Sandy Braz is the owner of Yoga Yoga, a boutique Vinyasa studio and event space in Toronto’s Junction Triangle. In her own words, Sandy tells us about the experiences that led her to opening a “philosophy-free” Yoga studio, and why she encourages women of all ages and walks of life to make independent choices about their health and wellness.
Once a week, I run a 420 Flow class at my studio in Toronto’s West End. All are welcome and cannabis is optional to enjoy before class with some like-minded people. I can attest that 420 Flow feels as good as it sounds, and that combining cannabis, community and making yoga is a therapeutic tool.
I’ve had friends tell me, ‘Don’t attach cannabis to your business,’ but, they don’t understand what I’m trying to build here. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what other people think. I want my community to feel that it’s okay to talk about, to post about. A lot of our anxiety comes from the idea that you think you’re doing something wrong.
I want to create a space for people that maybe do have the 9-5 job, or the controlled environment at home, or whatever it is, where they can be themselves. Enjoy community together: smoking, or eating. And then enjoying some yoga where no one’s judging you the whole way through and you’ve done something nice for yourself. I’m proud to facilitate this experience for others.
A few years ago I went through a really difficult time with my mental health. I was trying to get help through the channels that are available and are accepted, and that involved taking prescribed drugs, and being guided by doctors — and it didn’t work for me.
I was on some pretty heavy drugs to manage sleep and anxiety and depression and all the things that people thought I was going through. I’ll never know how much of it was real. Once I was able to release all that stuff and I wasn’t on pharmaceuticals anymore, I returned to cannabis and it was very healing for me, because it was safe for me; it was familiar. I was still in recovery when I opened the studio — many people don’t know that — and I think recovery needs to be a daily process: recovery from mental illness; recovery from life falling apart; recovery from being hooked on drugs that aren’t right for you.
It’s challenging to be a woman in business who advocates for cannabis, particularly for mothers. ”
My mom, who is an immigrant to Canada from Portugal, is very open-minded. When I was going through the recovery and putting my life back together and doing a good job of it, she was really supportive and It meant a lot to me! My relationship to cannabis is not something I’m ashamed to talk about, but it was especially nice to have my Portuguese mom saying: “I’m really glad this is available to you, Sandy.”
It’s challenging to be woman in business who advocates for cannabis. I think there’s so much stigma around this topic, particularly for mothers, but I see them here all the time, enjoying our 4:20 flow. Our space allows them to be fully themselves, this is who they were before they were mothers, you know? Our clients are high-functioning people with very busy lives, and I’d like to find a way to continue to advocate for them, for their need to have a safe space here. I believe people should have choice — you don’t have to enjoy cannabis to practice here, but if you do, my door is open.
Photography by Angela Lewis
I get up around 5:30am and put the kettle on the stove. As it boils I’ll go to my little bag. I like to keep everything neat. I have a little stainless steel grinder, I don’t like plastic. I might smell it, if it’s a new strain. I’ll take my papers – they’re raw and organic. And then I tap it out into the centre of the paper and I start to roll slowly. I’m good at rolling joints. I’ve just woken up, so all my senses are tender and I’m kind of sleepy. I’ll put some coffee in the press. Then I’ll have a little bit of coffee, a little bit of smoke. A little bit of coffee, a little bit of smoke.
Any space where you can fit comfortably and safely in your home can be a yoga studio. Keep it simple. You can prepare what your movement space looks like ahead of time, adding a mat, candles or objects that have meaning for you, or get elevated first and then set up your space as part of your 420 ritual. There are no rules or perfect ways to make space. Experiment.
You’re creating a soundtrack for your session and this is part of the connection and enjoyment process. In your elevated state, your receptors are open and sounds will be very apparent. They matter. It could be silence that feels best or playing your favourite six songs over and over to create a sense of familiarity and comfort.
This is something that’s often overlooked. Start slow when it comes to the dose of cannabis you use before making yoga. Give your body and mind some time to acclimatize and respond to the elevated feeling, and learn how your body moves in your elevated state and how your thoughts roll out.
Enhancing my flow a few years ago helped me ease anxiety symptoms and also enjoy the yoga I love so much in a new way. I feel lucky to share what I’ve learned about this method through the work I do at my studio, and in the community, with people who want to learn more about the experience. It’s a gentle way to learn about yourself and also engage in some self-soothing behavior. Don’t feel pressure to make it work or feel euphoric every time. Literally go with the flow. Patience with the process and an open mind will serve you well.