As 29 states can attest, using cannabis for health improvement is nothing new. The medical benefits of weed are a hot topic, often discussed and sometimes actually researched (if our government is feeling particularly generous). But we often tend to access these benefits by simply ingesting the herb and letting its components work their magic. Rachael Carlevale is recommending a more active approach. She is the developer of Ganjasana, a practice that marries cannabis to yoga and likewise the spiritual to the physical. But she doesn’t just see this as the latest trend in using cannabis for health. As Carlevale told Yoganonymous, “Yoga, regenerative cannabis, and a healthy lifestyle saved my life.”
How Ganjasana Strikes a Balance
There’s more to Ganjasana than simply taking a rip off the water pipe and striking a downward dog pose. Rather Carlevale’s self-proclaimed “ceremonies” incorporate elements of Hatha yoga, pranayama, spiritual practice, and cannabis-rooted botanical medicine as taught to her by Peruvian shamans in the Shipibo tradition. Students are prohibited from any warm up tokes prior to the beginning of the class. Instead, Ganjasana finds Carlevale providing the cannabis, allowing her to ensure that the weed is grown from organic, regenerative soil. Regenerative cannabis is a cornerstone of Ganjasana since it helps to sustain the ecosystem. This falls in line with a basic philosophy of Ganjasana that connects its students to the bounties of the earth.
Carlevale starts out each ceremony with yoga-based breath work before any cannabis communion takes place. The fusion of the psychoactive effects of cannabis and the asanas, different types of yoga poses in the hatha tradition, may seem like the perfect prescription to get lifted. But on the contrary, one of the aims of Ganjasana is to ground the student in the present moment, albeit with an unbiased mind. It’s an odd balance of disconnection and deep rooting that seems like a contradiction, yet tends to enlighten those who make it part of their routine.
Carlevale’s Change in Trajectory
Outside of culturally diverse metropolitan areas or remote spiritual retreats, Carlevale’s philosophies may have been dismissed as trendy quackery. But her history tells a storied tale of drive, discipline and daunting trials and tribulations. She instantly shakes the stoner stereotype with her history as a performer with the Boston Ballet and her pre-med studies with a pronounced focus on biology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. It may come as no surprise that she was particularly curious about sciences involving botany and soil. It was this curiosity that introduced her to the Shipibo tribe. Carlevale travelled to the Amazonian jungles her senior year to live among the Shipibo shamans and soak up as much of their knowledge as possible in the time allotted. Inspired by the Shipibo, Carlevale abandoned her previous goal of a medical degree in favor of pursuing teacher certification for yoga.
How Carlevale Incorporated Cannabis for Health to Create Ganjasana
While Carlevale’s trajectory seemed to be set, it’s unclear whether she would have developed Ganjasana had she not been able to transform a potential tragedy into her calling. At the young age of 23, she was struck with uterine cancer resulting in an engorged tumor, crippling pain, and an inability to stay properly nourished. While doctors recommended risky hysterectomy surgery, Carlevale turned to her studies and the aid of a trusted naturopath, researching medicinal cannabis alongside developing a routine of acupuncture, kinesiology, and a healthy diet.
As Carlevale clarified to The Cannabist, Ganjasana was born from these influences but did not happen overnight. “I ran two years of pilot studies,” she confirms. “With my educational background I always like to make sure that the programs are actually being effective and efficient. I did clinical studies; tested different cultivars and strains to see what would really work for one and doesn’t work for another.” Over the course of those years of clinical analysis, Carlevale succeeded in reducing her tumor to 20mm.
The Ancient Spiritualism Incorporated Into Ganjasana
But the developer of Ganjasana sees much more than the physical benefits of using cannabis for health as shown by the spiritual aspects of her ceremonies. “I definitely don’t take credit for combining the practice of yoga with cannabis but I would say that it’s an ancient practice that’s just starting to come back to modern times,” she clarified in her interview with The Cannabist. These venerable methods find Carlevale guiding students through sensory communication with the plant as a divine essence. In her interview with Diya SenGupta for Yoganonymous, she expounded on this philosophy, advising those curious about Ganjasana to “mentally, emotionally, spiritually show up.” She further recommended that you “allow yourself to be present, and hold space for deepened plant experiences to occur. You will only hear her messages if you choose to listen.”
Of course, there will always be skeptics; a truth to which Carlevale is well aware. But with her deep history of scientific studies, it carries real weight when she reinforces that cannabis literally saved her life. For now, Ganjasana is mainly situated in Boulder, Colorado but combining yoga and cannabis for health is cropping up in several states that have legalized marijuana. Perhaps in a few years, toking some regenerative herb before a yoga routine will be commonplace.