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Addiction, Recovery and Teaching Yoga

Updated: May 20


Addicts

Yoga has been my sanctuary from my addictions. There is a science behind poses that changes the chemistry deep inside of our bodies, mind and soul…..there is something to this practice and i only know this because of my own experience! My addiction was alcohol. I drank when i was stressed, i drank when……well, the reasons to drink when you are on the hamster wheel is limitless.

A Word to Yoga Teachers working the the Realms of Recovery

One of the first classes that i taught in yoga directly out of my 200 level training was with a recovery center class. Even thinking of this group of recovery addicts still moves my heart and gives me a smile. there was a couple that came in for the class. the clinic ordered that the newly recovering people go to group or they had the option to do yoga, so i had a lot of brand new people in who were sometimes coming straight in from the streets. I knew that I must move them very slowly and mindfully at first. I also wanted to incorporate some yoga Nidra with them , deep guided meditations and practices based in stillness. Teaching them how to work into discomforts so that they would be more aware of the situations and mind noise that distracted them into relapse. The couple that came in directly from the street one morning came in and they looked quite disheveled and in a great amount of tension and irritability. I knew that this was going to be a new experience for me. I would say that this population should be taught by a yogi that wants to devote their path wholeheartedly to healing. I found that as much as i loved teaching this population, after a couple of years, i began to give my classes to new yogis that were out of my teacher training program and move away from it. I felt that i had enough addiction in my life that It took so much out of me on an emotional level. I still teach this population from time to time, but if I'm going to work in healing addiction id rather work on on one with massage and reiki, nutrition, and so on with clients who are devoted and ready to be clean and that want to make that commitment. The couple that came in this morning had come in smelling of the streets, it was apparent that they had not bathed in a few days and probably had used within the last 24 hours. My heart went out to them. I understand how difficult the newness of sobriety is. I have a lot of compassion for this population and if you do not have that compassion and love for the addicts, if your mind is judging them this is not a population to work with. The boyfriend was on the mat lying down and his girlfriend right beside him sitting up when i walked into the space to teach. There were about six to eight recovering addicts in the room and i told the two new ones that had just come off of the street that they could take their shoes off and get comfortable for our practice and the girlfriend’s face changed to horror and she said,”oh NO, you don’t want him to take his shoes off!!!” The entire room exploded in laughter and it certainly relieved the tension for a moment. Five years later and i still remember this moment. I have worked in three recovery centers and a Prison Justice Center that was behavior modification centered and I have learned so much about addicts. Their personalities. Their stories. Every single addicts has an enormous amount of trauma in their lives! ALL of them have been neglected, sexually and/or emotionally abused. There has been little or no stability in their lives. So much dysfunction. It’s a very challenging population unless you are working with a group that has chosen to be there and is not court appointed. I find Yoga Nidra very important with these populations. Nidra empowers people in recovery to learn the reason behind the action of relapse. It actually shows them what is triggering them. I find that meditation and nidra are the two best styles of yoga for people in recovery. I also find it very important to give meditations based on instilling in them how beautiful and powerful they are. Eighty percent of what I do in prison systems is Nidra and meditations. Anything that empowers them. I bought some inspiration cards years ago and I used them often with this population. G them an inspirational word to devote their meditation on which allows them to come into a positive energy of thought. Remember this. When working with addicts, that are new to recovery. They have been to places you can not imagine. Above all else, KINDNESS. I think so highly of Yoga Teachers that take this population on, because it is a true human purpose that is so needed in our times. I encourage all of my students who later become teaches to please give a little of their time and energy to this population. If we do not give to the poor, the truly poor. If we do not give to those who suffer. Are we truly working in the spirit of Yoga. It is soooo important to give to charitable causes in your dharmic path.


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