Yoga and the 12 Steps

I don’t fit in with the yoga scene. I mean, I appreciate health and homegrown, organic things. But I’m not much for silence. Being still and quiet can be tough…And then there is the stretching. I was always the athlete that got yelled at for getting injuries that stemmed from not stretching enough.

However, when I stumbled into a prenatal yoga class after being basically peer-pressured by my doctor, I found out that yoga isn’t just for yogis. And now, long after my wise MD all but shoved me down this path, I’ve realized that it’s also not just a form of exercise for pregnant women.

In fact, as I’ve allowed myself to explore this type of exercise, I’ve come to realize that yoga for me has been the missing piece. It’s always been immensely important for me to work towards living a free and abundant life. I have also chased after a theme of recovery in all areas of my existence through mind, body, and spirit; not wanting to ignore any of the three, thus becoming unbalanced.  I have sought out exercise, healthy [& delicious] eating, counseling, education, church, community, good sleep hygiene, etc… But it was yoga that finally brought the mind, body, and spirit together.

Leading a full and busy life – a new mother, a wife to an amazing man, a counselor and client advocate at Innovation360, a member of a home group at my church – I’m all about efficiency. Yoga is perfect. In one yoga class, I can focus on all three areas of mind-body-spirit. And it just may be the missing piece for your journey as well, whether you struggle with addiction, difficult relationships, depression, an eating disorder, or if you are on a spiritual journey of your own, or are purely pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

To speak specifically to one population, those walking through an addiction and/or striving towards a full life of recovery, I am grateful for yoga’s ability to address the biology, psychology, and spirituality relating to an addict. Not only does yoga provide this population with a physically healthy activity offering both flexibility and strength, but it also floods its pupils with opportunities to directly impact the struggles of an addict.

For starters, addicts often define themselves by their profound sense of being internally out of control. In my experience, yoga very directly addresses this, requiring you to become mindful, focused, centered, and internally quiet and controlled from the moment you slip off your shoes and step on your mat.

I’m also drawn to yoga’s application to the ol’ “first thought wrong” understanding of addicts – the knee-jerk, guttural, impulsive, and instinctive reaction of addicts – as it quiets the mind and teaches you to breathe through your experience. Whether that experience is a pose, the birth of a child, undesirable instruction, an uncomfortable emotion, a tough conversation, or a trigger/craving….yoga allows its students the opportunity to learn how to stay present and balanced, and also how to work through the up and downs of a given situation.

And in a manner that few other recovery approaches can offer, yoga teaches its students how to turn their focus inward to feel physical sensations otherwise unnoticed or previously ignored – to honor and recognize your body. How tattered, beaten, and ignored the body of an addict (every variety of addict – food, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, risk…) can be!! Engaging in self-awareness and returning your thoughts to that of honor and respect and awareness of your physical self –what a gift!

As such, yoga provides a very profound detoxification. A detox of mind, body, and spirit; offering time to meditate, center, pray, and heal. This daily (or even weekly or monthly) practice for release and healing is so necessary to continue growing and moving forward in your recovery.

And last, but possibly most importantly, addiction can easily be seen as the ultimate “leaving the moment” – checking out. Yoga at its core is checking in. Checking in with the reality of your spirituality, your physical body, your breathing, your thoughts, your emotions, and your present self.

At Innovation360, we encourage our clients to add this incredibly efficient tool into their pursuit of recovery. As we work towards cultivating spiritual and physical wellness, our therapists incorporate yoga into our Intensive Outpatient Program, an 8-week program for those struggling with addiction or mental health issues.  Even while working with clients through our individualized life development, our team can help clients plug into a yoga practice, and we can practice right alongside them! No need to be nervous if it’s your first time, we will try to touch our toes with you too!

Blog written by Nicki Cochran, LPC.