Last week, I shared information about yoga and addiction recovery – specifically, five ways yoga can help addicts in recovery.
Fortunately, Kyczy Hawk stumbled across the piece.
Hawk, a San Jose-based yoga instructor who focuses on addiction recovery, is also the author of the recently published “Yoga and the Twelve-Step Path,” and agreed to a quick interview to provide Your Body, Your Mind readers with some firsthand insight about the different kinds of addiction, the dangers of feeling disconnected and separate, and how yoga can help people during the addiction recovery process.
Alicia Sparks: What led to your decision to start practicing and teaching yoga?
Kyczy Hawk: Many years ago yoga presented itself as a non “exercise” form of physical movement and health. Years later I again stepped onto the mat in both physical and psychic pain. I had plateaued in my recovery journey – I am a person in recovery – and I felt disconnected.
Addiction is a form of separation and isolation. One may drink to be the life of the party but the true self is still hunkering down inside afraid to be seen. Gobbling cookies to fill a void is a solitary activity, best done in a closet when alone. Co-dependency is all about eroding the self to enhance another. So feeling separate is a danger. Yoga offered “yoking together body mind and spirit” and classes offered a way to do that with a mentor, teacher.
I didn’t find the perfect class or teacher right away but eventually I did. Slowly I became more in touch with my body, feelings were felt and my heart began to soften. Finding a useful breath practice allowed me to find calm and even at work at my high paced job. I began to settle down and settle in, into my self, again. With the right amount of philosophical nuggets sprinkled through the yoga practice I became more and more interested in ALL of yoga, not just the hatha (physical) practice. As I was learning about the philosophy I had this feeling of deja vu – I KNEW, I RECOGNIZED the rungs of Raja Yoga, there was a familiarity in the types of yoga such as mantra and karma yogas. They were similar to everything I knew from the programs of recovery.
I decided that this is what I wanted to do: to learn how to be a yoga teacher so I could bring the commonality of the yoga disciplines and practices as well as the physical benefits to those in recovery.
AS: Why did you decide to place your primary focus on people in recovery? Do you have any personal experience with addiction and recovery, or did this field call to you in some other way?
KH: I found yoga when I was in my “teens” in recovery – I have a couple of decades in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. I suffer from other addictions as well, but AA is my primary program. I was so overwhelmed with the parallels of yoga and recovery I made a plan, a five year plan to learn about yoga, research what others had done bringing these two philosophies together and to leave my job and do this work. I am fortunate in that my husband is (now) retired and has a pension. He is my “benefactor” allowing me the freedom to work in this area. There is only token money – important though it may be – I could not support myself if my teaching were my only source of financial support.
This IS truly my MISSION. I love teaching at the treatment centers and recovery homes. I love my Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) classes. It is another way to see the “program” (of 12 Steps) in action and see the transformation in others. It is my form of service.
AS: What advice or direction would you offer someone who’s considering, or even skeptical about, starting yoga as part of his or her recovery?
KH: Do not fall into the trap of “contempt prior to investigation.” So many of my students tell me they are too stiff, too old, too macho, too… whatever, to “do yoga.” But yoga is precisely for the stiff, the elderly, the macho and the whatever. In yoga you learn to find your own capacity, the limits and the permissions that the body grants yo. You learn to listen to how you feel, and note the changes from one day to the next. This is key to being able to tell how you FEEL in any circumstance – you learn to listen.
My classes are gentle, somatic and I do talk about the similarities of yoga and recovery. This makes the language in the class familiar, not overwhelming. There is recovery on the mat and yoga “off” the mat. I relate the yoga we practice on the mat to recovery concepts and show how the skills learned in the yoga class can be used in daily life. You learn to stretch, to experience your body in relaxation, to find and play with the concept of moderation (not something addicts have familiarity with).
Yoga can also release past traumas that have been stored in the body, from auto accidents, to surgeries, fights, abuse and neglect. We hold our bodies in certain ways, subtle and unconscious ways. In time yoga can release these locked in “memories,” providing a sense of freedom, fuller breath, and more sustainable periods of integration and relaxation.
I tell my students, that if nothing else, they can bring mindful breathing with them throughout the day. The breath is portable! You have it with you at all times. A smooth, deep, mindful breath can give you choices; to choose the wise and healthy over the expedient and destructive. They will come to me at the next class and say “Kyczy – I breathed all week long, and I didn’t get written up once!” That is a wonderful thing.
A HUGE thanks to Kyczy Hawk for sharing her experiences and practice with us!
Visit www.yogarecovery.com to learn more about Kyczy Hawk and her yoga and recovery practice. To learn more about Hawk’s book, Yoga and the Twelve-Step Path, visit www.centralrecoverypress.com and Hawk’s author interview on YouTube.
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Last reviewed: 13 Jun 2012