Freedom from Addiction
That's one reason Stein has a bias toward yoga. When he teaches the yoga classes at North Charles, he directs his patients to turn their focus inward, to feel their physical sensations and become aware of their breath. This has a calming effect because each sensation or breath is simply an experience of the moment, acknowledged without judgment. Thus, habitual responses and defenses, which patients have established in years of drug use, attempted detoxes, and relapse, are bypassed. The postures provide access to the experience of a neglected, healthier side. Patients who participate in yoga regularly state that they feel more fully acknowledged in this form of treatment. "In Warrior Pose, set reactions and usual arguments are pretty irrelevant," Stein notes. "Instead, patients are encouraged to be in the moment and feel something outside their usual experience."
Where yoga has been integrated into addiction recovery, it tends to mirror the larger trend of treating disease holistically. For example, at Sierra Tucson Psychiatric Hospital in Arizona, yoga is one of several complementary therapies including acupuncture, equine-assisted psychotherapy (using horses to mirror emotional response), Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (using auditory and visual stimulation to deal with traumatic memory), and dance/movement. All of these options offer patients the opportunity to create customized programs and explore the notion that bodies, like minds, also hold and manifest emotional trauma. "Our approach is to find different ways of unlocking what's going on inside," explains Sierra Tucson spokesman Keith Arnold. "Yoga is one way to help repair from the inside out."
Turning It Over
Futuronsky speaks with firsthand knowledge. Fifteen years ago she was working in Newark, New Jersey, as a teacher. By all appearances, she seemed just fine. But under the surface, she was in an unhealthy relationship and she used food, drugs, and alcohol to run away from her feelings. "I had no internal world, no connection. I was a big victim who didn't take responsibility for myself or my actions," she recalls. One night after she passed out, she regained consciousness only to discover she was knocking her head on the floor. "I wondered how long I had been doing this. At that moment, I realized I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I dialed an AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] hotline and found out there was a meeting two blocks away starting in seven minutes."