When I trained in Yoga for Addiction Recovery with the amazing Kyczy Hawk, it was interesting how the emphasis was on Yoga philosophy (yamas and niyamas) and breathwork (pranayama) alongside and in balance with a gentle physical practice.

The physical practice itself is gentle and repetitive. A person in recovery is hugely sensitized and the body responds strongly to every physical sensation, often to an overwhelming extent. The nerves are also ‘on edge’ and anxiety is always present. Being ‘on the alert’ is the daily habit and state of being, so anything unexpected is to be avoided.

This goes for hands on adjustments too. We don’t do them. Period. It’s invasive, stressful, and counter-productive to the aims of the yoga session. I carry this belief and practice only verbal cues in class. We have all experienced some trauma in our lives, and being singled out, shown up or touched in class only serves to bring up anxious, invasive responses in the student affected and in everyone else around them (who don’t want that attention either). It creates stress and is unnecessary (and can also injure). If a student asks for help, OK, otherwise I don’t physically adjust anyone.

Note that the physical practice serves to release toxins via twists, to still the body and dissipate nervous energy, releasing stuck tension and assisting healthy blood flow around the body and to the brain. This preps the mind and body for an effective relaxation session, to further calm mental anxiety and bring mental, emotional and physical respite. This in itself promotes physical health, restoration and mental and emotional wellbeing.

Mini restorative practice:

  • Relaxation – shavasana. Imagine a ball of light moving up the body and filling you with light and heat.
  • Heart chakra breath (anahata pranayama) – deep inhale and exhale – count inwardly to 5 or more. Count out for longer.
  • 3 x Sun Salutation sequence (surya namasakara)
  • Tree balance (Vrkasana)
  • Half lord of fishes (ardha matsyendrasana)
  • Headstand OR fish pose (sirsasana / matsyasana)
  • Relaxation in shavasana (as before).