My Journey into Yoga for Addiction Recovery
I guess we may ask the question, how can a bunch of poses on a mat help us to overcome addiction?
I deliver yoga, mindfulness and meditation in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre and if the service users are new to Yoga, the first thing they may say is, I’m not very flexible or I have a bad back or I'm not feeling up to it and had a rough morning. I try to gently encourage them to take part anyway and anything they can’t do, then to sit out of, I can pretty much guarantee that by the end of the class their perception on Yoga and how it can help them with their recovery dramatically changes.
"Their perception on Yoga and how it can help them with their recovery dramatically changes"
I have now taught 100s of people who come in and out of them rehab doors. My experience with drug and alcohol addiction doesn’t end or even start there. I also come from an addict family and hit my own rock bottom which led me to believe something outside of myself can make things better.
My journey with yoga started 9 years ago. Like many others I knew it helped me physically and I always felt relaxed after a class but that feeling never lasted and it wasn’t long before I was feeling restless again. So how did I learn to find inner peace? How did I learn the road to recovery through the practice of Yoga and meditation? Was it a quick fix like I had been used to?
Let me see if I can answer those questions. Whether you can relate or know someone who will; this may be able to help. I hope I can bring some light to this subject.
"I always felt relaxed after a class but that feeling never lasted"
I started to discover through the practice of Yoga all the bits I hated... the inner competition, the inability to sit still for long periods of time without being in extreme pain in my body, the frustration, the lack of concentration. This was the first step into understanding me. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide and if I wanted to get to the good bit at the end then I needed to endure the bits I hated too.
Acceptance was a big key into my evolving. Breathing helped a lot! The simplicity of breathing invited in a sense of calmness. I was able to make this connection to my body, my lungs, my mind; all the areas abused through lack of connection and self-hate. Yoga helped me to start caring again, something lost, which caused addiction in the first place. We all have our own story to tell, the heart closes and we may lose faith, a lack of trust into ourselves and the road in front of us.
How did I find peace?
The answer to that was not overnight and through no quick fix. I took a deeper understanding into the science of Yoga for Addiction and how addiction works in the brain and nervous system so got myself qualified in Yoga and Mindfulness for Addiction 3 years after I got my Yoga teaching qualification. This is when I started to understand how these practices were working through me and changing the neuron patterns to my brain which had been wired in a particular way for years, often governed by fear stored and firmly locked in my body.
The deeper I took my practice, the more I could see it working in my life. My return to partying, relationship fixing, food, shopping, over working, obsessive social media scrolling, people pleasing, self loathing, self gratification, the more I realised how disconnected these things made me feel, the practice itself took me into a place I hadn’t even realised as physiologically it was working.
"changing the neuron patterns to my brain which had been wired in a particular way for years"
The Yoga practice deepened…
What I realised with yoga, as yoga is a practice of self realisation, is that I could also explore yoga on a deeper level. I suppose in hindsight I taught myself patience, or I learned patience, whatever way you want to look at it. The unfolding of this journey has been mind-blowing, through understanding the psychology of the Chakra system, the energy line that runs through me, I was able to tap into my emotions and any blocks that were preventing me feeling them. Now I ride the rollercoaster of emotional waves and accept them all without feeling I need to change them.
I have learnt a deep presence and through this, I work through source to help transmit that to others on their journey. This is the beauty of coming from suffering to non suffering and removing the blocks that stand in our way through Mantras*, Chanting*, Asana* and the philosophy. What all of this has taught me and if you like, has taken a 360 degree on, is that its brought me back to the person I always was. So in the short of it, my experience and, I realise, many others yoga experience, is it’s a road that can take you on many paths but it will always take you back home to you.
"coming from suffering to non suffering and removing the blocks that stand in our way"
It’s been a total pleasure to ride this path in life, something I now see as a gift that was given to me, not forced upon me.
I have taught many retreats worldwide, however I have a special retreat coming up in the foothills of the Himalayas 20 minutes from Rishikesh in North India (the birth place of yoga). I will incorporate all these teachings in depth in the incredible energy that will surround us. Please check out The Awakening Your Truth retreat page for full details.
To learn more about me and my journey you can read here.
The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Yoga
Yoga has huge benefits but with so many styles out there it can get a little confusing. I cannot recommend this article enough on
I would like to credit the people who have played a part in my recovery and Yoga journey.
Deborah Berryman – Owner of Whitespace Studio (where my Yoga teacher training took place).
Shaura Hall – Founder of The Yogologist (where I qualified in Yoga and Mindfulness for Addiction and Reiki).
Kenneth Ryan – Founder of Yoga beyond Yoga (the guru who guided me into the understanding of Yoga and one of my biggest inspirations).
Brigitte Riley –Founder of Brigitte Yoga (Yoga teacher, mentor, friend, soul sister and work collaborator).
Tommy Rosen – Founder of Recovery 2.0 Move Beyond your Addiction and Upgrade your Life (The inspiration which took me beyond the comfort of westernised Yoga).
Mantra* - (Sanskrit: मन्त्र, translit. mantra, is a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes, or group of words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual power, meditation which helps to induce an altered state of consciousness.
Chanting* - It unites sound, body, and mind in a deeply philosophical experience.” Reciting a mantra before or after you step on the mat can enhance your practice, you don't have to be in yoga mode to chant. Mantras are a yoga tool you can use to calm your mind anywhere, anytime.
Asana* - In yoga, an asana is a body posture, originally sitting for meditation, but more generally for hatha yoga. Includes postures that are reclining, standing, inverted, twisting, or balancing as well as seated.