As yoga practitioners, we’re constantly asking, “How can I deepen and enrich my practice?” For some, marijuana is the answer. As more states vote to legalize marijuana, smoking pot is emerging out of the haze and becoming more widely accepted. Yoga, as a living and evolving entity, is responding to this shift. Yoga classes specifically designed with a buzz in mind are popping up at studios across the country. So, what’s the deal? Does smoking marijuana before yoga class help or hinder the journey to enlightenment?

Svadhyaya (self-study) and research are vital to discovering whether or not smoking marijuana before yoga class is right for you. First, it’s important to understand how marijuana use affects people in general, and you in particular. Does it make you relaxed and euphoric or anxious and paranoid? Does your brain kick into overdrive or slow down to a crawl? As an aspiring yogi, the ultimate consideration should always be, “Does this bring me closer to a state of union with self and spirit?” A deeper look at how marijuana use affects the physical, mental, and spiritual bodies may help in making an informed decision.

On the physical level, marijuana is known as a pain reliever and muscle relaxer. This sounds perfect for hatha yoga–stretch more deeply, release tension more completely, all without that distracting knee or lower back pain. Yet, pain and the edge of a stretch are the body’s way of communicating the need to slow down or back off. Without these clear cues, you may overstretch and strain muscles or connective tissue, and injuries can easily be exacerbated. Smoking marijuana may make it harder to learn and concentrate on alignment details. Poor alignment can render your yoga practice ineffective, or even dangerous.

Mentally, marijuana changes your brain chemistry. For many, while stoned, it becomes harder to focus. One-pointed focus (dharana) is the first step to yoga’s higher meditative states. If marijuana sends your mind racing, forget about concentration. Simply going through the motions of asana without curiosity and reflection does little to advance your cause. Conversely, a hyper-focused mind is unable to access vairagya (detachment/renunciation)–a vital ingredient in yoga.

Some spiritual seekers, including sadhus (holy men) in India and Rastafarians, believe that smoking the holy herb brings one closer to God. Marijuana can elicit feelings of euphoria similar to the bliss enlightened yogi masters describe. For some, this may be a handy shortcut, but it can also be a form of spiritual bypassing, where you chase faux spiritual experiences in an effort to avoid unresolved personal issues or pain. Most often earned through intense self-scrutiny and yogic practices, true samadhi (liberation, absorption) won’t fade with your buzz.

What are your thoughts? Is smoking grass before yoga class a way to reach enlightenment or something else entirely?