Mind/Body Work and Recovery
By: Tim Franz, Tai Chi Teacher & Yogi
My name is Tim and I am in recovery and have been going on 36 years. So, what does this have to do with Yoga? Keep reading and you’ll find out.
First, I am just a guy that struggled with a hopeless condition of mind and body. Farfetched, not in the least. That’s what happens to the soul when reliance on a substance becomes dominant. Many of us quite willingly volunteer to sell our souls to a wide variety of things, just to change reality. Fortunately, I found a way out, one day at a time.
Way back in the day, I poured a depressant into my body daily because it changed me and how I dealt with the world. My fears and self-doubts were washed away. It did for me what I could not do for myself. I followed the call almost to a coffin or urn on the mantle.
Back then I did not know about depression and all that it entails. Pouring alcohol on top of it just made things worse. I explored self help remedies like Est and Lifespring. Going natural and eating better and taking vitamins didn’t help. I continued living on the bottom.
Then came a fork in the road and I took the one towards living and I turned myself over to a friend that had found the way.
So, I stopped drinking by not starting! However, I began to drink copious amounts of coffee and Coca Cola plus smoking innumerable cigarettes in a day. My mood did lift some, no doubt from the caffeine, and I lost a lot of weight. However, I was left with all the fears and doubts that plagued me before putting the plug in the jug. I felt like I was going to explode and sitting still was impossible. Constant upheaval ruled my life and then my mood began to sink and this time I FELT IT, ALL!
Hindsight is always 20/20 and as I reflect, I wish I had known about the mind/body connection. After all, I was trapped in a hopeless condition of mind and body. I didn’t realize they were connected.
After a period of being sober, I began to practice Tai Chi. It was amazing how it reduced tension and stress. Tai Chi is about re-directing or dissipating force, so I began to assume a Tai Chi attitude when faced with adversity. This means I was able to meet it with calmness while either redirecting it or dissipating the stress. However, Tai Chi over time, while very beneficial, began to lose the body strengthening impact, which I wanted.
So here is where Yoga comes in. I started Yoga at 34 years sober. I wish I would have discovered it many years ago. I often feel like I have had a 90-minute massage after an hour of Yoga. My body is relaxed, and my mind is calm.
The discipline works to heal the mind/body! The physical aspects are excellent to bleed off excess tension and stress and redefining the body, while heightening the mood and calming the mind. Not as instantly as substances do but, just as the impact of the substances multiply, the benefits of consistent and diligent practice of Yoga are accumulative.
I’ve come to believe that Yoga would be a wonderful adjunct to anyone in recovery. My Tai Chi practice improved greatly after taking up Yoga!
It is not unusual for those new to recovery to fall into a trap of consuming sugar (donuts, cake, candy or soft drinks) and highly caffeinated drinks. Like it or not, it is still self-medicating the feelings that begin to make themselves known. Afterall, it’s ok since you’re not drinking alcohol or using drugs! NOT!
It’s not OK because while the mind may improve as the result of the steps, the body often suffers. Healthy eating comes along with practicing Yoga and Tai Chi. Remember the body and mind are connected.
I am glad to see that the recovery industry is incorporating Yoga and Tai Chi into their regimens. Likewise, it’s good to see some Yogi’s are offering Yoga for recovery.
It’s just not newcomers to recovery that can benefit from Yoga! Nay, nay I say. Oldtimers can benefit too. Just go. If you know someone in recovery, invite them to go with you to a class. Namaste, ya’ll!
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