.com website, “Ganja Yoga is a blend of mindfulness, yoga, cannabis, relaxing vibes, grounded spirituality and a touch of Latino spice in a community setting.”

Ganja Yoga was founded in 2009 by Dee Dussault. Dussault is the internationally recognized pioneer of the cannabis-enhanced yoga and wellness movement. She was the first teacher to publicly offer classes and authored the best-selling Harper Collins book Ganja Yoga in 2017. Köstner trained with Dussault, got certified and began teaching her own unique brand of Ganja Yoga in 2018. Köstner is currently leading the Santa Cruz (and San Francisco) Ganga Yoga community, as well as holding monthly Conscious Cannabis Circles. And while Köstner is the expert in stretching the body, her partner Sebastian Beca knows a lot about stretching the mind. In 2014 he became a licensed psychologist in Chile and in 2018 he graduated with an MA in Integral Counseling Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies, in SF. Beca knows a lot about cannabis and how it affects a wide array of people.

“We often get people who have never experimented with cannabis or have never really done it enough to understand its potential. So we make sure to get to know the user and help build their information base. For the cannabis ceremonies, we teach people how to make a blend of combining different strains of cannabis: sativa, indica, hybrids and sometimes some other herbs. Knowing your dosage level and your tolerance level is important. We teach people how to navigate the experience of marijuana in a safe and fun way,” says Beca.

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Personally, I still struggle with things like stress and frustration, sometimes daily. And, I don’t stretch, like I never stretch, although I know I should. So, when I heard about Ganja Yoga, I knew I had to try it out. While Ganja Yoga offers in-person classes, I decided to do it online in the comfort of my home on my living room floor.

In anticipation, I headed to The Hook Outlet in Capitola and got some cannabis I thought would be good to stretch out the mind and body. I bought some local sativa from Santa Cruz Canna Farms and some indica from Fuego Family Farms, and blended them up into what I hoped to be the perfect yoga blend.

The online session started with a check in. Köstner calls it the “Yoga of the voice,” with Beca co-leading the conversational tone at the beginning. It’s a time where participants happily showed what they were smoking and talked about how they were feeling. It’s a social exchange, and one person shared that “Cannabis allows you to focus on other things besides the news.”

And then the stretching began. I carry a lot of stress in my body. I feel like I’m always stressed and resistant to letting it go. It’s like I have made being stressed part of my personality. So, it was comforting to have Köstner be so calm in leading the session.

I tried the easy beginning poses, and my body immediately felt better, but my mind started wandering. Yoga has a long history in America, often starting with Swami Vivekananda arriving in 1893. Even America’s favorite transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau, would kick back around Walden Pond, take a few puffs on Emerson’s pipe, close his eyes and meditate and stretch.

Cannabis has an even longer history. Whether it was the Spanish arriving in the 1500s with hemp, or aliens dropping seeds from space, by 1920, weed was everywhere in America. So it was just a matter of time before cannabis and yoga would catch up with each other.

Fast-forward to the 1950s, when the first yoga studio opened in Hollywood, California. It was the birth of a billion-dollar industry and while early practitioners can be seen at Woodstock in 1969, bending and contorting in the mud, Apple’s five billion dollar campus has a yoga studio.

My body reconnected with my brain, and it had only been a couple of seconds that I was lost in thought, but Köstner’s gentle reminder to breathe, reminded me that, besides not remembering to stretch, I barely remember to breathe. Köstner first came to yoga to help cope with her own fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Her movements are slow, deliberate and easy to follow. There’s no pressure. It’s the opposite of pressure.

I found myself trying the yoga postures, unable to extend my body as far as Köstner, but it felt good, I genuinely felt the stress melt away. Köstner has a clear vision to “build spaces to explore your body,” and is also clear on the cannabis part.

“We ask that you bring your own cannabis, and because it is legal to share, please bring plenty to share. Our class is about working on yourself so you can be better in the world. We view marijuana as a psychedelic and if you are not connected to your body it can become risky. We think if used in the right way, marijuana can be very psychedelic,” says Köstner. And as a first-time Ganja Yoga attendee, I can personally attest, it was everything promised and more. Now, if I can just remember to do it again.

Find out more about Ganja Yoga and enroll for classes at greenmagicyoga.com Located at 738 Chestnut Street, Santa Cruz. Upcoming classes include 8/24 Ganja Yoga Live Music Experience 6:15pm, 9/2 Psychedelic Cannabis Breathwork 4pm, and 9/6 Psychedelic Peer Integration Circle 6:30pm.

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