With roots in mindfulness and relaxation, teaming yoga with cannabis seems like the perfect combination. And that is exactly what one couple has done with their studio Lit Yoga, which combines marijuana, meditation and the Hindu-based aesthetic discipline.
Hannah Paxton and her partner Julian Brand first launched their concept in May 2017 and have been gaining a growing following ever since. Their intimate studio in Venice, California enables budding yoga practitioners to partake in something a little more mind altering before they start to stretch and meditate.
Explaining the concept behind Lit Yoga, Brand says, “We are a cannabis wellness space and lifestyle brand, and we educate on the health benefits of cannabis and mindful consumption when combined with practice. We wanted to be the first cannabis yoga studio, the first cannabis yoga brand.
“We are going to be like a cross between Alo Yoga and a MedMen dispensary,” Brand adds. “If you marry those two and then add a bit of magic, that is us.”
Brand first started using cannabis to enhance his experience while studying Bikram yoga, a practice in which the space is heated to as high as 108 °F.
Meanwhile, Paxton, who has been a dancer her entire life, says she realized early on how marijuana could enhance her physical and spiritual experience while honing her art form.
“I grew up dancing and for me I always used cannabis,” Paxton explains.
“Sometimes I would smoke before dance classes in college, and I always felt it would bring me into my body more and connect me to music. The same with injury or sore muscles — I noticed [cannabis] would really help me unwind after intense training.”
First meeting at the Burning Man-style Lucidity Festival in Santa Barbara three years ago, the couple’s first foray into a cannabis-based business involved hosting events and dinners, which ran under the umbrella of Tree Lounge.
“They were nightlife events, food pairings, dancing and performances,” Paxton reveals. “It was an alternative to bar and alcohol culture. It was fun, but we felt like it wasn’t really in alignment with how we live our lives and what we do. There were also a lot of other people doing it and we felt like the market was saturated.”
The couple, who pride themselves on being very “health aware,” soon struck on the idea of combining cannabis and yoga in an environment that promotes wellness and mindfulness — and their business was born.
However, Lit Yoga is not just focused on getting high — rather, it’s about experiencing the health benefits CBD can have on the body while stretching and meditating.
Lit Yoga also has another unique twist — practitioners are encouraged to take part in a Chinese-themed tea ceremony before each class, so they can bond with one another as they sample various brews, tinctures, oils, sprays and pre-rolls.
Paxton, who used to work at a Chinese teahouse in San Francisco, even makes some of the tea herself. A blend of rose buds, lotus stamen and lavender is served alongside fermented pu-erh tea from the Hidden Peak Teahouse in Santa Cruz.
“I enjoy bringing out the teas,” Paxton says. “We are way more comfortable with them as a plant. But cannabis has such a stigma around it. So, it is all about, ‘This is a plant, and so are these,’ and they all have awesome benefits.”
The style of Lit Yoga’s particular tea ceremony is Gongfu Cha, meaning “making tea with skill,” which aims to produce a brew that tastes good and is satisfying to the soul. This ritualized preparation and presentation originated in the Fujian and Chaoshan area of eastern Guangdong in China.
Paxton explains, “I realized that drinking tea with people and bringing them together is sort of an immediate connection and community point. It’s kind of like when people come together to eat, feast and drink. It is a way to celebrate and nourish yourself. When people are in this elevated mind state, they should feel safe and feel held in the community. So, the tea ceremony is really a way to do that and it gives people the time to smoke or consume what they want.”
Careful about what cannabis products they work with during the classes, the couple chooses to focus only on the organic and natural.
“We want to make sure all the products are clean and pesticide free,” asserts Paxton. “We definitely lean toward a sun-grown outdoor flower, rather than indoor.
“What has happened in the industry of cannabis is we have become very focused on the THC part,” she continues. “But there are actually all these other compounds in the plant, which are really beneficial. We are finding out about CBD, CBN, CBG. There are all these other compounds, which are anti-inflammatory, they are antimicrobial, and all these other benefits. The way they were growing the plant with really high THC — when you are trying to have a psychoactive experience, that makes sense. But when you are using it as a wellness tool, lower doses of THC actually make more sense and are better to help with things like pain relief.”
Attendees who take part in a Lit Yoga ceremony have the option of CBD and THC for consumption before the class begins. Lotions and oils by Apothecanna, Hälsa roll-on oil blends, Jambo Superfoods CBD mouth sprays, and Henry’s Original CBD and THC pre-rolls are just some of the products students can use to heighten their yoga experience.
“We are teaching people there are other ways to consume cannabis, other than smoking. … There are many ways you can incorporate [cannabis] into your wellness routine without getting high,” explains Paxton.
People attending the class are roughly split down the middle as to who wants to incorporate CBD into their yoga practice, and those who are after a THC psychoactive experience.
“I would say most people that come are open and curious to be in that psychoactive state during their yoga practice,” Paxton says. “But we definitely have students come who choose not to be high at all and want to experience the CBD benefits.”
Also offering instructional teacher training as part of their burgeoning yoga brand, the couple is now looking to expand into a larger studio, while ensuring classes are kept to no larger than groups of 20.
“The plan is to have wellness rooms where people can have an infused massage, or a health consultation on how to use topicals,” Paxton explains. “Lit Yoga is all about bringing people together, to educate and inspire them to bring what was once hidden in the dark out into the light.”
For more information on Lit Yoga and to schedule a session, visit Lit Yoga.