1. a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength;
2. the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.
When we begin the process of recovery from various addictions, some may be surprised to find there are a number of approaches to recovery. This is promising. It means recovery isn’t one-size-fits-all, and it means there is hope for those who may be having some difficulties finding their way. While some of us may solely lean on the 12 steps to create a foundation in recovery, others find they can also lean on the Eastern practices of yoga and meditation. The latter two provide a unique path for practitioners to compassionately look at themselves and develop the means to create a healing “space” within the mind and body. In this way, yoga and meditation encourage an internal healing, and ultimately nurture our minds and bodies toward a spiritual and physical recovery. These modalities cultivate recovery by using a most practical tool: the breath. “Our breath is portable,” says Sharon Salzberg, a renowned meditation teacher. No one can see it, touch it, or take it away from you. It is simple, yet powerful in its silence.
When we engage in our addictive behaviors, we disconnect from ourselves and from our bodies: I remember distinctly using so I didn’t have to feel. I sought to desensitize my mind, body and soul by means of drugs, alcohol, starvation and self-harming. In sobriety, this behavior often continued with the transference of addictive behaviors, proving that the desire to nullify emotions or sensations is sometimes stronger than the desire to face them. Here’s where things like yoga and meditation are remarkable. They gently encourage you to come back to the present; to face the shadows; to embrace the often difficult process of recovery. This doesn’t mean you can or should ignore the 12 steps. Rather, yoga and meditation are what allow you to take the foundation you create with the steps to a deeper place. In this way, yoga and meditation facilitate our innate ability to undo the physical erosion created by our addictions.
I recently took a class with Seane Corn called “Yoga for a Broken Heart.” For an hour and a half, she addressed the physical manifestations of grief, compassionately leading us through the process of creating a healing space within our bodies with movement and breath. At one point, she said, “You can’t have light without the shadows.” How apropos for the recovering mind! It reminded me that none of us come into recovery without demons or shadows. We all have them, and we probably had them while we were using. In fact, how many of us used because of them? I know I did. Frankly, the sheer thought of turning to face them was abhorrent to me, and in the beginning, I did it with so much resistance, the shadows sometimes won. Truth be told, we come into recovery with an unspoken need to grieve. Modalities like yoga and meditation show us a way to create the space in our bodies to face that grief with compassion instead of anger and fear. Think of it this way: when we use, we disallow the grieving process by blocking it with “stuff.” Imagine what would happen if we gently removed that extraneous stuff and began to let it go. We can do that with these practices. We can allow what is to just be and we can let go of the things that are holding us back.
With yoga, we are graced with a set period of time where our breath takes precedence. We are afforded the opportunity to let go of the competitive mind and face the very thing we’ve been avoiding: ourselves. As we cultivate this space, we learn to give ourselves the love and attention we sought with our addictive behaviors. We begin to practice the art of forgiveness and become compassionate toward ourselves. We ultimately learn to find comfort in our skin, in our bodies, and in our minds. Through this process, we can and will find light in the shadows.
For more information, check out:
Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention
Mindfulness and Meditation (weekly meetings)