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Freedom from Addiction

Addiction can harm our physical and spiritual health and deeply affect those who love us. But people who struggle with dependencies are finding new hope through the calming and centering effects of yoga.

By Stacie Stukin

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
Of course, the 12-step model is the core of most addiction treatment. Aruni Nan Futuronsky, the director of retreat and renewal at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, teaches a program called "Yoga of Recovery‹12-Step Spirituality" because she believes yoga and the 12 steps complement each other. She points out that the second step acknowledges a power greater than ourselves and the 11th step dictates meditation and prayer: "I see addiction as the ultimate disconnection from the body. Yoga philosophy teaches us about addiction when it teaches us about running from sensations in the body."

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."

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Reader Comments


Beautifully written. Exactly what I was looking for for advice and some idea of what to do.

Hannah Kathyrn

I was addicted to heroin for well over three years... I decided one day that I couldn't do it anymore, and so I went to a doctor to help me detox. After detoxing from all drugs and clearing my body of the toxins, I decided to take a yoga class at my gym. I go every day at 10:30am. When I wake up, I meditate, and practice breathing techniques for thirty minutes. If I miss a day of practicing yoga, I don't feel good about myself at all. It keeps me sane, and has helped me recover from my scary thoughts and life threatening addiction.


a usefull article

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