By Nicola Bridges
Under festive strings of white lights creating a relaxing mood, the ranch common room sways with people lost in their own worlds doing free-flow dancing, arms waving, many with eyes nearly closed, gyrating to the sound of New Age music. Prancing and weaving energetically around the group yoga teacher Darrin "Yogi D" Zeer starts jumping on the spot and beaming, reaching his hand out to me, saying, "Lose your inhibitions, c'mon and dance!" as I sit shyly on the sidelines, a curious observer.
I'm at a one of Yogi Di's and his wife Daisy's Cannabis Ganja Yoga Retreats on a remote ranch in the Colorado Rockies a couple of hours from Denver — and it's everything — and nothing — I anticipated.
Cannabis is fully legal in Colorado, where a cannabis-centric travel industry is burgeoning. The state boasts everything from "Bud and Breakfasts" to boutique hotels and lodgings where you can openly partake of pot in your room and around the premises — with fellow guests there to relax on vacation in the same way they relax at home — to bespoke retreats where weed is a highlight on the list of activities.
Having horses and doing yoga, I'm always looking for unusual travel experiences, and Yogi D's 420 Yoga Retreats came to my attention after I interviewed him about one of his several bestselling yoga books. I had tentatively been exploring medical marijuana in my home state of California to help with depression, anxiety and grief after the death of my son, seeking alternative treatments instead of a slew of prescribed meds. On my self-care journey, I was curious about what a combined yoga and cannabis vacation might look like, especially on a ranch where I could ride. New to medical marijuana in my midlife, I felt the need for a younger, more marijuana-savvy travel mate and convinced my son's girlfriend to join me as my chaperone, just in case.
It turns out I was overly concerned. Driving to the ranch from the Denver airport, I was expecting to stick out like a sore thumb as the ganja newbie among a group of potheads spending a long weekend stoned in cabins among the pines. I figured the pretense of yoga was just an excuse for like-minded stoners to gather on a rustic ranch. I couldn't have been more surprised.
Guests from all walks of life had chosen this type of vacation for different and curious reasons. A 40-something Silicon Valley tech exec was there to overcome his fear of social situations and try marijuana for the very first time. Two wealthy women came just for the yoga and hikes by the river in the Rockies ranch setting, saying they didn't "do pot."
A quiet woman in her late 60s was there "just for the experience." She volunteered in the kitchen, making our supremely simple vegan meals — some of them silent reflection meals, no talking allowed. A couple in their 70s who travel the world and are yoga and cannabis pros came for the like-minded camaraderie. Some hard-core yoginis did complicated inversions, while most of us slowly moved from pose to pose in the haze of however much cannabis we'd had — in my case, little to none.
I was there for both, too, yes, but in a very hesitant, lightweight, exploratory way, curious to know what doing yoga a little bit high would be like on what could be considered the ultimate relaxing vacation.
Yogi D describes his retreats that combine a creative mix of yoga, movement, meditation and marijuana as "a weekend of radical stress management that will warm your heart and ease your aches and pains." For me, it did just that. In the morning yoga and evening meditation sessions he encouraged us to go with our own ganja flow to enjoy deep peace and passionate joy, together with lifting our spirits and effortlessly releasing physical and emotional blocks along the way. There were mala-bead bracelet-making sessions, reiki massage and cupping (little suction devices locked onto your skin to improve circulation). But there was no pressure to participate — rather, just to relax and partake as little or as much as we wanted of both yoga and ganja, or just lounge on the couches or relax in our rooms.
Not everyone attended the group activities. Some stayed in their cabins, hit the hot tubs, went for walks around the mountainside property, or visited with the ranch goats and hung with the horses that had the run of the green grass lawns around the riverside cabins. But after dinner, when he had everyone's attention, once Yogi D cried ecstatically "Let's go toke!" Then everyone seemed to come out of the rustic woodwork to kick back on the lawn or around the campfire for s'mores and more ganja smokes.
WHEN YOU GO
Check 420 Yoga's calendar for upcoming retreats, including couples retreats, in Colorado and Canada: www.420yogaretreats.com.
Nicola Bridges is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Participants in one of Yogi D's Colorado retreats enjoy yoga classes. Photo courtesy of Nicola Bridges.