Addiction, Recovery and Yoga


The one light appears in diverse forms. -Atharva-Veda

Yoga is proving to be effective in the treatment of alcoholism and other addictions.

Addiction is said to be a bio-pyscho-social disease. It is a malady affecting both the body and the mind.  Science is proving what yoga practitioners have known, and many people learn on their own, for thousands of years: the mind and the body are one.  Psychology and physiology are linked. This means that our thoughts, beliefs, and memories literally take place in our bodies and have the capacity to change our anatomy. It also means our anatomy, our body, is in constant communication with our mind and changes the way we think, feel, and believe.

Addicts know this in their bones: we use to change the way that we feel.  We use – change our physical reality – in order to cope, to feel joy, or to let go.

Traditional treatment for addictions and alcoholism is talk therapy and 12 step group models.  This has proven to be the best shot anyone has. At the same time, many people struggle with these models or simply aren’t ready to buy into the thoughts and ideas those models espouse. Even if they do participate in those models of recovery, they may still struggle with lingering feelings of lack, shame, pain, boredom, anxiety, or depression. Those models may do much to treat the psycho-social part of the disease, but leave the physical alone. Many people continue to feel a ‘god-shaped hole’, or have a sense of ‘now what?’, or simply not feel whole.

Yoga is the practice of mindful movement.  It is the union of mind and body, and therefore treats each of the ‘bio-psycho-social’ aspects of our disease, and our life. Further, it is based in a world-view of balance, wholeness, and integrity: disease is seen in context of the whole, ability is seen in balance with weakness, limitation is seen as the flipside of unity.

Patanjali’s yoga sutras begin with the statement ‘yoga is now’.  The practice or experience of yoga is the stilling of the mind’s games and delusions.  Those mind games are human stuff; we all have them.  But they are exacerbated in addiction.  Addiction is a disease of denial, minimization, selfishness, and isolation. In a strangely poetic, definitely physical way, the practices of yoga bring us face to face and heart to heart with our psychological holding patterns, our beliefs, and our clinging to illusions. Then, the practices allow us to let them go.

We let them go, and change the very nature of our life.


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