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Q:  I am in recovery and have only begun Yoga, I am very much a beginner.  I have found the yoga practice to be an exceptional way for me stay centered and present- and feel that it has been a wonderful addition to my recovery. With that being said I am curious if I will find benefit if I am only a beginner?

recovery yoga for beginners

A:  You do not need to be a yoga practitioner to come on the retreat, however you may leave with the ability to do the headstand, giving you a whole new view of life!  The physical dimension of healing from addiction is often neglected.  One very important aspect of this is Hatha yoga – the asanas and breathing exercises.  This retreat deepens that still further with Ayurveda, the medical/holistic healing, sister science of yoga.  Ayurveda works at healing and purifying the body and mind giving practical advice on diet and lifestyle adjustments needed to live in harmony with your environment (both internal and external).

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Q:  Is Yoga of Recovery AA/12-Step affiliated? 

A:  Yoga of Recovery is an independent retreat for people in recovery; it is not affiliated with AA in observance with its much respected traditions.  Our retreats sometimes follows official 12-Step Conventions.  When this is the case our website and newsletter may link to the site of the Convention so you can get their information.  People in 12-Step fellowships travel to attend these Conventions and many are interested in taking a private retreat with workshops tailored specifically for people in recovery while they are away in a beautiful places.

We have no desire to claim any affiliation, just to reach the people who would benefit from our work. 12-Step Programs recommend an “occasional retreat from the outside world where we can quiet down for an undisturbed day or so of self-overhaul and meditation”. Yoga of Recovery offers such retreats in beautiful, peaceful locations where you can relax, recover, and rejuvenate. I am a grateful member of the 12 step fellowship – my service work with them is quite separate from this work.

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Q:  Must I be a member of a 12 step program to attend this retreat?

A:  This is not a requirement although we do require that our alcohol and chemically-dependent guests have at least 3 months of continuous sobriety.  The 12-Step programs say addictions are a spiritual malady needing a spiritual remedy  – upon working the steps one will have a spiritual awakening.  Bringing Yoga and Ayurveda to your recovery ensures a strong, balanced physical system to pursue the ultimate goal of yoga/life in recovery – Self-realization.

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Q:  I have had an eating disorder for 8 years now, and started to fight back 2 years ago. I have used the gift of yoga as my weapon against this devil that took control over my mind.   I did a yoga teacher training and now teach regular yoga classes.  I feel about 85% recovered, the devil comes back every once in a while; a lot lately.   I need help!!  I thought I could fight the battle on my own but I can’t.  Can Yoga of Recovery be the winning key to my battle?  Would this retreat be right for me and allow me to deepen my practice?  I need something to help me shake this thing.  I have realized that I can’t be the teacher I want to be with this in my life, but I also realize that I need some outside resources.   Can you help????

A:  I can definitely say YES this program will help, it will be a continuation of the healing you have already found from yoga – add to that Ayurveda and the 12 Steps – Allies in Healing.  People with eating disorders find this combination very helpful.  Until we meet, take it one day at a time, breathe and relax!

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Q: How is Yoga for Recovery specially sensitized for helping persons recovering from addiction?

Yoga of Recovery is based on the practices of classical yoga, which includes the Four Paths of Yoga – Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga.
The Yoga of Recovery course for counselors is not exclusively a hatha yoga training course. We have yoga teachers and non-yoga teachers (social workers, youth leaders, therapists etc.) on the courses. We honor the training the yoga teachers come in with and develop their ability to teach to the varied audiences of people in recovery by bringing the wisdom of the 4 paths of yoga to the physical practice of yoga. Yoga teachers learn how to augment and be sensitive to the needs and vulnerabilities of persons recovering from addiction. The physical practice encompasses spiritual, emotional, and pranic aspects of healing.

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Q: Yoga of Recovery is appropriate for persons with eating disorders? Have you considered cultivating a program model specific to eating disorders?

When I first began the retreat I assumed the guests would be people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. What I found was that many of them had maintained sobriety for considerable lengths of time from their initial drug of choice but had shifted into dependence on some other substance or behavior in recovery (cross-addiction). I had witnessed both in myself and what seemed like a majority of 12 step members this switch of addictions – the main culprits being sugar addiction and codependency in relationships. Several ‘food addicts’ came to the retreat and I wondered if the work presented would feel totally relevant to them. I was concerned that I did not fully understand that condition and that I needed to understand more about it from the Ayurvedic perspective. Also, if the 12 Step solution was spiritual, allowing us to recover from a “seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body” then why did the addiction simply shift into another area, even for those who genuinely ‘worked the program’? How spiritual did we need to be in our daily lives to fully recover from all dependencies and addictions?

The modern addiction problem shows us how people can become addicted to anything: alcohol, drugs, relationships, work, Internet, cell phones etc. This provides a clue to the universal root of all addictions – the fact that we have externalized an inner spiritual need; an easy path to take in our society of over-consumption and hyper-sensory stimulation. In this 21st Century we can consider the view of the addict as a seeker, someone who is inherently trying to transcend the mundane. In “Overcoming Addictions”, Dr Deepak Chopra describes the problem as “self-destructive outlets for an unrecognized spiritual craving”.

reovery options for people with eating disordersYoga of Recovery is for people who are looking to overcome any of their own addictive or self-destructive behaviors and also for people histories of addiction in themselves or within their family. Guests range in age from 16 to 84 years old and experience every type of addiction – this means both the ‘primary’ addiction and all the cross-addictions that have come up since abstaining from the ‘substance/behavior of choice’. We investigate the root causes and reasons for our compulsions, attachments and addictive imbalances. What in our nature compels us to this continual external seeking? We look at the stress response of the different doshic types, unmanaged emotions, how the mind works by repetition, creating deep grooves of self-destructive habits.

The approach is from the point of view of Sattva, unity (Vedanta) and not from separation, the ‘them and us’ mentality that stems from egoism, Rajas (turbulence) and Tamas (dullness). This is important since in the media portrayal of the problem of addiction, both historically and currently, it is presented as a case of ‘them and us’, but in truth we are all addicted to some degree.

The more subtle and ubiquitous ‘attachments’ that we all suffer from and that no one can avoid entirely are our attachments to food and people. These are the first and last ties to our embodied existence in our human condition. The founder of AA, Bill Wilson, speaks of these same concepts when he discusses our “instincts run wild” which involve our “legitimate, natural desires to eat, to reproduce, for society, security and companionship”. (Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous) It is also interesting that the AlAnon program (the ‘people’ addiction, co-addicts) was the second 12 step program formed and perhaps a little-known fact that Bill Wilson’s ‘sponsor’ was a man with an eating disorder, not alcoholism.

During our retreats and courses we talk about our experience with any addictive habits that we are recovering from. This helps us develop more openness and compassion around both our own lingering compulsions and the struggle of different ‘drug of choice’ than ours.

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Q: Do you believe we all, as humans, have addictive natures in some respect? Do you believe anyone (not just someone in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction) could benefit from your program?

Yes, see answer above. Ayurveda is the science of life so we can all benefit from its lifestyle recommendations. Ultimately, the purpose of life is Self-realization, so everyone who is drawn to the philosophy, psychology and physical practice of yoga would enjoy this retreat. It is like yoga applied to our daily life.

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Q:  I am a yoga teacher trying to decide which of your courses to take Yoga of Recovery or Ayurveda and Yoga Wellness Course.  Which program would be best to attend?  I teach trauma based yoga to women in recovery and have a strong interest in teaching Ayurveda and introducing more individually structured classes.  Could you help me to decide on which would be most suitable for me.  I am curious about how much Ayurvedic trainiing is involved in the Yoga of Recovery training as many of my classes are held in transition centers and these clients may not be too interested in the fine details as to what their doshas are and the seasonal effects.  Could you please advise.

Yoga of Recovery gives Ayurveda ‘applied’ –  telling a story, describing us ‘acting out’ and this eventually brings us down –  the energetics of addiction – down and out!  Also we talk about the addictive tendencies of the doshas, the type of damage done and simple repair – for instance a class called “One Day at a Time” – how to live WELL through 24 hours.  It is based on what is written on chips from 12 step programs – “To thine own self be true”, this is the  definition of health in Ayurveda,  Svastha = established in the self.  YoR course also clearly describes the effects on the mind – reactions and resistance as we progress further into self destructive behavior, driven by the ego and senses.  However, it also describes the potential of that same mind to creativity, leadership and unconditional love.  I like to think we give addicts a self description that is not entirely pathology!  We teach how to sweeten our life through all 5 senses so we feel nourished and at ease in a tough world – self care both physically and emotionally to prevent relapse.
We have a great time together on the courses as people are very receptive to the teaching.  It is very hopeful and empowering.
Yoga Ayurveda Wellness is more the foundational building blocks of both systems, Yoga and Ayurveda, to offer wellness advice – more in depth classes on doshas, qualities, constitutional analysis etc.  Less story.  Hope this helps.