What an unexpected gift the yoga of recovery has been. Almost 2 years ago, I attended a weekend intensive out of curiosity and had no idea how this would bring such a profound healing into my life. At the time, I had 13 years of recovery under my belt and had been doing yoga off and on again for a few years. I was content in my life but thankfully, I was not complacent. Showing up for this weekend opened me up to places within me that I didn’t even know existed. Some were painful, ugly and scary and some were grace-filled, magnificent and nourishing. All of these wondrous experiences have served me well and I have kept showing up, trusting that shifts would occur, more would be revealed, and barriers that I am not even conscious of will dissolve.
I can remember when Nikki led us in a partnering practice where she had us stand as we would normally stand. We picked up our partners and our partners picked us up. Standing as we would normally stand, it was easy to pick each other up. Then, she led us through rooting into Mountain Pose, inviting us to draw from the energy of Gaia, to plug into the earth, to grow roots that extended throughout the earth. Then, we tried to pick up our partners and our partners tried to pick us up but this wasn’t possible. All of us were astonished – truly in disbelief at the miracle that happened when we physically tapped into a power greater than ourselves. I wept because I fully understood with every fiber of my being what embodiment is and the difference between intellectually knowing the concept “we root to rise” and embodying this truth. I along with many in our group have shared time and again how we remember to come back to this space and hold our center in the midst of life’s chaos, understanding that alone in our limitations, we will easily be knocked over and overwhelmed but tapping into this limitless power, we are held in a strength greater than the mind can fathom.
I have witnessed miracle after miracle every week! I have seen people with various addictions come for the first time – most have never been on the mat and most have never checked in to see how they are feeling in their bodies. Many enter closed off out of nervousness and vulnerability, skeptical of this hokey thing called yoga, yet they show up. Something brings them to the yoga of recovery and it is a privilege to watch them experience healing that they cannot express in language. They are moved to tears from places unknown and they hug Nikki in gratitude for this healing. Nikki takes no credit, she simply reminds them that they did the work and to keep showing up. They leave the studio more alive in their bodies with new energy that cleanses and restores them.
We don’t have to study yoga or fully understand the yoga principles to benefit. All we must do is show up on the mat, where we are in that moment – cynical, hopeful, defeated, pissed off, tired, content – and begin to breathe and move. The weekly gatherings that I now attend are truly sacred time in a sacred space, and even when I am traveling, I consciously connect with this beloved community.
This is an essay written by a participant of the Y12SR program by CITYOGA, the yoga program of a 12 step recovery, offered to those recovering from substance abuse. The name of the participant has been kept anonymous.