Where Yoga and Recovery Meet

I found the Twelve-Step program after bottoming out, lying on the floor of my Fifth Street apartment in New York City, senseless and thoughtless and without intention. Somehow, I found the phone and called a hotline. A meeting was starting in 10 minutes, two blocks away. Although I was terrified of the people, unclear about the principles, cautious about the connections, and committed to remaining unique, nevertheless I knew I was home.

And home it was. After the fog of my active addiction lightened, I looked around the rooms of the Twelve-Step program with awe. Everything I needed lived inside those rooms. For the first time in 20 years, I was outliving my cravings to drink and use drugs. I could get through the day without anesthetizing my feelings. 

Things changed both slowly and quickly. I was gaining sober time. After a few years, I found myself mightily struggling with the concept of “conscious contact”—connection with a spiritual energy that wasn’t me. I had no clue what this meant and I worried about not understanding. One day, as I was whining to my therapist yet again about my lack of understanding, she hesitated and then casually invited me to find a teacher. 

Find a teacher. What did that mean? I didn’t know but I prayed, I requested, I cajoled the universe to deliver to me a teacher. Nothing much happened. Then someone told me about Kripalu. This was 1989; I was three years sober. 

My journey to Kripalu, investigating the programs, taking an evening workshop, triggered some deep need in me. I took a few programs that year and decided to come to Kripalu as a volunteer for the two months of my summer vacation from teaching. It was then that I began to practice yoga on the mat.

The body! This missing puzzle piece revealed itself to me on the yoga mat, in the Main Hall, dawn breaking, morning after morning, watching the darkness open into morning. Yoga on the mat became a sharp and shiny mirror of me—my insecurities, my need to get “it” right, my rampant desire to be accepted and loved. It all came pouring out of the asanas my body was attempting. The invitation to practice Self-Observation Without Judgment, a core Kripalu teaching, was profoundly pertinent, and so parallel, I began to realize, to the principles I was learning in the Twelve Steps.

Something else was happening: I realized that, by reconnecting to my body through the sensations generated on the mat, I began to feel more tethered to the moment. Clearly my addiction was about my inability to abide the moment, to stay with what was happening around me and inside of me. Yoga on the mat was elongating that process, strengthening that moment of connection. Being present in the moment was dependent, for me, on my relationship to my body. Yoga was the key to unlocking my connection to my body. I was elated, overwhelmed, and committed; I decided to stay at Kripalu for the upcoming school year, taking a leave from my job and subletting my apartment, strangely enough, in the Kripalu whirlpool, to a guest. 

I continued my Twelve-Step program in Berkshire County, practiced yoga on the mat, lived in the Kripalu ashram, and watched my healing protocol unfold. Creating the Yoga of Recovery program in 1992, and running it for many years, I found that the parallels between these two systems of healing—recovery and yoga—continued to merge and dance, complementing each other. 

For this alcoholic, the rooms of recovery are essential. I need the reminders, the brilliance of others on the same journey, the profound safety and depth of the Steps. And, for this alcoholic, the yoga mat is equally crucial. I need to feel my body, to remember that addiction lives inside my body. I fully believe that addiction is a body-centered process, and that yoga on the mat is essential for both reunion with the body and its detoxification.

The heart-centered approach of Kripalu Yoga and its teachings about compassionate presence continue to support me and my recovery. The ancient teachings of spirituality, as energy moving through my body, deepen my sobriety.

I am abundantly blessed. Yoga and recovery continue to be the path to my wholeness.

Aruni Nan Futuronsky is a Kripalu Yoga teacher, life coach, and Legacy Faculty member for Kripalu R&R and Kripalu programs.

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