I used to go to yoga to sweat out my hangover. I used to practice high on pot and pills. I used to do a lot of things I’m not proud of. My story is one of redemption.
The first time I practiced vinyasa was after drinking on a Friday night. A friend invited me to try a local studio’s beginner special, and still being slightly new to Sacramento without many healthy habits, but an inner calling to do something different with my life, I agreed.
It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Others include taking a teacher training, traveling to Bali, Indonesia, and getting into recovery after years of drinking and drugging. Writing about this makes my eyes well with tears; I’m so grateful for everything this practice has given me, my life has taken on much more meaning and fulfillment, it’s hard to express with words but I’ll give it a go!
I’m an alcoholic and addict. It took me years to be okay saying that, to understand that I can’t consume either safely, that if I do I have no idea what will happen, that the outcome is beyond my control, that I could either end up in a black out or maybe it’d be a quiet night with friends. But I never knew.
And that’s a powerful thing to know, that I’m powerless when I put such substances into my body.
The yoga studio is where I first met other sober alcoholics, and came to realize that I too could have fun and enjoy my life without altering my mental state. One of my first teachers was in recovery. He didn’t preach about his choices, but I knew when he commented about no longer picking up roaches found on the sidewalk. Another friend I’d come to know through my first teacher training was also in recovery; he remains one of my best friends to this day.
Those two men brought me to my first meetings of recovery, which I attended on and off for years, in a room above a bar in Old Sacramento on Tuesday nights until it relocated and eventually folded. It was there that I heard the words I needed to, that there was a “design for living” for the willing. I surely didn’t have that, and held onto that hope.
So when I was ready to do something different, I knew where to go and already had people in my life to turn to for support. That was in the fall of 2014.
A lot has changed since then, most significantly the internal shifts that have transformed how I see the world and myself in it. Today I know I belong here and have a purpose, even if it’s to brighten someone’s day.
Today I teach yoga and do some writing here and there, I hang with friends and practice yoga and drink coffee and make vegan cheese and kombucha is my latest project and also cacao paired with a writing circle is coming up in my quaint Midtown apartment, and I attend recovery meetings and continue the work that has afforded me this life of relative luxury and serenity. The drama levels are low, the contentment levels are high.
And the highlight of my week is still Friday night, but for another reason these days. I facilitate and lead a local chapter of Yoga of 12-Step Recovery (Y12SR), a group of high-energy, loving and kind-hearted yogis in all types of recovery. We read from spiritual literature (think Marianne Williamson, Don Miguel Ruiz, Brene Brown, etc.) and share from our experience, strength and hope based on the reading. Then we take a brief break and regroup to practice yoga, after which we usually go to the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op for fun, food and fellowship. Yes, it’s a lot. A lot of FUN!
The concept and format hails from Nikki Meyers, who in 2004 started Y12SR based off her own struggles with addiction. “Yoga of 12-Step Recovery was created as a holistic model to address the physical, mental and spiritual dis-ease of addiction. Informed by the latest research in neuroscience and trauma healing, Y12SR ‘connects the dots’ by combining the somatic approach of yoga with the cognitive approach of the 12-step recovery model – the most well-known addiction recovery program in the world, with millions of active practitioners.”
When the class was handed off to me in summer 2017, there was a handful of regular attendees. Today up to 50 people show up on any given Friday. It’s exciting. It’s beyond my vision of how this class would grow. It’s a quality problem to run out of rental mats.
Mostly it’s supportive, nurturing, safe, friendly and a complement to an active recovery program. It’s made clear in the readings, this is not a replacement for meetings, a sponsor, or any other part of a 12-step recovery program.
But if you’re looking to get physical and spiritual, this is the ticket. I can’t say enough about it so I’ll let others.
Longtime attendee Max shared the following. “To me, the essence of the 12 steps allows for a lot of flexibility. We are encouraged to uncover and rediscover our own beliefs. We are encouraged to develop our emotional and spiritual selves. What I like about this group is it’s a great tool to add a physical component to our recovery, yet one with a spiritual foundation. I feel this is essential for a truly balanced life. And what could make us more flexible than yoga? Also, the people are great. And very accepting. Some of the best. We laugh a lot, and can be silly.”
Another longtime attendee, Rico the Unicorn, considers Y12SR the highlight of his week. “Y12SR feeds my body and soul weekly with the nourishment I need to make it through my week. I look forward to the smiling faces of my friends and the comforting feel of my mat all week long.”
Come see for yourself the benefits of this community. Even if you don’t consider yourself an addict, you’re still welcome to explore another way to spend your Friday night. As I tell those on the fence, yoga and recovery could only dramatically transform your life, as it has with mine. What are you waiting for?!