Yoga and Recovery
I recently completed my 200 yoga teacher training. I didn’t quite know what I was getting into and if I had, I probably wouldn’t have done it!! The one thing that surprised me the most were the many parallels between yoga and recovery. Many times I felt like the teachers were talking like we do in AA! Like recovery, yoga is a journey, not a destination. You do not get to a point where you have learned all you need to learn and graduate. You will have good and bad days; you may seek help from a teacher that has gone on before you much like we seek help from our sponsors. There are some days I can’t hold a basic pose for the life of me and other days I am rocking in a crazy pose I have never been able to do before. In AA, I am not always perfect, or in a good place, or not on the “beam”, as they say. Then there are the days I am skipping in the Sunlight of the Spirit!!
Foundation is important in AA and yoga. On pg. 75 of the Big Book it talks about foundation. After we complete the 5th Step we return home to be quiet and reflect: Is our work solid so far? Are the stones properly in place? Have we skimped on the cement put into the foundation? In yoga, teachers talk a lot about the foundation of poses, rooting down to the earth, your feet strong and solid; you don’t have a pose if the foundation isn’t strong. AA is the foundation for my life much like I have a foundation for my yoga practice.
When I get on my mat, I am on my mat. I am in the moment, focused on the present and the practice. The same thing happens when I sit down across from another alcoholic. I can be so self-absorbed on what is going on in my life that I may think I have nothing to offer, until I sit down and the magic, God’s power, starts to come alive. After working with another alcoholic, all the obsessions and problems that I had before lose their power. Everything just doesn’t feel like that big of a deal, I am back to the present, everything is alright already. My heart opens up to love again for my fellows and myself.
One of the biggest misconceptions of yoga is that it is a religion. Sometimes AA gets this label as well or sometimes even worse, it is referred to as a cult. Like AA, yoga is a spiritual practice. Both were created in countries that have different, dominant religions and, of course, those religions have a strong influence. I think what scares people the most, which is the case in all forms of fear, is the unknown. Think about your first AA meeting; maybe it felt like the people in the room were talking in a foreign language. What about all the laughing at what most people would consider an inappropriate time?? In yoga, the music is different and the words most often used are in a foreign language we are not familiar with. However, all of us use words in English that have the same meaning. Also, faith and your belief system are meant to be brought into all areas of life. Just like in AA, I bring my beliefs to my yoga practice. Sometimes they are like yours and sometimes they are not but we can embrace the differences and not the judgment. AA and yoga encourage people to live the fullest expression of their life and to be connected—body, mind and spirit.