Bend and Blaze combines cannabis with its classes for an elevated experience
For Eliza Maroney, yoga is a practice that’s always there when mind and body need it most. It’s an exercise that she uses in the morning to awaken her senses. It’s a skill she’s sharpened to help calm the nerves.
Maroney sits poised in her second story office in Midtown and adorns a warm smile. With every breath she takes during conversation, she appears so naturally centered, even if it’s just a typical day at work. It’s a level of calmness that’s visible. That’s genuine. Most people with their busy, day-to-day lives forget to take time out for themselves. To rest. To relax. To breathe. Maroney aims to help those find a bit of peace through her private yoga practice, but her classes incorporate a little bit of cannabis to loosen joints and ease aches so that everyone is “elevated,” a word she prefers over the term “high.” She is, after all, known as the Cannabis Yogi.
“As a lover of cannabis, I have loved applying it to my personal practice,” Maroney says. “It just took me having the courage to hold space for other people to come in and experience it with me, with the intention of that being part of the practice.”
Maroney, who hosts private classes known as Bend and Blaze at private residences, led her first cannabis-infused yoga class in San Francisco last December, where almost 30 yogis gathered to explore just what her vinyasa-yin hybrid classes have to offer. In that moment, Maroney knew she wanted to continue to bring her style to everyone who loves yoga and cannabis, and was curious about blending the two together.
“I can’t tell you how many people come and they’re like, ‘I get high before every class every time, but I’m always paranoid that’s someone’s going to know that I’m lifted,'” Maroney says. “They love coming to this because they feel liberated. It’s OK if I’m a little giggly, or if I’m a little wonky, or my eyes are a little red or if I’m moving slower than others, because it’s expected in this class that people may be elevated.”
A regular client of Maroney’s, Elisa Allechant has practiced variations of yoga for more than 20 years. Allechant says Maroney’s technique is comparable to a gentle flow of energy.
“She encourages you to feel your body, not to push it,” Allechant says. “You won’t know until you’re in [shavasana] that you’ve worked your entire body just enough for you to feel your blood reaching every cell in your body. Then she fills the room with sound, and you vibrate even higher.”
Her ambitions go well beyond Bend and Blaze. Maroney’s also the co-owner of Lucky Box Club, a monthly weed subscription service that delivers customizable, chic boxes with top-shelf cannabis products of a customer’s choosing. She operates Lucky Box with her husband Luke Maroney during the week, she speaks on cannabis education panels from Los Angeles to New York, she’s writing a book, The Cannabis Yogi, and she’s also a professional singer. With all of her projects, yoga is her constant, a time she takes for herself to calm the stresses of every day life.
Yet, on-site consumption is still a legal challenge for the Cannabis Yogi and similar yoga practices in town. (You can’t just light up anywhere these days, even if you’ve achieved ultimate enlightenment.) So, for now, Bend and Blaze must operate in private residences.
“I had a great talk with Joe Devlin [Sacramento’s pot czar] the other day, and these are things that are a part of a big conversation right now,” Maroney says. “We’re getting one step closer, [Assembly Bill] 2020 was just signed by the governor. That’s going to allow more sites to have on-site consumption. We’re on the right track, but I think going recreational has eased the pangs that some people have had and [the] nervousness of judgment.”
Until AB 2020 takes effect, Bend and Blaze classes are dependent upon the location. Since public locations are not legally allowed to have on-site consumption, Maroney encourages people to come “lifted.” But when it is a private location, or private client, she says the class consumes beforehand. With Maroney’s background as a cannabis educator, she also enjoys introducing people to the different means of consumption, whether it’s through edibles, smokables, vape pens or the most popular: topicals. Maroney says CBD-based salves help with joints and aches and allow her clients to have better range of motion while they participate.
Maroney’s classes are a vinyasa-yin hybrid and she says they start out very slowly. She uses “holds” where clients hold poses anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes, followed by up to 20 minutes of flowing poses before the energy in the room is brought back down during shavasana, the resting or “corpse” pose. Each Bend and Blaze class also ends with sound-healing through Tibetan singing bowls.
“People are laid out on their mats, hopefully blissed out a little bit. We give them a nice long period to just settle into the space and relax their bodies and really just connect with the Earth,” She says. “I bring singing bowls and various instruments to just enhance their awareness. I draw their awareness to the sounds in the room and to the sounds of the bowl and the vibration of the bowl in the air.”
A diverse array of people with different curiosities attend Bend and Blaze; some who have never used cannabis. But they’re curious.
“I’ve been shocked by how many men come to the class because there’s cannabis. So I have a lot men that show up like, ‘I’ve never done yoga in my entire life; I’m here ‘cause of the weed,'” Maroney laughs.
“If rubbing a salve on your knee or your elbow or your shoulder before a practice helps you become more present instead of you thinking about the pain that you’re in while you’re doing it—we’ve won,” Maroney says accompanied by that warm smile. “If that’s what we can get out of it, great. And if it can help you achieve enlightenment, then that would be even better.”