Yoga unites and heals mind, body, and spirit, making it a perfect complement to addiction recovery. This meditation practice is particularly helpful in dealing with the physical, mental, and spiritual challenges of substance addiction. More and more people in recovery are practicing yoga, despite the lack of scientific proof that it helps.
To illustrate the benefits of yoga, we’ve asked select group of yoga experts with background in addiction recovery to sound off about their experiences. Read on:
Bryan Hyman | Yoga teacher
“[For someone who’s new to this approach] I would recommend a practice that is gentle and includes poses to open and heal areas of the body where alcoholics and addicts store tension and emotions. Focus should be on the throat (self-expression, lack of trust, confidence); shoulders (burdens, responsibilities); heart space (sorrow, grief, loss); pelvis (sexual issues, conditioning); hips (betrayal, abandonment, judgment); and the core (fears, control, relationships).
I also recommend classes that incorporate breath work and meditation which quiet the mind, relax the body, and allow for conscious contact with the spirit or soul.”
Rixie Dennison | Holistic life coach and certified yoga instructor
“Twelve-step programs propose a spiritual remedy, but do not offer much advice for the physical dimension of healing from any kind of addiction. Most of us, when we first come to yoga, whether we are aware of it or not, have retreated from many aspects of ourselves, and therefore many areas of our lives are literally unknown to us, are unexamined and unlived.
In our yoga classes the situation is not subtle. We have retreated from our hands, feet, hips, our hearts and lungs, our entire body. We have become terrified of our own reality—the great unknown. The asana, meditation and breathing techniques are a series of controlled experiments in re-inhabiting our bodies. It’s priceless. By practicing yoga on a regular, consistent basis, we will begin to develop awareness, balance and connect our physical bodies to our mental, emotional and spiritual selves.
Both yoga and the twelve-step philosophies provide a framework to live a more authentic life and foster personal growth and healing. I lead yoga for twelve-step Recovery Class. I also have created a model/concept for a twelve-week yoga class that goes through the twelve steps one at a time with yoga to assist the process of recovery. This is how I healed.”
Durga Leela | Yoga teacher
“Yoga is a wonderful form of exercise and so much more. It contributes to our recovery process through physical postures (asana), the breathing techniques (pranayama) and conscious relaxation (savasana and Yoga Nidra). We're invited to re-inhabit our body at any pace suitable to our current level of health. The range of options go from supported and restful asana in Restorative Yoga to sweating out toxins in Hot/Bikram Yoga or a moderately paced classical yoga class that includes all levels of practitioners like a Sivananda sequence.
In addition, we can learn yogic meditation techniques, devotional practices, and the practice of selfless service and be introduced to our core potential through yogic psychology and philosophy. Yoga of Recovery also integrates Ayurveda, the medical side of yoga—the science of self-healing and self-care—simple, daily, practical suggestions to support our body's innate healing wisdom. Of course I recommend people come to a yoga of Recovery Retreat—there is nothing quite like finding out more about yoga in the company of others in recovery, with great meals, meetings and beautiful locations."
Tommy Rosen | Yoga teacher and addiction recovery expert
“Being on the path of recovery is a blessing. We have all stood on the precipice of doom. We all tried everything we could to avoid it, but in the end, the path was the only possible thing left.
Now with your interest in yoga, you stand on the precipice once again, but the stakes have changed. Before it was life or death, now the question is whether you've just survived addiction or will actually thrive in recovery. When you were desperate and there was no other choice, you had to choose recovery. Now, you have infinite choices, and that makes your commitment to the path of yoga a bit more difficult. Life is going to happen to you. And if you do not access the gifts that yoga will bring, you may take a good whooping and find yourself quite miserable. Your gaze must continually be directed inward. You must develop physical strength, vitality, immunity, mental calmness and adopt a set of tools that can help you with all this.
This is yoga!
I consider yoga to be a requirement for people on the path of recovery. You must first learn to breathe and move your body. You must sweat and detoxify on a deeper level than you may have imagined. You will need a great teacher to help you connect the dots between your mind, body and spirit. You will need to learn to live by heart instead of from your head. Doing yoga in addition to twelve-step and/or other recovery steps, you will find you have all the bases covered and a path that will take you toward fulfillment and will never leave you without a next step.
You will want to begin with physical yoga, but your physical practice will lead to meditation. This is where the real action takes place. In stillness and quiet you will find what you've always sought. Find a great teacher, start looking online, and getting out to classes in your area. If there are none, try online yoga. There are many subscription options for you and they are inexpensive.
At live classes, you want to enjoy yourself, be challenged in the right ways and in the right amount, and feel that you are being guided by someone who can take you at least to your next -step. If your teacher incorporates pranayama (breath exercises) and meditation into class this is a very good sign.
I love both vinyasa (flow with breath and movement coordinated) and Kundalini Yoga. So, I suggest you try these styles and see what feels right to you. Remember, recovery comes first and yoga can serve your recovery. If you approach from that perspective, only good things are coming on your road to freedom.”