The Recovery Connection: Yoga, Ayurveda and the 12 Steps
Yoga is an ancient healing practice that has gained popularity in the west over the last few decades. People are drawn to yoga for many reasons. As a yoga teacher and therapist, I have worked with people who decide to practice yoga to increase flexibility or strength, to work on breathing or relaxation, or to increase energy and vitality. All who come to yoga seem to share one thing: the desire to end their suffering.
Physical pain and emotional turmoil cause suffering in our lives, and people find relief through practicing yoga. However, suffering the pain of addiction is a taboo topic in society, leaving people with few resources to bring healing into their lives. Utilizing yoga to support those with addictions has proven to be quite successful. Yoga of Recovery is a program designed specifically to provide practical tools to relieve the suffering we all experience from our addictive tendencies, thoughts, and behaviors.
From alcohol to caffeine and compulsive exercise to self-destructive depressive behaviors, everyone suffers from addiction. Eating, shopping, perfectionism, using technology, and risk-taking are all addictive behaviors that cause suffering. Our often hectic and stressful lifestyles can leave us feeling disconnected from everything and everyone around us, and we look for distractions from these feelings of emptiness and separation. We have a hunger and thirst for true fulfillment, but it cannot be filled from the outside.
Combining the wisdom and tools found in Yoga (the science of the mind) and Ayurveda (the science of life and balance) with the simple wisdom of traditional 12-step programs, Yoga of Recovery provides a comprehensive system to relieve suffering caused by addiction. It is a method for treating addiction on a spiritual basis. When we look outside ourselves to find happiness and fulfillment, we are forgetting that our true nature is Divine. We are already whole; we don’t need anything to complete us. Yoga of Recovery teaches that the real dis-ease of addiction is due to the separation from our Spirit or Higher Power. This happens when we over-identify with our minds and bodies. We crave sensory pleasures and overindulge to satisfy the desires of the physical being.
Traditional 12-step programs suggest that addiction is a spiritual malady but give little advice on how to heal on a physical level. Incorporating the various types of yoga, such as Karma, Bhakti, Jnana and Raja Yoga with the physical postures (asana) and breathing (pranayama), we can begin to experience a sense of wholeness and connection to our Higher Power. Adding in Ayurvedic techniques such as aromatherapy, color and sound therapy, body treatments and herbal remedies, we can bring balance to enhance our recovery and healing.
Yoga of Recovery instructs us how to heal and purify the body and mind. It gives practical advice on diet and lifestyle adjustments to work toward a harmonious life. We practice exercise, breathing, relaxation, diet, positive thinking, and meditation techniques. We discover our body’s constitution (or dosha) which determines our first reaction to stress, and we learn daily and seasonal routines to bring balance to the mind and body based on our specific tendencies and vulnerabilities. Revitalizing the body’s systems through these methods provides a strong foundation to face challenges and stresses occurring in daily life while preventing participation in old, addictive behaviors.
Sobriety is described as a “daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition” in recovery programs. When we weave together the ancient wisdom of Yoga and Ayurveda with the practical tools of the 12-steps, we can begin to end our suffering and find the path from self-destruction to self-realization: living happy, joyous and free-- one day at a time!
Stacy Lynn is a holistic wellness and fitness specialist who uses Yoga of Recovery counseling with her clients. She is the owner of Enlightened Fitness, LLC, and develops highly specialized, personalized programs and wellness education for all activity and interest levels. Nurturing the body, mind and spirit of each individual on their journey to wholeness is a priority. For more information visit: www.yogaofrecovery.com