Yoga and the 12 steps? Really?
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that treating addiction (and secondhand drinking, aka codependency, for that matter) is all about healing the brain. And for that healing process – there are many, many options. In other words – there’s no one nor right way to “do” addiction recovery. And that’s the great news because what resonates for one person may not work for another, nonetheless, if it works on mind, body and/or spiritual related neural networks, it’s healing the brain. Not only that, but the variety of options used to heal the brain is in and of itself healing the brain!
So I was especially intrigued when I met Kyczy (keet-ski) Hawk and learned her story and about her work as a yoga instructor. But not just any yoga instructor. Rather a yoga instructor who has incorporated the 12 steps (which apply across the board of AA, NA, AlAnon, NarAnon…) as part of a yoga practice.
It’s my pleasure to share this brief interview with Kyczy Hawk about her practice and her new book, Yoga and the 12 Step Path.
Why did you write Yoga and the Twelve Step Path?
I wrote Yoga and the Twelve Step Path as a kind of exercise in documenting the similarities I was finding between the wisdom of yoga and the practices of 12 Step recovery. I had taken some yoga workshops that were addiction focused and was really excited by what I learned. I kept seeing venn diagram pictures in my mind – interlocking circles with overlaps; non-harming (a raja yoga yama) and the step before the step as well as step nine, purity or cleanliness (a raja yoga niyamama) and steps four and ten and so on. I see the overlap between karma yoga and the importance of selfless service in the 12 Steps programs, and I see jnana yoga in the life long process of seeking self knowledge and improvement in search of a closeness with one’s higher power. I had looked for books that combined the two philosophies to flesh out what I was thinking and feeling but found little. So eventually I wrote the book I was looking for.
Who is the book for?
This book was written for the yoga students who have become aware of addictive processes in themselves. It is for students who have found themselves in a relationship with someone who is an addict (behavior or substance). It is for the person in recovery who has wanted to try yoga and was uncertain about what the benefits could be. It is for everyone who has a need to get more in touch with her/his physical and spiritual self. I wrote the book developmentally – to invite the reader into breath, into movement, into relaxation as well as into self discovery. Developing a kind, compassionate and loving (not codependent) relationship with self is fundamental to developing relationships with others. And that is really all we want to do: connect with our higher power, with our self, and with others.
What is its benefit to the reader?
Now that is an embarrassing question! I hope that this book will help readers find a way to unify body mind and spirit. I hope it will add more to recovery and be a useful tool in preventing relapse. I designed the book to include some exercises for the reader to investigate his or her self in light of certain concepts in the book. I included breath practices and yoga sequences for the reader to begin investigating these practices that were so helpful to me and my recovery. Getting into the practices of yoga has really brought me closer to the 12 Steps and recovery principles. Being grounded in the steps and principles has deepened by understanding of the 8 limbs of raja yoga. I hope to have passed that on to the reader. I have had some feedback that the book has been useful. I am always gratified to hear from readers.
For readers that don’t know you, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a grandma of four, ages 15 to 5, a mom of between 2 and 6 kids (two “born to” children, two from my husband, and two from my kid’s dad). I got sober in 1983, but did not quit drugs until 4/29/1985 – my clean and sober date. My journey in recovery has been filled with both extreme challenges and surprising grace. From being briefly homeless in early sobriety to being self supporting but very poor to being a contributing member of society my life has been rich.
My children put me through college; as a single mother I was eligible for a host of grants and loans that allowed me to afford a college education. Unfortunately I was using and drinking a lot and while I graduated with a Liberal Studies BA from SFSU in 1979, I was unable to make much of my education. This experience, however, remained a foundation I was later able to draw on when I was finally capable of improving my life.
After graduation worked as a bookkeeper, then an accountant and in sobriety became a CPA. I was able to work at a number of exciting places ( yes, accounting can be exciting) and learned a lot about people and my own skills in dealing with them. I also learned about the destructive impact that low self esteem can have on a person’s health and wellbeing. I got so wrapped up in my job and became quite dependent upon accolades and appreciation from my employers that I was in danger of loosing my health and eventually, I was afraid, I would become in danger of relapsing. I found yoga. From a dalliance with videos to the real learning that comes from a teacher I discovered the depth and power of a yoga practice: the breath, the somatic benefits of movement, the ability of intentional focused practice in releasing tension and trauma, and knowing, finally, what relaxation was. I found a better way to live and was also able to become closer to my recovery program as the two knitted together so well.
Now I am a yoga teacher, a yoga teacher trainer, a writer and a potter. I have the privilege of living a life that verges on being of service almost every day. I do understand what a grace it is to be able to do what I do and I am grateful every single day.
To learn more about Kyczy and her work, please visit her website, Yoga and Recovery. You may also contact her at email@example.com.