Before the pandemic, the wellness industry was on the verge of becoming the largest “consumer spending opportunity in decades,” according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Although in-person gyms and fitness classes faced closures and devastation during the pandemic, other fitness opportunities arose, including a renewed interest in online fitness classes.
Likewise, Denver’s health and wellness scene shifted to accommodate the increased COVID-related stressors overwhelming the community. Fitness classes such as yoga, HIIT and meditation were among some of the more popular wellness trends in 2020.
Simultaneously, cannabis sales skyrocketed. In fact, Colorado’s marijuana industry broke records with $2.2 billion in sales. So, where does that leave the niche market where wellness and cannabis collide?
Meet the women behind Denver’s cannabis yoga scene, Amanda Hitz and Ali Duncan. The two women own independent, private studios that offer a variety of wellness classes, including classes where cannabis use is encouraged.
When Amanda Hitz, founder of Bend & Blaze, began incorporating online classes during the pandemic, she found a new opportunity for outreach. The online fitness platform allowed for her to not only continue social cannabis events, but also expand Bend & Blaze to other communities around the U.S.
If you go
Bend & Blaze offers multiple in-studio and online classes per week. To sign up for an in person class, you must join the Bend & Blaze mailing list. Participants must be 21 years of age or older and bring their own cannabis. See a schedule at bendandblaze.yoga
Urban Sanctuary hosts several cannabis-supported classes per week, with memberships and drop-in rates available. You must be 21 years of age or older and bring your own cannabis. See a schedule at usdenver.com 2745 Welton St., 303-993-2420
“Zoom is really great for online yoga just because it allows us to still have that time before we flow to kind of hang out and smoke and everyone’s in their own homes so I was able to open it up to the community beyond Denver, which is really awesome,” she said.
As of this summer, Bend & Blaze also hosts private, in-person events, which people can snag an invite to by signing up for the company’s email list. The outdoor patio of a Cap Hill hostel serves as a space for incorporating marijuana in a social setting just before beginning a 60-minute sequence of yoga poses. Hitz explained that some students hit the vape during and others pack a bowl next to their mat, but it’s always BYOC (bring your own cannabis).
“We never really cue the cannabis into the yoga, it’s just a space that we create where you’re welcome to consume and that’s kind of what brings us together,” she said. “And then we just flow.”
For some yoga enthusiasts, cannabis use during practice can be controversial. Yoga International writes that marijuana is unrelated to yoga, claiming it’s categorically in line with junk food and booze.
Hitz, however, said that without the use of cannabis, yoga isn’t accessible to some of her students who experience pain or anxiety. Ultimately, it’s the student’s choice when it comes down to how they want to practice yoga.
“I think for somebody to say that you’re defeating the purpose of yoga by incorporating cannabis is a privilege to assume that everybody can access yoga, which is not the case,” Hitz said.
Hitz also finds that her studio, whether in-person or online, attracts students who are trying yoga for the first time. In other words, “people that really wouldn’t approach yoga otherwise.” Men typically make up 50% of her classes, a higher participation rate than in standard yoga classes.
“I have so many yogis that have never practiced before because yoga studios are intimidating and I think cannabis helps destigmatize yoga just as much as yoga helps destigmatize cannabis,” she said.
Ali Duncan, creator of Urban Sanctuary in Five Points, is also opening doors to cannabis in the yoga studio. In 2016, when she couldn’t find the space she personally needed to practice yoga, she instead created one. Urban Sanctuary is, “a brave, safe space for marginalized communities,” she said.
Duncan’s studio offers a variety of classes too, incorporating modern ways to practice yoga. In addition to cannabis-supported sessions, Urban Sanctuary offers tarot yoga, naked yoga, aerial yoga and emotional freedom technique (EFT), an alternative treatment for pain and stress.
Just like Bend & Blaze, Urban Sanctuary also went virtual during the pandemic but has since resumed in-person classes.
“Copasetic Flow is done online … with the community through zoom. They take their plant medicine with everyone else and then do yoga through zoom,” Duncan said.
In a time when stress is higher than average, especially for people of color and women, cannabis-supported yoga could provide an outlet for reaching a higher connection, even if that means changing the way it’s taught. According to Duncan, cannabis combined with yoga often results in lower stress levels and can relax the body and mind.
“I think we’re all benefitting from cannabis medically somehow, whether you’re intentionally using it medically or not,” Hitz said. “Like, we all have inflammation, we all have stress, we all have things that cannabis is helping.”
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