I am not a stranger to the struggle of addiction or the trauma and negative thought patterns that it typically stems from. I’ve been affected by and intrigued with this realm of the human mind and the mysterious ability we can have of disassociating from our (true) selves to fill an unmet need or emptiness despite the consequences. It beguiles me how we can be in a state of constant maneuvering towards some sense of perceived safety or comfort, with the capacity for both truth and denial, often expressed simultaneously. We’re masters at this, while often yearning for compassion and a sense of belonging to ourselves and those we love. In my search and experience I have discovered that Yoga can be a pivotal tool in healing from addiction.
It’s an exciting time in the field of recovery with remarkable bodies of wisdom, knowledge and expertise leading the way. Recovery is a personal lifetime journey, a developmental process (Marc Lewis, The Biology of Desire) with many twists and turns, peaks and pitfalls, relapses and astounding successes. The ultimate destination is freedom. The aim of Yoga is to cultivate freedom from the limitations of the human condition.
Addiction is displaced longing, we all have a longing to be “at home” with ourselves, comfortable in our own skin, and to be loved. Often because of early childhood stress or abuse, lack of safety, or unmet developmental needs, we look for that longing in other places. Those other places can take the shape of excessive consumption of coffee, cigarettes and sugar, a closet full of shoes, shopping, gambling, overuse of the internet, a string of unfulfilling relationships, harmful drug, alcohol or substance abuse, or the need to be constantly pushing for success and ego gratifications. There are so many ways it expresses itself! We can do this for decades before realizing that what we are really looking for is unattainable from external sources. It all comes back to acknowledging the emptiness, pain, hurt, or discomfort we’ve been carrying, and then developing the capacity to give ourselves the love, time and space we crave from other sources, and opening to receive that love and support from those who can provide it to us.
From a yogic perspective, we are all addicted to our finite identity; the ego or personality, the known small self. We attach our identity to this as “me” and ultimately experience a profound sense of separation from ourselves, others, and the larger creative consciousness. It’s spiritual distress that seeks a replacement for that connection and this can manifest as abusing addictive substances or perpetuating poor behaviours. The practice of yoga and meditation can reveal to us that we are not alone but exist in a sea of universal energy, which flows through us, and empowers, informs and connects us.
Sat Dharam Kaur ND, founder of Beyond Addiction: The Yogic Path to Recovery
All paths eventually lead home and the path of Kundalini Yoga is a mainline. Specific breathing patterns release long held tensions and strengthen the body-mind connection. The physical Kriyas (purification exercises) aid in detoxifying the body while rebuilding the organs and body systems, moving long held stagnant energy and decreasing cravings to be replaced by healthier habits. Kundalini meditations help to identify areas within ourselves that need changing and personality characteristics we’d like to improve, while deepening a connection to Source, Divinity or God, or whatever it is that you personally deem greater than the ego.
BEYOND ADDICTION: The Yogic Path to Recovery, is a trusted vehicle on this path and available on Hornby at SUN DOOR late this summer. It’s a program built on the life experiences of healing through Kundalini Yoga, Naturopathy and the work of Gabor Mate and other leaders in the field of recovery. It’s open to everyone, providing an opportunity to understand and transform this pervasive and systemic condition in oneself and others.