AUSTIN, Texas — The yard was strewn with discarded wood, industrial equipment, a rusted-out truck, an overturned shopping cart, and other urban flotsam. It seemed like an odd setting for yet another “ganja yoga” experience, the opportunities for which have been popping up increasingly over the years, like mushrooms after a spring rain. Then again, while yoga is still legal in Texas, ganja isn’t.
Even in tolerant Austin, things need to be kept on the down low. I’d been given this address in an email, received vague instructions to wander around the property, and told that the ganja, and the yoga, would find me.
A bearded man wearing yoga gear appeared on a balcony.
“We’re up here, my friend!” he shouted.
Participants twist and stretch during the Kusha yoga workshop. (Provided by Kusha)
This was Harleigh Reynolds, the man behind Kusha™. I add the trademark because he’s trademarked the word. He’s also trademarked the phrase “yoga with substance.” The angle behind Kusha is that Reynolds and his team of yoga teachers will help you match your “dosha,” or body type according to the ancient teachings of Ayurveda, with the type of cannabis you should consume. There are three major doshas, each containing multiple sub-doshas, just as there are numerous types and sub-types of weed and ways to consume that weed. Maintaining your proper “Kusha” could be a full-time job, requiring training and supervision.
For the general public, a dosha might as well be a stuffed Indian bread served alongside lemon pickles, but in yoga circles, Ayurvedic terms get tossed around familiarly, like a kind of Indian astrology. “I’m a kapha vata” elicits knowing nods. At Reynolds’ urging, I’d taken an online Kusha quiz, which determined that I was a “pitta,” a type that tends to be rather nervous and high-energy, and therefore needs yoga and weed to mellow out. I couldn’t argue with that diagnosis. It’s been the basis of my personal health care for years.
I went up some stairs to find a beautiful Air BnB, with blond wood floors and expansive windows. Reynolds had emptied his bank account to rent it. He’ll soon be hosting weekend Kusha retreats in Denver, Seattle and Portland, cities where you don’t have to hide your ganja yoga in a back lot. A half-dozen people were lounging on mats or relaxing on the sofa, already loading bowls in anticipation of the day’s activity.
“You’re my soft opening,” Reynolds said.
Harleigh Reynolds, Kusha founder (provided by Kusha)
Reynolds, 35, was born into a family of rich California hippies. His father was Van Morrison’s tour manager and his mother, he says, “dated one of the Beatles.” Los Angeles, where he grew up, is, he says, “like a rose bush to me. Something beautiful, but with thorns.”
By the age that most kids are getting ready to finish up high school, Reynolds had already traveled the world, organizing raves and living a lifestyle of drug-addled decadence. Then he moved to Austin, did more drugs, got arrested, and then found yoga. He trained extensively. Like it does for so many people, yoga healed him. But then came a motorcycle accident, and intense pain. The doctors gave him opiates. “They fucked me up,” he said. So he turned to cannabis as medicine, and that’s when he really saw the light. “I believe a rich and fulfilling life is spent tending to your own garden, and mine is now in full bloom thanks to the flowers of yoga and cannabis,” he writes on his website.
Like so many yogis, he turned to India for guidance.
“I’ve been formulating this for two years,” he told me. “I went to India to learn the rules so I could break them. I spent my time on the Ganga river smoking with holy men, making shapes with my body and eating rice pudding. And that was their whole life.”
Reynolds determined that could be his whole life, too, along with a trademarked logo that would be purple, “the color of the monarchy.”
Our ganja yoga session began. There were eight of us in the room. Reynolds advised us to “moderate your levels. Get as high as you need to. We have no novice cannabis users here.” An exception was a middle-aged guy named Leo, who lounged on a sofa while the rest of us twisted on our mats. “Leo is a kapha, my friends,” Reynolds told us. “Kapha is Earth. Hence the propensity to sink into the couch. He’s a Leofa. A Leo that was born on the sofa.” Leo would be having a relaxed, couch-based practice, Reynolds said, as he took a big hork off a joint. We were starting about a half-hour late.
“Mussolini had to make the trains run on time,” Reynolds said. “But he didn’t get this high.”
We began. By my mat, I had a strap, a towel, a block, a cup of Topo Chico mineral water and a lighter. The usual. Pipes and joints moved around the room. Reynolds informed us that, in his workshops, there would be infinite varieties of weed available. But this was Austin, and “my dealer got jacked last night. I don’t have my best and most reliable supply.” Everyone nodded. In Texas, we’re used to taking what’s available.
“You should change your cannabis habits to suit your mood and the season,” Reynolds said. It’s like seasonal eating, he explained. Sometimes you need a dank, heavy high, when other times a light vape or a mild edible might be best. Other times, you should focus on using strains dominant in cannabidiol (CBD) to reduce inflammation. Like all health care, it should be individualized.
And then I found myself doing child’s pose, baked out of my wits, while the sound system played a viola cover of Radiohead’s “Rule The World.”
“Imagine you’re turning to open a nice jar of cannabis,” Reynolds said, as we moved into a twist. “We’re getting high and doing yoga. Inherently, this is incredibly silly.”
Kusha may be an idea whose time has come, but it’s also a result of a clogged spiritual-healing job market.
Instagram is flooded with thousands upon thousands of sexy young yogis and yoginis who, fresh from teacher training, are looking to find clients to guide. This even extends to ganja yoga. Classes have begun popping up all over in legalized parts of America. Dee Dussault, whose ganja yoga classes in San Francisco were among the first to start the trend, has a publishing deal with Harper Collins, with her “Ganja Yoga” book scheduled to drop in April. Reynolds admitted this was a factor in his aggressive business plan. “I want to do this for a living,” he said. “I have to find my niche.”
The Kusha workshop combines classes on various yoga styles with the chance for participants to learn about personalizing their cannabis use. (Provided by Kusha)
Later in the afternoon, we continued to get high in Reynolds’ niche. A shockingly beautiful woman named Liz Davis, wearing a Rolling Stones “Tattoo You” vintage half-shirt, showed up to give us a yin yoga class. Yin classes involve fewer poses, held for a longer time, and are designed to heal connective tissue in the body, as well as stretch the fascia, the tissued sheath that envelops muscles. She’s been trained, she told us, in 25 different healing modalities, including crystals.
“We really tend to burn hot,” she told us, as I took a long draw off a Pax 2 vaporizer. “Let your mantra be, ‘I give myself permission.’ ” Then she added, “I have some peppermint oil and I will place it on your third eye.”
That all sounded good to me. I continued to practice stoned. Reynolds gave me a little massage and left a glass by my mat. “Try my iced coffee,” he said. “I blend it myself.”
After a while, as I relaxed into a long hold, Liz came over.
“I hope you don’t mind if I do some reiki on you,” she said. Reiki is a healing technique that involves channeling energy into a patient’s body by means of touch, improving mental and emotional well-being. This sounded good to me.
“I don’t mind at all,” I said.
A Siamese cat had wandered into the studio, delighting everyone. And so it came to pass that I received a reiki treatment from the subtle touch of a tantric sex coach while a Siamese cat purred in my ear. This Kusha thing was all right.
Afterward, Reynolds served us a nice helping of brown-sugar roasted sweet potato and lightly pickled beets topped with CBD oil.
“I’m studying to be a hypnotist,” Liz told me, while I ate my delicious food. “I enjoy getting into the subconscious mind.”
The Kusha session went on all day, and into the evening. The pot wore off, and activated again. There was a third yoga class on the roof. By the end, I’d pretty much backed off the physical yoga and was lying on the ground with my knees up in the air. No one needs five hours of physical yoga practice a day.
And then it was over. My fellow ganja yogis left, and I was alone in the loft with Reynolds. He’d arranged a CBD oil massage for me, so I could have the complete ganja yoga experience. I was happy to accept the offer.
“So what’d you think?” he asked.
“Do you want my honest opinion?” I said.
He said he did.
“Well, the information you gave about Ayurveda was pretty accurate and straightforward. Not too hippy dippy. And the stuff about different types of marijuana was pretty good too.”
“That’s cool,” he said.
A colorful salad for sustenance amid the classes and cannabis. (Provided by Kusha)
“However,” I said, “you need more warm-up before you go into the serious yoga poses. If you don’t, someone could get hurt.”
“And stop giving people life advice during the classes,” I said.
There had been a bit too much preaching, not enough teaching, for my tastes.
“People in their 20s and 30s want that,” he said.
“Not yours to give,” I said. “That’s the road to guruhood and manipulation.”
He seemed to take that to heart. “I’m kind of like the carnival barker,” he said. “I usher them in and move them along. You don’t want to spend too much time with me. It’s a good thing I grew up in an Irish-Jewish family in Los Angeles and wasn’t religious. I could be a real zealot.”
Reynolds’ massage therapist showed up. We went into a bedroom, where they’d set up a table, and I got a full-body massage.
When it was all over, Reynolds had changed out of his yoga gear and was looking like he was ready to party. After all, he had this great space for the night, why not have some friends over?
“Hope you had a good time,” he said.
I did! The day had gone a little long. I’d been there for more than eight hours, and I was getting some annoyed texts from home. But I also felt totally relaxed and centered. Whatever my Kusha was, it had been well-served by the workshop. I could get used to this ganja yoga thing, I thought.
Maybe someday I’ll live where it’s legal.
Reynolds will hold his first Kusha™ workshop in Denver from Dec. 30-Jan. 2. Activities will include multiple yoga practices, lectures, CBD oil massage, dispensary tours, a “cannabis smoothie making demonstration,” and a “champagne/kombucha cannabis toast” for the New Year.