I hope you are enjoying your practice and your life and the spring!
Over the years a lot of people have come up to me after class and said, “Yoga has saved my life.”
My usual response is, “Mine too.”
I don’t know how sensitive people survive in this culture without it. Unfortunately, survival often morphs into escapism – attempted through insidious addictive behaviors – drugs, alcohol, food, sex, shopping, gambling etc. And while we know how harmful addiction is on one hand, on the other, our culture fosters, condones and promotes these behaviors. Why be uncomfortable for one second when there is a distraction for everything that irritates you? Why feel bad about yourself or your society when there’s a pill to fix that feeling?
Of the millions of people who are entrenched in addictions in the U.S., less than 10 percent get treatment – and that treatment often is ineffective. Addiction rips apart lives, families and communities. It is one of the largest public health crises that we face as a society and at the same time, the fact that our culture is plagued with addiction is not even remotely surprising. We are fighting against ourselves.
While people tell me “Yoga has saved my life” for many reasons – one of the biggest is their recovery typically from a drug, alcohol or food addiction – followed by the reclaiming of their purpose, meaning and joy in living.
Yoga teaches us to tolerate the feelings in our bodies – the good, the bad and the ugly. And to be okay with whatever sensations arise. To be able to tolerate them and remember that everything passes. It also heals – physically, emotionally and spiritually – the devastation that addictive behaviors can wreack.
In a 2009 study on reducing addictions with yoga, the Kissens wrote, “[it] can be argued that the overall yoga experience is antithetical to addictive tendencies and behavior. The ritualistic aspects of yoga are uniquely self-soothing & produce atmosphere of comfort & feelings of being held w/out the self-harming aspects inherent in addictive behavior.”
I’m looking forward to teaching about yoga as an integrative part of substance abuse recovery again at the Mountain Area Health Education Center’s yearly conference – Addiction: Focus on Women. I’m also teaching Yoga for Reducing Depression and Anxiety at Charlotte AHEC tomorrow and later in the summer – another one day course at Northwest AHEC.
Yoga is quickly gaining acceptance as an important component of recovery. It’s not a stretch to say that addiction affects everyone, and yoga can be a powerful part of the healing process for individuals, families, and communities.