It was a very unexpected benefit. Laying in Savasana (dead man’s pose), I felt like the weight of the World had been lifted off of me. There was a steady and deep contentment that had evaded me for the previous two decades despite many attempts to capture it. One clear thought crossed my mind: Yoga is my recovery superpower!
My original motivation to go to yoga was to relieve the chronic throb at the base of my back that pulsated like the heartbeat of a wild horse. My other hope was to drop a few pounds that inhabited my hips and clung on with a death grip. A friend suggested that yoga would help both dilemmas. So off I went with high anxiety and a sticky new yoga mat.
Months later, while lying supine on the floor, it occurred to me that yoga was providing an enormous boost to my ability to stay clean and sober. I was even feeling happy. The struggle of early recovery seemed to slip away as quietly and slowly as ice melts from a frozen pond in spring. I was in the midst of a big thaw and I loved it!
My curiosity was piqued that morning as my yoga practice concluded. I wondered exactly how yoga had created such a sense of ease in my mind and my body. I realized yoga is my recovery superpower because it helps me to cultivate discipline; experience bursts of joy; improve my focus, strength and stamina; and connect to community.
Yoga became a recovery superpower for me because it requires me to be disciplined. I commit to rolling out my mat in a yoga studio or in my home. Then I actually do it. The decision to practice is not enough. I have to take action.
This takes discipline. I experience the benefit of making a commitment and having the skill and ability to actually stick to it. I hold this committment lightly so it does not become a stressor if I miss a day or two here and there.
Being disciplined in this way has given me confidence, positive regard for myself, and a can-do attitude. Not to mention the benefits of a consistent yoga practice!
Bursts of Joy
For some people it might be difficult to imagine how yoga would bring bursts of joy. This was definitely an unanticipated recovery tool for me.
The bursts of joy come when I experience a physical release in a tight shoulder as a result of my yoga practice. Joy also comes when I finally capture that balancing pose if even for only a second or two.
And perhaps the most amazing experience of joy is walking out of the yoga practice when I feel renewed, reset, and ready to take on life clean and sober.
Focus, Strength, & Stamina
One of the greatest assets of a regular yoga practice is a sharper mental focus. Being aware of what I am focusing on has helped my yoga practice and my sobriety.
Focus matters when I am in a pose on my mat and when I am living life. I can see how I am holding tension in my body, mind, or spirit. When I realize my focus is not where I want it or my focus is all over the place, I can make a conscious decision to redirect my attentions.
This is an excellent recovery superpower because before I sharpened my focus through yoga, my mind and emotions dragged me around like a wind slams a wind chime in a hurricane. No wonder I was frequently anxious and always on the verge of relapse.
Because of my yoga practice, I have learned the relapse prevention skill of being able to direct my attention to more beneficial and supportive areas that support my recovery rather than destroy it.
I have gotten physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger as a result of my yoga practice. My body muscles have gained strength as I learn new poses and take familiar poses deeper. My mind has strengthened as a result of being able to choose what I focus on. Very few people actually have this skill. Try focusing on your breathing for only ONE minute and see if your mind wonders.
My stamina to withstand that which I do not like has improved too. I have learned to practice being comfortable with the uncomfortable. Now this is a magnificent recovery superpower! When I am in a yoga pose that I do not like, I practice being with that which is uncomfortable. I learn that I do not have to react. This translates off the mat when I am in conflict with someone I love or my boss is having a bad day and taking it out on me.
My stamina has improved and I have become more physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger. I used to take everything personally, tire easily, and feel like I was constantly in a battle with everyone and everything. My stamina has improved and I have put down my sword. There is tremendous freedom of spirit and I find peace and serenity.
Connect to Community
I did not go to yoga class to find friends. Yet over time, I saw the same people and we would small talk before and after class. That led to having a coffee together and then attending a talk or going on a weekend retreat. I practiced being in healthy relationships. This was something that seemed out of reach for me in my active days of using drugs and alcohol.
Through my yoga practice I also found I was getting better at connecting with my loved ones. I no longer had the need to change things to be as I thought they should be. My acceptance and tolerance grew. My ability to authentically contact with others improved. This is a very helpful superpower in recovery! The isolation of addiction waned as my ability to connect improved.
The skills I learn being on my yoga mat translate into real life situations. My yoga practice is a superpower because it helps me to cultivate discipline; experience bursts of joy; improve focus, strength and stamina; and connect to community.