Unfortunately I can’t just drag an addict to a yoga class and expect it to “work”
Yoga is a wonderful tool for the people who are interested in getting to know themselves. Oops, they have to be interested. There’s the catch. Yoga is an inside job. Addicts who are sent to yoga classes by well-meaning friends, relatives, or employers will get even less out of the class than a court mandated 12-step group. Being “sent” to anything makes a person (including an addict-person) resentful. No one likes to feel less than. No one enjoys being reminded they are incapable of making good decisions. Effective therapists know that change has to be the addict’s idea. But the rest of us? We sorta wanna tell ’em what to do. I know, yeah? It may be frustrating but everybody’s gotta do her own yoga.
BUT WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE WONDERFUL CLAIMS? I thought yoga increased strength, flexibility, concentration, focus, self-worth, and self acceptance! If I had all that wouldn’t I magically put down the crank? And Yes! Yoga Does increase strength, perseverance, focus, concentration, flexibility, all that and more, for those who want to participate. . . .Ay, that’s the rub, it works if I do it. If I don’t want to do it, it isn’t going to work. I’m certainly NOT going to want to do if everyone is shoving it in my face. That would be true even if the problem was arthritis, or obesity or diabetes, never mind if the problem is my judgement has been impaired from Vicodin use.
When I perform yoga poses and meditation with concentration, my self-awareness grows. Mindfulness means becoming aware of one’s body sensations, emotions and thoughts. Yoga asana is a moving meditation. “Meditation” is a sitting meditation. Introspection is the key to the cure. One must feel to heal. Addiction numbs feelings. That why so many addicts continue to wonder “What’s the problem?” even after losing the tenth job, the fourth marriage, the fifth house etc. By realizing which are the feelings that trigger we can process the feelings instead of spackling right over them. Feel the feelings. Simple as that. But oh, so hard. If people were down with feeling their feelings dysfunction wouldn’t exist.
Yoga beg the questions
Difficult poses can be deconstructed into simpler ones. This is a fine metaphor for life. If I can’t do a head stand my problem might be weak arms, poor alignment, fear – to name a few. If I name the correct problem I can adjust. Adjust so I can do the head stand. It may take practice. It may require prep poses. It may take time. Or I can get angry, drunk, run a red light and total my car. People do, if ya know what I mean. Just sayin’. Addicts hate hate hate to be frustrated more than the average person hates to be frustrated. If addicts can learn to be frustrated in baby steps – they may get inured. That’s the goal. Be less quick to jump off into lalala land and more willing to work things out. More willing to wait a minute. More willing to try. And to try again. More willing to process logically. More willing to think things through. If there’s one common thread to all addictions it’s that addictions represent short-cuts, life hacks. Real life doesn’t do well when hacked.
Addiction is like replacing real life with imaginary life.
Yoga works when the addict is on board with getting better. If they are willing to pursue a full spectrum yoga practice including meditation, diet, and exercise – chances high (no pun intended) that the addict will start feeling stronger, healthier and more in control of her life. People, even addict people, enjoy feeling in control. This is a very positive step toward living a functioning life. Conventional de-addiction therapies tend to focus on isolating the physiological or psychological element that causes the addiction. This often has the unintended result of creating a vacuum in the addict’s life: where drugs/alcohol had once been the center is an enormous hole of unprocessed feelings. Move toward the positive rather than away from the negative.
How Yoga Mindfulness Works
When thoughts and emotions are analyzed, questioned, considered with detachment sans drama, we find that our addictions are often knee-jerk reactions. I eat when I want to avoid feeling sad, frustrated, or lonely. Why? Because eating feels better. In the moment anyway. As the pounds pour on I’m sorry, but in the fresh now I may not like feeling uncomfortable. Addictive behaviors by-pass uncomfortable feelings. Addictions equal checking out. Truth is, I’m going to feel sad sooner or later anyway. Feelings return until fully processed. Obesity (or any addiction) creates more drama later, and some addicts are gluttons for drama. An addict seeking sobriety, however, is an addict seeking to tone down the drama. These sobriety seeking types yearn for choices which are life-affirming.
You can see why so many of ’em chose church. Religion and spirituality are supposed to be life affirming. Sometimes they are. . . except when they’re not. Yoga, dance, music and sports all run the same risk. An activity is only as good as the infrastructure, as the people in involved. One perk to yoga is the ability to do it alone. This only works, however, as a plus, if the addict is very self-motivated. Many freshly sober addicts yearn for direction. Over zealous leaders many not mean to be unkind but too much controlling is a bad, bad thing. The addict doesn’t need to trade one controller for another. The addict needs to find Her Own Way. His own mind. Their own choices. Right?
Yoga for Addiction Fortifies the Mind
Regular yoga practice requires determination and consistency. Classes are not always available nearby or at convenient times. The cost can be daunting. However, lasting authentic self-esteem, the kind that will combat addiction long-term, stems from self achievement, most especially achievements the self views as difficult. Therefore, overcoming obstacles, keeping the personal commitment, and paying the going rate for yoga classes are all healthy components to building an addiction free life.
An addict who seriously wants to get sober will find Yoga mindfulness slows down the mind and helps overcome the restlessness which occludes judgement. When we view our passing thoughts and emotions without attachment, we can overcome our guilt feelings about our addiction. Yoga philosophy also teaches us the benefits of moderation. This can help us beat compulsive consumption behaviors. We become more aware of our harmful cravings and overcome them with equanimity.
Addictions are Substitutes
Yoga for addiction will help us realize that most of our addictions are substitutes for what is lacking in our life. Perhaps what we need most are stable families, generous loved ones, and true friends. How is yoga going to create that? In a two-step process. Don’t expect to make friends at a yoga class. Just go. Just go and get strong. Just go and do your best. Just go and learn. Just go and get interested, fascinated, hooked. A funny things happens along the way. Relationships are healthier, stronger and better when two healthy people are involved.
Now y’all play nice!
Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose.
– Wilma Rudolph