There is no single thing on my path from hell that has helped me more than meditation and yoga. Nothing. Because not only did meditation and yoga help me move through the preliminary problems at hand - my addictions - they did something far greater than I could have ever hoped: they took me beyond it. Beyond what I had originally dreamed to achieve not only in recovery but in this life. Beyond what I thought possible for myself. And the best part is they continue to do this. Some two years later, they remain the two most effective tools in my life. The secret to my personal success.
A year ago, I got an email from a friend (who is still a friend!!!) that said I would never yoga my way out of how fucked up I was (full story below). That email changed my life and my perspective on the power of yoga and recovery forever.
The 12-steps and AA just didn't work for me - and it wasn't a case of "I didn't find the right group" or "I didn't work the steps so they didn't work" - they literally made me feel sick to my stomach and every thing in me said it wasn't my path. To the point of receiving that email, it had always felt like some significant failure or flaw on my part. A secret almost. I had SO MANY times skirted the conversation when someone asked me if I had used a sponsor or worked the steps, and on those occasions where I found myself stuck to answer, I shrunk and diminished. Because I could literally hear the voices in their heads saying "she's going to drink again." I felt like this fact made me some sort of ticking time bomb in other people's eyes or some pariah in the recovery scene.
Receiving this email not only instigated me to affirm my belief in my own path, but it also set me on a path to understand WHY and HOW yoga had been so effective in my recovery, and to incorporate it into the modality I planned to bring to life through Hip Sobriety. It sent me on a mission that has proved beyond fruitful, and has allowed me to stand up and say "there is absolutely another way."
I've launched a campaign on TeeSpring to sell the shirt I promised myself I would sell a year ago. You can mosey on over here and get one for yourself (it's available through January 19th so hurry!).
To bring awareness to the campaign and to highlight the importance of yoga in recovery, I'll be writing a feature set over the next month to explore it.
That's right...January is officially "yoga your way out of effed" month here on Hip Sobriety.
I'll be sharing my own practice, translate the 8 limbs of yoga in to recovery, share how it has specifically worked in my life, highlight some of my own teachers and role models who themselves have used yoga to transform, and leave you with your own guide on how to get started. It's going to be an amazing month.
One last thing before I delve in...I'd LOVE to hear your story. How yoga has inspired your change and growth, or how YOU'VE managed to "yoga your way out of fucked?" If you've got a story to share, post I up in the comments and let's chat. LOTS OF LOVE.
A little less than a year ago, I got what I would describe as the WORST email someone in recovery from substance abuse could get.
"Dear Holly, You are fucked up. You will always be fucked up. And you can't yoga your way out of how fucked up you are. You may have fooled all your other friends and the people you work with and surround yourself with, but I know the truth."
I'll never forget this moment for as long as I live. I was in New York, I was in bed working, and for a minute my entire world went mute. I was caught in a gasp, caught on an inhale, and I temporarily forgot how to exhale. And when I exhaled, I termporarily forgot how to inhale.
My first inclination was to write back "YOU WHORE." My first inclination was to attack with as many hate words and as much meanness and cruelty as I could muster. My first inclination was to tear the bitch down. But that wasn't me anymore and I knew that by going there, I'd only hurt myself. So I wrote out my reactive violent vomit in a word doc, and deleted it.
Only I was still stuck in that gasp. Part of me wanted to lay down and cry and take it all in and believe it. Part of me wanted to be a HUGE victim and use this as evidence that the world was against me. But a bigger part of me - a more intelligent part of me - knew I had to deal with it differently, and further, knew HOW to deal with differently. The yoga part of me.
So on that cold New York morning in the bedroom of my corporate apartment - the girl that had just been told she was a fraud who would always be fucked up and couldn't "yoga her way out of how fucked up" she was - ironically yoga'd her way out of being totally fucked up about being told she was fucked up.
I closed the laptop, rolled up the murphy bed, rolled out my yoga mat, and proceeded as follows:
1. Pranyama - Practice of breath control. I took ten long deep breaths.
2. Pratyahara - Withdrawl of the senses. I went into meditation (turned in).
3. Isvara pranidhana - Surrender to God. In my meditation, I gave all of it up. I practiced non-identification with the message, and reminded myself that this email said more about how this person felt towards themselves rather than it did me. I surrendered control, and asked God that if this was part of my path to just let me be okay with it. I asked for peace in it and I medited peace in it.
4. Ahimsa - Practice of nonviolence/pure love. Still in meditation, I called her up visually, bathed her in golden light, and energetically created a cord of golden energy from my heart to hers. In this moment, I found pure love for her despite the pain.
5. Asana - physical practice. I did a YogaGlo class (this Stephanie Snyder vinyasa one to be exact) and for 45 minutes, physically worked out the anger and pain on my mat.
When all this was said and done, I ended up opening up my computer and I wrote her back an email that ended the dialogue. It wasn't necessarily something Ghandi would have written, but it was rooted in as much love as I could muster at that time, and to this day I am still proud of this moment.
A few days later, the pain significantly subsided, I was recounting the story to one of my friends over tea. As she sat wrapping her mind around the words searching for the right friend words to say, I grabbed her little face in my hands and said "baby don't you worry. Because one day? I'm going to make a fucking t-shirt out of this."