Yogi D has a solution to the nation's "stress epidemic": a weed-and-yoga retreat in the Rockies from September 30 through October 2 called the 420 Yoga Retreat. A 25-year yoga veteran who was dubbed "America's relaxation expert" by CNN, Yogi D has just recently come out of the closet as a cannabis user. All stereotypes of the "lazy stoner" went up in smoke as the influential and respected yoga instructor admitted to the world that he has been pairing yoga and cannabis for the past twenty years.
"For this retreat, we want to reach the state of our dogs. Be in the moment, love unconditionally, playful, no judgment, love and care," says Yogi D. "The crazy thing about yoga is, I've been doing it for 25 years, and I feel like a total beginner. I get more than my students. I get a state of bliss from teaching. I am a yoga addict, that's for sure."
The two-night weekend retreat calls for adult-only camping and cabins along a river at Aspen Canyon Ranch, with three diet-tailored meals a day and a bunch of yoga classes — some centering on artistic expression, others on movement meditation, and one a new model focusing on therapeutic reggae flow yoga.
"I came up with something called 'Stoner Nidra,' and 'nidra' means sleep," explains Yogi D. "It's super-popular. It's got all of these movements to help you sleep at night."
In the following interview — edited for length and clarity — Yodi D tells us why he began mixing cannabis with yoga practice, and discusses the importance of distancing ourselves from technology in this crazy world.
Westword: Why do you go by Yogi D?
Yogi D: My 420 code name is Yogi D, partly because I'm an author; I've written ten books... My corporate name, I have to keep under wraps because I have some corporate clients. They're supportive, [but] they're like, "Oh, it's so cool what you're doing, but we may have to drop you," in so many words.
When I go to these big companies, these people are so stressed out. I love doing that work, too. Through that I get to reach thousands of people. I do something called "The Yoga Happy Hour," and I get them to laugh, do yoga, meditate, give them a book.
I love that work so much and I want to keep helping those people.
As far as cannabis and yoga together in one package: Why now?
I feel like right now is the time to branch out and create 420 yoga and use the name Yogi D, and it all feels very freeing for me. It feels like I'm coming out of the closet a bit, getting to share what my guru taught me — to bring more attention to the whole act. Marijuana is blowing up in America. I feel it's important for the community.
Why is cannabis so special to yogis?
Patanjali, one of the fathers of yoga, mentions it in the fourth chapter, first verse of his Yoga Sutras. This is my interpretation: The spiritual attainments come with birth or are attained through herbs, mantra, concentration, mindfulness or meditation. The herbs he's talking about are a magical herb, basically mentioning marijuana. I think the Yoga Sutra dates back to 400 B.C.
There is this spiritual gift within the cannabis. When I was in India, I was just walking around the town and holy sadhus would be smoking. All they have is a little chillum, like a clay pipe. I would have a smoke with them, and they would say, "bhang shiva." They were using the herb for medicinal and spiritual purposes. They've been doing that for thousands of years.
It's funny — in the States, people are like, "Marijuana is new." I've been in the Himalayas, and for hundreds of acres, as far as the eye can see, all I could see was marijuana plants. Millions of plants. The local kids would run around and just grab those plants with their hands. They would scrape the THC off of their fingers and make a softball of hashish, sold for $2. I smoked one for about five days.
What benefits have you personally felt through using the two together?
Well, it's interesting. With yoga and meditation, I love them together. For me personally, I love the stress reduction, and I find that it improves my concentration and it increases my self awareness, which is so helpful. I feel happier, and I just feel more acceptance for myself and my life.
I think why I'm starting to just come out to the general public, I think right now we're in the middle of a worldwide stress epidemic, and I don't hear other people talking about it, and that concerns me. Part of my retreat I'm certainly calling a digital detox. I'm going to encourage everyone to turn everything off. The moment gets lost in our social media and smartphones and the busyness of our lives.
It's not easy. I'm so addicted to my iPad. My iPad is with me all the time. I feel the addiction. The reality is, here's the challenge: The world is just getting more wired. It's really not about not using our smartphones, let's just be realistic. I'm using my iPad, but I have to for my work. Technology is a way to connect. But with all of these issues in our society, yoga, meditation and marijuana with intention and thought — it can give you peace within the chaos.
When did you first start using cannabis with yoga?
Two decades ago. In the past I always kept my 420 yoga on the down low, but it just feels like right now. It's ready to pop, and it's ready to be accepted in the world.
I had a guru who kind of taught me this world of yoga, meditation and marijuana. He would encourage me to get to this laxness relaxation spot with intention. When you smoke or imbibe some marijuana and get on your yoga mat with a meditative focus, very quickly, even within five minutes, for me at least, I can get back to my center. If we're not at our center, we humans will resemble a zombie apocalypse.
I spent seven years in Asia; I lived in India. There was this one quote, basically a blessing, before you smoke the herb (in) Sanskrit: Bahava na sana hridayam, which translates to "May this cannabis be a blessing to my heart."
In your opinion, is there such a thing as overdoing it?
I just noticed in Colorado, people are hitting it until they're blind — and it's a tricky situation. With weed, I'm trying not to judge. I don't know what kind of pain people are in. Many people using it are genuinely sick. I knew a man who was hitting it pretty hard, but he was going through chemo. He's using it for a little bit of pain management and to get his appetite going, so we have to be careful not to judge.
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So when will the yogi guests be partaking?
However, whenever they want. The people I know smoke before they go to bed — like 100 percent indica to help go to sleep. People will say, "Okay, I'll just smoke a ton of weed," but yoga and meditation has to be inside of it. It's awesome and fun to smoke and watch a movie, but when you add the meditation and mindfulness, it becomes so much more.
Register here to be a part of the 420 Yoga Retreat with Yogi D. Use the discount code 420yoga15 and receive a 15 percent discount.