Martha Triantafillides on Yoga and Cannabis | The Lex Files | Ep. 3
Jun 21, 2020
Yoga and Cannabis: Two tools for healing that respond to our physical and emotional sides.
Martha Triantafillides combines both in her personal and professional life. Today we learn how to approach this synthesis in our own personal way and how she advises people on adding cannabis to their yoga practice.
Marthahas studied interior design, she ran an art gallery in Dubai, and she had many more adventures – but today she runs Blue Island Yoga and promotes edible cannabis products for Wana Brands. This is her journey.
She hosts adventure and yoga retreats in the Greek islands through Blue Island Yoga:
Through this challenging social distancing COVID-19 crisis, she is offering free virtual live classes daily on zoom at 10:00 AM MST. Sign up here for the link:
Martha Triantafillides I realized that the sensations in my body were so much more heightened and I loved feeling every inch of my body.
Various quotes “This is our humble hemp patch.”
“5000 years of medical cannabis use.”
“We’re learning about other cannabinoids.”
“Marijuana is growing in every state in the Union.”
Lex Pelger True healing responds to your physical body as well as your internal emotional self. That’s one reason why cannabis is useful to so many people. But the same could be said for the practice of yoga. Martha Triantafillides has combined both. She teaches yoga with her company, Blue Island Yoga, and she promotes edible cannabis products for Wana Brands. In today’s episode we learn about her journey towards cannabis and yoga and how these practices can help you too.
Lex Pelger Thanks so much for joining us.
Martha Triantafillides Hi, thanks. Thanks for having me.
Lex Pelger So, my first question was, can you tell me about where you grew up and how that led to your art gallery?
Martha Triantafillides I grew up in Athens Greece at least till I was a teenager, 13. I am Greek, both parents, by blood and birthplace. I was always fascinated with buildings. I loved architecture and I still to this day love to go into people’s homes check them out from inside and outside and I started interior design because I was not academically very good… My first passion was architecture but that was at those days when I was growing up with seven years of studying and I didn’t think I could make it through architecture schools. So, interior design was my second best.
Lex Pelger So, how did that lead into an art gallery then?
Martha Triantafillides I’ve just always had a passion for beautiful things, especially for home since I loved home so much—architecture and interior design. [It] let me to travel which I loved. So, it combined really my love for traveling, my love of collecting really beautiful things for the house, and unique pieces. There was a lot of one-of-a-kind, especially furniture. All the furniture we had in the gallery was one-of-a-kind, were handmade and one-of-a-kind. Accessories not necessarily one-of-a-kind. So, it was a way of combining my love for travel, checking out beautiful things, buying them, putting them in the gallery. If they didn’t sell I could always take them home so it was a it was a nice combination.
Lex Pelger It does sound magical. How long were you doing that for?
Martha Triantafillides Six years I had the gallery and it was way ahead of its time. Because in in in those days, I used to live in the Middle East and Dubai in the 80s. When Dubai was desert not the Las Vegas that it is now. So, it probably was the first contemporary gallery ever opened in Dubai. It was a very different style and taste mostly targeting Europeans because Arabs, you may or may not know, have a very ornate golden carved kind of taste for design and that was definitely not what I was selling. But I had the young generation of Arabs that used to love that contemporary stuff. So, it was fun to have, fun to play with.
Lex Pelger Were there intriguing challenges about it being in a desert city and being in Dubai?
Martha Triantafillides Yeah, absolutely so. In those days—without wanting to get too much into a country and the way that they function—in those days Dubai was very small. There was only a number of expatriates and we knew everybody in town. When a Sheikh would come shop in your gallery or any shop that you had, they would just walk away and say, “send a bill to my office.” So, you could send the bill to their office and it could be like, a couple of years before you got paid and there was absolutely nothing you could do. Those were huge challenges to keeping the gallery running. But other than that, no. I think the rest of it was just pure fun, I loved it. I loved collecting beautiful artifacts.
Lex Pelger So, what lessons have you learned from the Art Gallery you could take to founding Blue Island Yoga?
Martha Triantafillides For me, Blue Island Yoga is, again, a combination of my love for travel, of beautiful accommodations, food–which, of course, we haven’t mentioned yet. But I’m a big foodie and I love food. And the passion I have for practicing yoga, which I think I’ve always wanted to share. I’ve been teaching yoga for over 20 years and that’s teaching people how to take care of themselves and feel better… So, you share a practice with them and it’s something that you can do anywhere. You can do in a tiny little room. You can do in a hotel when you’re traveling. You can do in a plane if you really [are] traveling for a lot of hours and stretch a bit. I think what the gallery has given me an advantage on is finding accommodations that make people really feel at home when they’re traveling. Being surrounded by beautiful furniture and accessories and locations and architecture… I’ve just come back from doing our last retreat for the year which was in the mountains over Zagori in Northern Greece, and the places that we stayed are from the 1700s. The architecture was just magnificent and just going into a house like that and making it your home for a week as part of the retreat for me. It’s being in a location that you will always remember and just my connection with people. With people that are interested in beauty around them and practicing and enjoying nature.
Lex Pelger So, yoga and exotic locales.
Martha Triantafillides Yeah. I mean, I think it makes a huge difference if you are on a terrace with the ocean in front of you and practicing yoga, to practicing in a place that’s closed up and you have a tiny little window, or you’re looking at another building, or it’s just not a pleasant space to be in. I think the space that you practice any ritual or any part of your day–I mean, wouldn’t it be ideal if we all had fabulous offices to sit in all day?—if we have to sit at an office—or beautiful locations that we can go and be serene outside in nature.
Lex Pelger So, how was it that you first came to yoga?
Martha Triantafillides Long. Long and let me try and make it a short story. But it was really meditation I first came into and that was after a lot of trauma in my life. I had lost my father really young and then I lost my husband, my first husband, when my daughter was very young. So, at that point in my life it was like a double whammy. It made me deal with a lot of things that I hadn’t dealt with as a child and I was very traumatized. I didn’t have a support group. I was not close with my family. I was the one that ran away when I was 13 and never really went back home. So, I started meditation. I was always very physical and I asked my meditation teacher to recommend a tape of yoga for me. I wanted to explore with it because I had played around with yoga when I was about eight years old. When my father died, my mother got into yoga, so I had done a few poses and they came very natural to me. It was always fun to do them, so I thought, “well let me do a tape and I’ll get back into it.” My meditation teacher said, “it’s not something you want to do with the tape” and she sent me to a teacher. My first teacher or proper teacher for yoga, other than practicing with my mom. I remember the first time I ever went to her. I went and before we even started the practice, I think I just broke down. I just cried and I was in such a dark space, a painful space. She took me into her yoga studio, and we practiced for an hour. After an hour of practicing maybe three poses–it wasn’t anything more than that–but just being present with her in that room for that hour for those three poses I walked away, and it was like an elephant had been lifted from my chest. I was so taken by it that she was the one that suggested that I go to an ashram and study yoga. I was like, “I’m not interested in being a teacher.” [She replied,] “just go for your practice it will do you good just to get away and have something different,” and I did. I did two months. I first did the yoga teacher training with Sivananda. Then, back-to-back a week in between I did the advanced yoga teacher’s training because I thought, “my daughter is taking care of. Her grandparents are here. I have the time, I have the money right now, so if I don’t do it now it probably will never do it.” Everybody thought I was crazy. I was doing them back-to-back two months of training because it was intense. I came out of that training and for six months I did not practice. I could not get on a mat I was so—because it forced things to come out a lot faster than probably if I had processed them a little bit. It was a very interesting transition. Then after about six months I slowly started getting on my mat and practicing and finding the courage to. I didn’t think of it as teaching so much in those days… even though I had done those two trainings I didn’t feel like I was a teacher. I didn’t have the experience. But I wanted to share because it had made a huge, profound impact in my life. I started teaching teenagers and I was living in London at the time. I started teaching teenagers, my daughter’s friends at the park and they all loved it and that’s what gave me the courage to move on. Since then I’ve always done a training a year and progressed and just absolutely love it. For me, it was either yoga or therapy for the rest of my life and I think yoga worked out a lot better.
Lex Pelger Your description really speaks to the mind-body connection that I think can often sneak up on people, that this isn’t just a physical practice. Then you’re doing this, and it unlocks—they often say memories are stored in the body.
Martha Triantafillides Absolutely. Which I think is why those two months of training, because the training was very intense a lot more than just going to a class a day or something like that. I think that’s why I was so—I don’t want to say repelled because it wasn’t a repulsion it was just it was just too much for me to get on a yoga mat again for a long time. I had to just let things… let the dust settle.
Lex Pelger Can you just describe a little bit more about what happens in a teacher training? I think most people wouldn’t have the idea that you’re practicing a lot but also that there’d be so much theory behind it.
Martha Triantafillides Absolutely. Well, first of all, you’re learning another language, Sanskrit. At least in the training—things have changed since then. I did my training 20 years ago. I understand that now you can go for a week and become a yoga teacher. It’s very foreign to me how that could possibly happen. But in the Sivananda School of Yoga—not the advanced, the regular teacher training—you would wake up at 5:00 in the morning, there would be an hour of meditation. Then you have philosophy, then you have Sanskrit… you have practice in between, then you have anatomy, then you break for lunch. Then you get back together in the afternoon and you do satsang, so, one of the teachers will speak to you. Then you practice again and then you meditate again. Then you do karma yoga, of course, because you’re in a[n] ashram so you have to pay your dues. As in, giving… you’re either working in the kitchen or you’re cleaning the bathrooms or you’re taking care of some Swami or whatever your responsibilities are for the time that you’re there. So, it’s a really full-on day and by eight or nine o’clock when you finish, you’re just crashing and just repeat for a month. The advanced teacher training, I think we just got a lot deeper into the Sanskrit and the philosophy and the anatomy. Just into more detail from what we did in the regular teacher training.
Lex Pelger That’s fascinating and it’s such an interesting path. It’s also that there’s books like, Zig Zag Zen, that talk about how psychedelics and cannabis were some of the things that helped these get into the American consciousness. So, I wanted to ask you about your relationship with cannabis and how that might have eventually influenced your yoga practice as well.
Martha Triantafillides There are many facets to that. What I want people to be clear with—and I think it has a lot to do with personality—there’s definitely people that can get addicted to something, and people that have a stronger personality [that] can just regulate it and mindfully use it, which I think is fantastic. I’ve been through all these stages. When I was very traumatized from so much loss that happened to me from a very young age, I went through—and am I even allowed to say teenage years? I don’t know… At a younger age, for me cannabis was almost like a numbing—I don’t want to call it a drug because I don’t consider it a drug. I mean, if we have cigarettes and alcohol legal, I think marijuana is a lot better than either of those substances. But in those days, it was definitely not really available so I don’t know what category I would put it in. Anyway, going back, I used cannabis to basically numb in my pain. I had not found a way to process what was happening to me yet. So, it was something that I used to be able to sleep at night, to be able to not go deep into that crazy repeat of thoughts and pain and digging and all of that… you just… go watch a comedy series or get your mind away from what you’re processing, I guess. As I got into yoga, I had stopped using cannabis for quite a number of years. As I got into yoga and was having some cannabis with some friends at the ashram, I realized that the sensations in my body were so much more heightened and I loved feeling every inch of my body. I think for me as a teacher, cannabis was an amazing tool because it helped me to really understand and feel from the inside. Not theoretically, or not what you’re supposed to deal, what a posed is supposed to do for you, but literally. I’m a very tactile person so it just gave me a depth and an understanding which may have taken me many years to get to without the use of cannabis. So, now I’m able to get to that point with or without but I definitely enjoy it more. Especially the restorative practices and in the in practices where you slow down and you can be on the floor the whole time. Tt just kind of gives me a sensation of my body tingling. I can feel my breath where it’s going. I can feel the energy where it’s shifting. I can feel what’s going on into my body and I love being in that space.
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Lex Pelger It’s fascinating to hear about the double-edged sword quality of cannabis.
Martha Triantafillides But aren’t most things in life? It’s how you how you approach things and sometimes you don’t really have that choice. I believe that when I was younger and I was using cannabis, I was in so much pain that possibly I was addicted to it or not really functioning to my full potential because so much of my time was spent using marijuana. In those days, it wasn’t—what I’m really lucky about now is that now that it’s legal and there’s been so many studies and so many different ways of combining it or adding as much or as little THC as you want, you always know what you’re getting. In those days we had to first find a dealer. They would bring it usually to your house because you could never know where they lived. So, you would wait for delivery and you never knew what you were going to get. Maybe would be something super strong. Maybe it would be something that you wouldn’t even feel. Maybe it would be crap and you’re wasting your time and your money. But it was easy to get to the space where you could either be too high or not feel anything. In those days, I don’t think that CBD was separated from THC. Now I can go a really high CBD potency, which I love, and makes me feel my body that much more. With a really low THC, which just gives me that nice mellow sensation of just being really into that space without not being able to function or not having my wits clear.
Lex Pelger That actually speaks to my next question of, would you have any advice or best practices for people who wanted to use cannabis to enhance their yoga practices or their mindfulness practices?
Martha Triantafillides I think it could be any practice you enjoy can be enhanced by it. If I’m practicing yin or restorative, personally, I like a very high CBD with low THC. However, if I’m going to be going a really active day—like when we’re in Greece and we’ll be out on the boat all day—we’ll practice yoga in the afternoon and the intensity of the summer is higher and your energy’s higher, I’d be taking sativa, for example. Maybe even without CBD because… different strains give you a different feeling. Indica will make you more relaxed. The way they taught me to [remember], because I could never remember which one is which, they said, “well think of indica and ‘in the couch’.” So you’re just kind of getting to that mellow space… you don’t really want to do a lot of stuff you just want to relax and lay back. Whereas sativa you go out hiking all day long and you just have that… everywhere you look around you it just makes it that much more beautiful to look at, that much more enjoyable to be out in nature. I love being outdoors which is why I’m such a summer girl because I can be outdoors all day long. But everybody behaves differently with it… For example, my daughter will get super anxious if she takes any strain, so she doesn’t touch this stuff. It’s definitely not for everyone, just like alcohol it’s not for everyone and smoking cigarettes is not for everyone. There [are] other people that need that cigarette, and what are you going do? You’re going tell them, “no go crazy without it,” or just have the damn cigarette? Do what’s right for you and the only way to find that out is to experiment. For some people sativa may be wonderful. For other people indica may be wonderful and if you just want that nice body relaxation, I highly recommend CBD… That connection with the body, for me, CBD works very nicely.
Lex Pelger Do you ever get pushback from others in the yoga community about using substances?
Martha Triantafillides The nice thing about being 57 is that you don’t give a s**t anymore. This is who I am. I love it. It has benefited my life in many ways. I am always very clear if people ask me to let them know that it’s something that you want to be careful with. There was that phase in my life where I was a little dependent on it and it wasn’t good for me. It was the pain that I was feeling in my body, smoking on top of it was holding me back instead of just getting a grip and moving on. Maybe I absolutely just needed that time, so it’s really hard to tell. But I was strong enough to say no I need to stop and see how my life will be different and it was different when I stopped. Then when I restarted, I had a very good understanding of what I was doing.
Lex Pelger Do you have preferences on ingestion methods for different types of activities that you’re doing?
Martha Triantafillides Occasionally you want it–I don’t want to say immediate because even that’s not immediate—but smoking, obviously, vaping or smoking. I don’t smoke tobacco, so I wouldn’t smoke a joint. But vaping will give you a much faster effect. Within a few seconds you’re going to feel that enhancement, that light buzz, that tingling [sensation]—whatever it is that one feels, and for everybody it’s going to be different. Ideally, I don’t like to smoke anything. I love edibles. Edibles will take a long time to take effect into your body, so CBD is wonderful because as I start practicing, as the time goes by and I get deeper into my practice I start feeling the sensations even more. For me, if I’m practicing yoga and especially restorative, digesting, taking edibles will be the way to go. If I’m out all day long in nature and not at home, I like the capsules because… those are time release, slow release. They will last me all day in a very mild sensation that lasts a long time or other than peaking and coming back down. Whereas with the smoking, it’s peaking and then you’re coming down, there’s not that smoothness. I’ve never tried drinks. I know there’s drinks with CBD and THC. I don’t know those, so I couldn’t recommend.
Martha Triantafillides I also find that different brands have a very different effect as well. With the brands that I—with Wana Brands that I use now and also, I represent them in the yoga world. Representative may not be the right word, I’m an ambassador for them and I share my experience with it. I have found that their dosing is very accurate so I always know if I take this edible or smoke that vape, I know the effect that I’m going to have. So, here’s a practice, I guess.
Lex Pelger They do have an excellent reputation and it’s a fascinating new part of this world. What’s it like for you to be a brand ambassador for one of the big cannabis companies?
Martha Triantafillides I am so honored that I was asked, first of all. Secondly, it was my favorite brand before I was asked to join Wana, so when they asked me I [said], “oh yeah!” I’ve only recently in the past—it’s actually going to be a year soon, that they asked me to join their team. I’ve been away, as you know, for five months. I was just emailing with the marketing manager at Wana and I want to take a tour of their production and understand more about the differences. In the beginning when they asked me, I was like, “okay, I just need to digest the thought.” I knew I wanted to do it I just didn’t know how ready I was to talk about something private… I’m European and we have a little bit of a different attitude to from–I think–American culture where you have all these reality shows. People go in TV and talk about their personal business and I wasn’t used to that at all. It’s one thing sharing with my friends what I do, but I’m not a very public person. I’m quite unsocial, actually. So, once I came to terms with that and got to the point where I really didn’t care who knows if I smoke or don’t smoke or take marijuana. Whether smoking or eating it, I couldn’t care less. If they are not on board with me having a choice on what I do, then they shouldn’t be my friend, or they shouldn’t be my student. I won’t try and push it, or I won’t try to promote it in class by no means. But if somebody asked me, I will definitely give my opinion and share my experience with it.
Lex Pelger Do you ever have warnings for people about combining cannabis with their exercise of yoga, in ways that sometimes might not be helpful? Or do you see for certain people how it isn’t helpful?
Martha Triantafillides Yeah… definitely. I would say start slowly. Take a half a dose or a quarter of a dose and see how it affects you before you—for the first time—digest or ingest or whatever the word is. Something that you don’t know how your body’s going to react. The last thing you want to do is get hurt in your practice. You could be a runner, you could be a biker, it doesn’t—whatever you do the first time you’re going to try taking cannabis with it, you want to dose it and make sure that you can still function in the same way that you do without.
Lex Pelger Well, I wanted to say thank you so much for sharing on this fascinating intersection. I don’t know if you have any final advice about cannabis and yoga and mindfulness practices?
Martha Triantafillides My advice is: really try and feel what’s right for you. I see such a wave of the west and I’m not really just myself. I believe there’s a stronger power than us. I believe there’s the universe out there, that the energies can help guide you in directions you want to go. I think a lot of people are so disturbed by religion that they think that if they go to the east, those practices; changing their name or doing some ritual or whether it’s in India or in any other country, is going to make a shift in their life. I think this shift happens from within. You can be chasing all around the world for different ways to practice. For some people Buddhism is going to speak to them, for some people Christianity is going to speak to them, whether you’re religious or not. Find what’s right for you and trust, really. Trust. Everything changes all the time. The fast tends to change a lot faster and turns to s**t, and when we’re in the s**t we think it’s going to last forever. It feels like it’s lasting forever but just try and to remember to breathe. If yoga feels good for you, do yoga. If running feels good to you, run. But for me, the best healer of all is nature and if you can be out in nature, I think, that would be my only advice is listen. Listen to what’s going on inside of you. Nature gives you the peacefulness and the quietness to be able to do that well.
Lex Pelger Well, I think we’ll end there, Martha. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.
Martha TriantafillidesThank you, Lex. Thanks for having me.
Lex PelgerThanks for tuning in. To listen to other episodes find us at pluscbdoil.com. If you have any questions compliments or suggestions, feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoyed the program please rate us on iTunes and share a link to your social media. it means a lot to us. The Lex files is produced by Matt Payne. Our chief advisors Amabelle Dela Cruz. The music is by Jake Bradford Sharp. Our sponsor is CV Sciences, maker of America’s favorite CBD oil. Remember the coupon code LEXFILES. I’m Lex Pelger signing off.