Elevate Well STL Combines Weed With Yoga

The "anti-studio" off South Grand Boulevard is the region's first canna-friendly health club

Jun 6, 2023 at 7:36 am
click to enlarge Elevate Well STL is a cannabis friendly yoga studio that welcomes all comers and also functions as a social club.
Elevate Well STL is a cannabis friendly yoga studio that welcomes all comers and also functions as a social club.

In a renovated apartment above Apotheosis Comics & Lounge, Sarah Fuhrmann starts a restorative yoga session with an affirmation.

"You're not here to fix anything, find anything new or look for anything different," Fuhrmann says. "Because you are already enough."

Lo-fi music plays in the background as a small group of yogis lay face-up on purple yoga mats. Everyone in the room knows each other — and they're all high. Just moments before the session began, attendees passed around a blunt and drank infused seltzers. Here, at south city yoga studio Elevate Well STL, cannabis is as tied to wellness as the yoga.

Today's session isn't about exercise or straining the body; it's about physical and mental relaxation. Or, in the words of Fuhrmann, "Chilling out: super style."

Fuhrmann directs participants to lift their legs in the air. Take a deep breath in, let it out, she says, "circulate movement through your fingers and toes.

"There's no timeline, no rush, but certainly acknowledge how you feel," Fuhrmann says.

She speaks in a calm, metered voice. There's no right or wrong way to do yoga at Elevate. Earlier this year, Fuhrmann founded the small but beloved "anti-studio" as a low-pressure alternative to the traditional yoga experience. Its vibe is more of a social club, and the one-hour classes include smoke and social seshes before the yoga begins. People bring their own weed (none is provided or sold there) and chat, laugh, do yoga and eat snacks afterward. The studio currently has about 30 members.

"All you need here is your weed and you," Fuhrmann says.

At its most basic, Elevate is the region's first canna-friendly health club. It's a members-only space tailored for people who don't feel welcome in typical yoga spaces. Despite yoga's popularity nowadays, Fuhrmann says, it's not always accessible to the people who need it most. At Elevate, sessions are open to anyone, but Fuhrmann specifically has Gen Z in mind, as well as LGBTQ+ and neurodivergent people.

"The concept is more than just smoking and doing yoga," Fuhrmann says. "It's a community. We're creating a safe space for people who want to try the experience without all the gatekeeping that maybe a high-end studio or private country club has."

Though being high is not a requirement, it certainly enhances Elevate's experience. Cannabis helps create deeper breath awareness and allows users to relax if they're nervous, according to Fuhrmann.

Most of the cannasseurs here know what science is only starting to catch onto — that cannabis can (here's where Elevate's name comes into play) "elevate" exercise. A recent University of Colorado Boulder study found that 80 percent of cannabis users say the plant motivates them to work out and helps them enjoy exercise more. And CBD may aid athletes' recovery by improving sleep and alleviating pain.

"People like me who are cannasseurs have been utilizing canna wellness for years but hidden," Fuhrmann says. "This is a place to come out of the shadows and say there's nothing wrong with the utilization of the plant. It can enhance your experience and help you through physical and mental healing."

Fuhrmann hasn't always mixed cannabis with yoga. She once ran a business that hosted yoga events across the Midwest in nontraditional settings, such as breweries. Participants would drink before, during or after sessions.

But the pandemic forced that business to end, and Fuhrmann took it as an opportunity to study cannabis and reflect. She wanted to keep doing yoga in public spaces.

Elevate Well STL was born a few years later. What began as a few pop-up classes at various venues, mostly at Cola Private Lounge in south city, turned into something more permanent. In February, Elevate opened in its own space off of South Grand.

Yoga is just a small part of what Elevate does. Instructors also teach classes in aerial arts; capoeira, an afro-Brazilian martial art; breath-work; and qigong, a gentle Chinese exercise used to align the body and mind. There's also an in-house massage therapist.

Back in the restorative yoga session, Fuhrmann directs the yogis to lower their feet and to plant them on the earth. She says to notice their physical and mental shapes, to see themselves and "declutter."

"That's not always fun," she says. "So remind yourself it isn't about sunshine and rainbows on the mat, it's about showing up."

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