Recovery for many can involve an increase in exercise, meditation, and prayer. Yoga fits nicely with these themes for some. I have found mantra—which is the repetition of sacred sounds—helps calm and focus my mind. It gives my mind something wholesome to occupy itself with, and slowly heals my body and overall energy if I do it with concentration.
The following is a nice simple example of mantra:
For those interested in taking a yoga class with a 12 Step theme, there are more and more options popping up! A program called 11th Step Yoga in Los Angeles was developed by Abbie Britton in 2006. No yoga experience is necessary to join the group, and a session is comprised of 60 minutes of meditation and yoga postures with a 12 Step theme, followed by a 30 minute group share on the topic practiced. Classes are by donation to cover cost of studio rental, and instructors volunteer their time.
There are currently seven meeting sessions in studios around Los Angeles with about 200 members. A handbook is used to aid instructors interested in starting meetings, and there are regular teacher trainings. Yoga can help strengthen the nervous system, improve alignment and flexibility, and aid detoxification. The book “11th Step Yoga Daily Postures” will be published in 2013.
11th Step Yoga fundamentally goes beyond meetings by treating the biochemical and physiological aspects of the mental illness of addiction. Yoga, meditation, pranayama, positive group action, and words/ideas as medicine have proven to aid in the production of calming brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine and tryptophan, creating a sense of centered contentment,” states Abbie.
Nikki Myers began Y12SR (Yoga 12 Step Recovery) in 2004. ”The 12-step program and Yoga saved my life – one is my lifeboat, the other my launching pad,” she says. “Addictive behaviors separate and disconnect us from ourselves, our loved ones, our environment, and so much more. Conversely, yoga itself means ‘union.’” The “issues live in our tissues” and yoga addresses this. As a somatic experiencing practitioner and yoga therapist, Nikki heads up the CITYOGA School of Yoga and Health in Indianapolis, IN.
For a good film on people in recovery who have found strength and healing in yoga, please see: http://www.adyo.org/home.html
This website offers support for 12 Step meditators:
http://yogaofrecovery.com/ holds sober yoga retreats.
Robert Downey Jr., someone who has struggled publicly with addiction for many years, is including yoga in his sober program along with massage therapy, martial arts, and “people who know about herbs,” according to an article this year in Men’s Fitness magazine.
Yoga involves self discovery and integrates the body and mind, to balance emotion, action, and intelligence. There are a number of different kinds of yoga- not just the stretching into pretzel shapes that people usually think of. There is karma yoga which is about selfless service just like aspects of the 12 Step program. In the West many have come to see yoga as impossibly limber people showing off their bodies in skimpy outfits. That is not really the heart of yoga- it is more about the truth of the human soul.