Some insights on the relationship between yoga and the recovery process from Buddhist practitioner, Ashtanga yoga instructor, psychotherapist, and life coach Kim Roberts.
Yoga can help those suffering from depression, for example, or those trying to overcome substance addiction by offering a tool to work directly with the here and now. Following breath and movement, the awareness returns to the body and breath—back to the direct experience of the present moment. So the most obvious benefit for addicts, who have spent some time disregarding the signals the body is sending, is that the yoga practice gets you back into the body.
When you’re not in tune with your body’s natural rhythms, it’s really easy to go against nature and do things that are unhealthy or destructive to the system. If you get disconnected from your body, you may ignore the body’s messages, and develop harmful patterns. So when you start to reconnect with the body through yoga, you ignite the healing process.
Once you develop some familiarity with yoga practice, and are able to focus on your mind for a while, then you can start to recognize what your particular patterns are. You can see your particular style of checking out. It may be laziness, anxiety, denial, forgetting the instructions—resistance shows up in a variety of ways, and we each have our own habitual patterns of running away from our present reality when things get too intense. It may be as simple and seemingly benign as making a joke when a situation gets tense. When you are able to see your own habitual patterns, then you can start to ask yourself, do I really want to keep doing this?
We sometimes engage in these negative or destructive patterns because we’re not even aware of what we are doing. We may be in reaction mode. We recognize a feeling we have inside and we don’t like it. We don’t want to feel it, so we rush to find some way to avoid feeling it. This is the basis of all addiction. We’ll do anything, even destroy ourselves, so that we can stop feeling the thing we don’t want to feel. When you slow the whole process down by using these practices, you give yourself a enough of a pause to make a choice about whether or not to continue in the same old way. So the simple practice of getting on a yoga mat each day to move the body in unison with the breath can open a whole new world of possibilities.
Kim Roberts shares more insights on yoga, meditation and working with emotions on her blog, Tools For Revolution.