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Yoga Journal - - Contents - By Nikki Myers

Find abid­ing re­solve with Nikki Myers, cre­ator of Yoga of 12-Step Re­cov­ery.

IN 1987, I FOUND A 12-STEP PRO­GRAM for my addiction re­cov­ery and stayed sober for eight years. Then, on a busi­ness trip to Ger­many, I made a bad de­ci­sion to have one drink that led to many more. Within a week, I found my­self in Am­s­ter­dam, where I knew ex­actly who to be, what to do, where to go, and how to talk my way into get­ting my drug of choice: crack co­caine.

Af­ter Am­s­ter­dam, I got back into a 12-step pro­gram and dis­cov­ered yoga. I saw all the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween yoga and the 12-step pro­gram, and I even­tu­ally made the de­ci­sion to let go of the pro­gram. I thought a daily ashtanga yoga prac­tice would be enough for deal­ing with my addiction is­sues.

I stayed clean for four years, then re­lapsed again in 2000. At that point, I re­al­ized I couldn’t put the 12-step pro­gram, which gave me a cog­ni­tive base for re­cov­ery, in a sep­a­rate box from yoga, which gave me so­matic tools. So in 2003— af­ter re­ceiv­ing train­ing from the So­matic Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Trauma In­sti­tute and the Amer­i­can Viniyoga In­sti­tute—I cre­ated Yoga of 12-Step Re­cov­ery (Y12SR), which com­bines cog­ni­tive and so­matic prac­tices for sus­tain­able addiction re­cov­ery.

The fol­low­ing se­quence is the first one I teach to re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts. It’s also the one I come back to most of­ten my­self, be­cause it’s all about build­ing a solid foun­da­tion. In each pos­ture, ask: Do I feel bal­anced? Can I find my cen­ter—even when I feel over­whelmed? Sus­tain­able re­cov­ery re­quires con­tin­u­ally ask­ing these ques­tions—and con­tin­u­ally find­ing our ground.

1 SUKHASANA Easy Pose

Sit in a com­fort­able, seated po­si­tion with your legs crossed and your sit­ting bones propped up on a blan­ket, bol­ster, or med­i­ta­tion cush­ion. Be­come aware of your breath with­out chang­ing any­thing. Be­gin to deepen your breath­ing, even­tu­ally ar­riv­ing at a com­fort­able max­i­mum in­hala­tion and ex­ha­la­tion. No­tice what’s present for you in your five bod­ies: phys­i­cal, emo­tional, think­ing, char­ac­ter, and heart. Stay here, breath­ing slowly and deeply, for 90 sec­onds or longer.

2 MARJARYASANA AND BITILASANA Cat-Cow Pose, vari­a­tion

Come to all fours with your knees un­der your hips and your hands un­der your shoul­ders. As you in­hale, find a lift in your chest (Cow Pose, shown); as you ex­hale, bring your chest to­ward your thighs and your hips to­ward your heels, so you’re in a mod­i­fied Balasana (Child’s Pose). Re­peat this move­ment slowly, al­low­ing the in­hala­tions and ex­ha­la­tions to lengthen and deepen with each rep­e­ti­tion.

3 BALASANA Child’s Pose

Rest your chest on your thighs with your arms stretched out in front of you—or along your sides. If you don’t find this pose deeply com­fort­able, feel free to move into a dif­fer­ent one that feels more restora­tive. Stay here for 8 long, deep breaths. This is the “pause but­ton” pose, a re­minder that it’s OK to slow down when life starts feel­ing out of con­trol.

4 BHUJANGASANA Co­bra Pose, vari­a­tion

Lie on your belly with your hands be­side your rib cage on the mat. On an in­hala­tion, lift your chest up into Co­bra Pose; on an ex­ha­la­tion, lower back down. On your next in­hala­tion, lift to Co­bra again, this time rais­ing your right leg; ex­hale to come back down, and re­peat on the other side. Then in­hale and lift both legs as you come into Co­bra. Ex­hale with your legs and chest lifted; in­hale and lift a lit­tle higher, spread­ing your legs apart be­hind you. On your next ex­ha­la­tion, bring your legs and chest down. Re­peat this se­quence 5 times.

5 ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose

Be­gin­ning in Child’s Pose, in­hale to all fours, and then ex­hale to lift your knees and hips into Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog. Press into your hands, and soften your el­bows to avoid hy­per­ex­ten­sion. Drop your shoul­ders away from your ears, and then sta­bi­lize them by bring­ing your shoul­der blades onto your back. Slowly move back down to all fours and into Child’s Pose. Re­peat 4 times. Af­ter your fi­nal rep­e­ti­tion, hold Down Dog for 8 breaths, keep­ing in mind you can rest in Child’s Pose at any time.

11 SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA Bridge Pose, vari­a­tion

Bend your knees so that the soles of your feet are on the floor, hip-width apart be­low your knees. On an in­hala­tion, slowly lift your bot­tom off the mat to­ward Bridge Pose; on an ex­ha­la­tion, roll back down. Re­peat this rolling Bridge 3–4 times, then hold Bridge Pose for 30–45 sec­onds. On an ex­ha­la­tion, come back down to lie flat on your mat, and draw your knees in to­ward your chest.

6 TADASANA Moun­tain Pose

From Down Dog, walk to the top of your mat. On an in­hala­tion, press your feet into the ground. Find your core by hug­ging your lower-body mus­cles into your bones, drop­ping your tail­bone to­ward the earth. From your core, lift your chest and open your heart, slowly com­ing to stand. With your hips, spine, and shoul­ders aligned, let your heart open, know­ing your back is pro­tected. Stay here for 3 breaths. Then, on an ex­ha­la­tion, bring your hands to your heart cen­ter in An­jali Mu­dra (Salu­ta­tion Seal).

12 SUPTA MATSYENDRASANA Supine Spinal Twist

Lie on your back, cross your left thigh over your right, and stretch your arms out on ei­ther side to a T po­si­tion. On an ex­ha­la­tion, be­gin twist­ing to your right as you look to the left; on an in­hala­tion, re­turn to cen­ter. Re­peat this twist­ing ac­tion 4 times, pro­gres­sively length­en­ing the ex­hale. Then hold the full twist for 6 breaths. If com­fort­able, ex­tend your top leg fully, hold­ing your calf or an­kle with your op­po­site hand to deepen the stretch. Re­peat on the other side.

7 HIGH LUNGE, VARI­A­TION

From Tadasana, step your left foot back, and bend your right knee so you’re in a High Lunge with your fin­ger­tips on the mat. Heel-toe your right foot to the right, and drop deeper into the lunge, keep­ing your right knee above your right an­kle. To go deeper, move your right hand in­side your right foot, and bring your el­bows to the mat. Can you find your cen­ter in this asym­met­ric pose? This can help you re­in­force your com­mit­ment to find­ing your cen­ter when life doesn’t go the way you want it to. Hold here for 8 breaths or longer. Re­peat on the other side, fin­ish­ing in Tadasana.

13 CON­STRUC­TIVE REST, VARI­A­TION

Bend your knees so that the soles of your feet are on the floor, mat-width apart. On an ex­ha­la­tion, al­low your knees to fall in to­ward one an­other. Pause here for 2 breaths. On an in­hala­tion, sep­a­rate your knees. On your next ex­ha­la­tion, al­low both knees to fall to­ward the right. Pause here for 1–2 breaths. On an in­hala­tion, bring both knees back to cen­ter. On an ex­ha­la­tion, al­low your knees to fall to the left, paus­ing for 1–2 breaths. Re­peat this flow, mov­ing your knees from one side to the other, ex­tend­ing the pauses each time.

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