As many cannabis yoga classes have come and gone in Denver, Urban Sanctuary
holds strong, offering Flower Power yoga and other meditative and healing sessions in Five Points. But if the Sanctuary is going to remain open at 2745 Welton Street past next year, it will need some community help.
According to founder Ali Duncan, the building's owner wants to sell the property but has agreed to give her until July to raise the $580,000 needed to buy it — so she's calling in her cannabis connections for backup.
Urban Sanctuary has occasionally partnered with various cannabis brands for pot-friendly yoga and tantric classes. Now some of those companies are coming back for a Halloween party fundraiser to help Duncan reach her goal. The Cannabis Halloween Flower Power Party
at Urban Sanctuary, set for Saturday, October 30, from 7 to 9 p.m., will include cannabis yoga, snacks, a costume party and samples from 1906 New Highs edibles and Lemonnade dispensary; all proceeds go toward the $580,000 goal for purchasing the building, which you can check out on GoFundMe
We caught up with Duncan to learn more about Urban Sanctuary and how she has combined cannabis with meditative practices over the years.
Westword: How would you describe what Urban Sanctuary is? It seems like you've got a lot going on there.
It is a sanctuary for inclusivity. We focus on bringing wellness and healing to marginalized communities, and everyone else who wants to join us. We're focused on having different types of modalities, because we understand people heal in different ways. It's about making a safe, brave space for people's healing.
How does cannabis play a part in that effort toward wellness and healing at Urban Sanctuary?
When we focus on cannabis, we're using plant medicine to partner with the body. That partnership is for lowering anxiety and getting into a calmer state for meditation, or going deeper into their practice of letting go of blocks in their bodies. Plant medicine can help support letting go of that stress and anxiety.
Urban Sanctuary founder Ali Duncan.
Courtesy of Ali Duncan
When you're incorporating cannabis into meditation or yoga, do you prefer to consume it before, after or during?
We set it up for students to partake before the class. This sets up the space and lets them get into the vibe of the studio. Then they move into practicing yoga and meditation
Is there a certain style of yoga or meditation that you feel works best with cannabis use?
No, I think it depends on the teacher and students. I notice that something with a slower vibe, more of a hatha yoga, or something more restorative, is really beneficial. You can kind of slow down and hold poses longer instead of moving really fast, because your mind and other things are shifting with that plant medicine. I've found a slower pace is welcomed.
Students have to bring their own cannabis, so whatever they're used to or what resonates with them is what is consumed. We don't give any information about what cannabis to bring in, because that's not our expertise.
Outside of cannabis yoga, what other sort of events do you hold at Urban Sanctuary?
Outside of our Flower Power yoga, we do tantra workshops, as well as reiki and sound meditation. We also have naked yoga and anything else our teachers want to offer. I also rent out the space to other instructors. We just started offering aerial yoga this year as well, and we have fifteen silks for that class.
We have our big Halloween party coming up on October 30; that will probably be the last special event we do before the new year. We worked with 1906 edibles before COVID-19, and they'd bring their Love products [chocolates and tablets infused with cannabis and other herbs as an intended aphrodisiac] to our tantra workshops a few times, and they're great. Right now we're fundraising to buy our building. We have until July of next year to buy it, so we're getting everything lined up and raising as much as we can.
Does cannabis or other plant medicines impact how students approach your more intimate classes?
I totally believe so, because it shifts your awareness. It's not for all, but it is for some, and when their awareness is shifted, they do drop in and relax, and come to a place of vulnerability. Sometimes plant medicine can make people a little anxious and high-strung, too, so it can be one or the other — but based on our experiences, people really drop in and become more open to what is being offered.
What are some other things people can do to get in the right state of mind for that?
Breath work! Breath work is everything. Certain types of breath work will get you to a place where you're really relaxed and open, so we promote a lot of breathing and mindfulness in our classes. So breath work and music, definitely.