Yoga and Recovery

Thursday, November 16, 2017
By Lea Watkins, North Bay's Yoga Teacher

As far back as I can remember, I have been searching for something, yet never able to identify the source. That is, until I decided to embark on the path of recovery. In my disease, I both dabbled and delved into drugs and alcohol in this unnamed search. There were a few years in which I felt I had found my answer in substances, only to end up disappointed and more broken each time. There have been numerous phases of my addiction, the destruction always the same, and yet, one belief remained the same…I am not enough.

During my addiction, life was a mess. I had the tendency to think negatively, with an inability to take personal responsibility for my actions. As a result, my go-to solution was to change my external circumstances. Eventually, I found an answer to my internal search through the practice of yoga. This practice has been a guiding light in my life for the past 20 years, and one that has had great influence on my recovery. Yoga has taught me the importance of well-being, prayer, meditation, community, and service. Most importantly, through yoga, I have found a sense of belonging and a way to connect to something much greater than myself.

Here are a few thoughts on Yoga’s benefits and its healing modality for recovery:

People often wonder how to make time for a healthy practice in their lives. With yoga and meditation, a little goes a long way. Even 10 minutes of breath oriented movement or sitting a few times a week can have a profound effect on the spirit. I always advise to start out simple and watch how things transpire from there. The opportunity for spiritual growth is endless.

  • Discipline: The path of yoga can be a lifelong commitment. Making wellness a priority by committing to yoga 1-3 days a week, strengthens the confidence in ourselves, and our physical and mental abilities. A yoga practice definitely fits into the "next right thing" category, and is certainly an "esteem-able act". Orienting towards the next right thing may not be our natural way, as it is a practice and one that takes discipline. We strengthen the discipline "muscle" by committing to healthy habits and a regular practice, which ultimately supports emotional growth.
  • Pause: Often a troubling thought or experience can look and feel different after a pause or break in our thinking. Through breath and body connection in the pause we are more likely to deal with stress in healthier ways. Many people report that yoga reduces stress and the stress response.
  • Connection: Yoga helps connect us to something bigger than ourselves. The practice allows for the opportunity to let go of how we think our lives should look, and to embrace a higher power. Ironically, I have found that my life becomes more manageable the less I try to manage it, and yoga helps keep me focused in this area.
  • Presence: For many of us in recovery, we have spent a long time avoiding feelings. In yoga, we learn to tolerate uncomfortable feelings, and instead of using to self-medicate, focusing on breath and meditation to work through challenging beliefs, feelings and sensations has great value on our thoughts and behavior. This teaching is crucial to making progress in recovery, as it shows us the value of processing difficult feelings without the use of drugs and alcohol.
  • Service: The true yogic path is one of service. As we begin to form a healthy and loving relationship with our body, mind and spirit, we build the capacity to reach a hand out to those in need. When I am in service of others, I am much less likely to dwell on the things in life that are not going according to plan. For example, simply taking a call from a person new to recovery helps me remember how grateful I am for the life I have today.

Through the guidance of yoga and recovery, I have faith, and a knowing that I am enough.