Yogic Tools for Recovery is Kyczy Hawk’s latest book (November 2017), and it is powerful on so many levels. Not only for its significant contribution as a tool to help those recovering from addiction*, but also for Kyczy’s ability to paint a picture – a feeling – with words. And it is in the latter, and the way Kyczy (keet-ski) gives the bigger picture of both the yogic practices (e.g., sharing the philosophy of yoga to enrich the poses) and the addiction recovery process (e.g., there are many paths to addiction recovery – the 12 Steps are but one – and recovery takes time) that makes her book especially helpful.
I have personally known Kyczy for many years and greatly admire her work, thus it is my pleasure to share her Q & A. By the end of this, I’m sure you’ll want to read Yogic Tools for Recovery: A Guide for Working the 12 Steps, and/or share it with a loved one in recovery or use it yourself, whether you are the person in recovery from addiction (aka substance use disorder) or the family member who loves them and has experienced your own compromised health, peace of mind and wellness. [Hint: think holiday gift giving idea :)]
Yogic Tools for Recovery Q and A with Author, Kyczy Hawk
Tell us a bit about how you developed such a passionate interest in incorporating a yoga practice into one’s addiction recovery practice
First of all, let me say that I am one of those people who started to practice yoga later in life. Thinking that inflexibility, small range of motion and lack of strength would keep me from a full practice, I discovered, to my delight, that yoga is perfect for me, my body, my abilities and in-abilities. It is also so much more. In the Lotus Yoga Teacher Training (Himalayan Yoga Style) the philosophy of yoga enriched the asana, or poses, for me. I have come to love all the limbs of yoga; it has opened a life long study for me.
I have witnessed the power of yoga and recovery first-hand. As a woman in recovery, I know something about the ravages of addiction. I know what damage can be done to the body, mind and spirit when one’s life is turned over to a substance, a behavior, a destructive way of life. I have experienced the long climb back to wholeness. The discipline of a life in recovery is never over.
I learned about the power of yoga in relapse prevention when I started yoga in my seventeenth year of sobriety.
It began with my own experience of quiet breathing and exploring physical challenge. My work on the mat led me to an enhancement of my spiritual condition.
I progressed in my ability to discern healthy relaxation/tension release from a feeling of boredom or being tired.
In this way I witnessed the effectiveness of yoga in preventing relapse in my mind, body and soul. I found incredible ability to give me the strength I needed to continue my recovery. It was this direct experience that gave me the resolve to focus my life and my love of yoga to helping those who are going through what I went through and becoming a yoga teacher.
You’ve been a yoga teacher for many years – tell us a bit about your life as a teacher
Having taught over 1600 yoga classes to people in recovery, I have experienced first-hand the incredible power of yoga to transform lives. I have amazing students; students who come for physical challenge and investigation… students who come for healing… students who come to learn about the tools that yoga offers them and their wellness path… students who have come to enhance their recovery from addiction and to avoid relapse.
I have been a yoga teacher for several years and my primary focus has been classes designed for people recovering from addictions.
I take my classes to jails, recovery homes, halfway houses and detention centers, helping others find inner guidance and strength through yoga and with each other. I hold classes in studios – Y12SR classes (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery)- combining a recovery meeting with a yoga class.
I have been involved with the Art of Yoga Project and the Niroga Institute – both organizations that work with at-risk youth. I am also a certified Yoga of Recovery (YoR) Counselor available for private consultations and group work.
I recently began to broaden my focus to include training others to share the power of “service” yoga. My sincere hope is that we are able to bring yoga to all treatment centers, after care and offer to it in jails and institutions. Bringing the holistic healing powers of yoga to these venues would be a wonderful thing!
Now about your book – please give readers a brief overview
I’d like to answer this question in snippets, if you don’t mind.
- My book describes an approach to doing the twelve steps of recovery in a new way; using yoga philosophy. This is not for the newly clean or newly abstinent or sober; it is for those who are interested in investigating recovery at a visceral level. This is not a book of poses, but it includes poses. It is not a book of meditations, but it includes meditation. While it is directed at people who are familiar with the twelve steps, there is enough information given that you might discover new aspects of yoga by reading it. It could lead you to yoga; it could lead you to recovery.
- This book describes a process for recovery that invites you to work the steps from the inside out; dropping out of the head and into both the heart and the body.
- Yoga is a system of movements, breath work, and meditation in addition to a philosophical system to discover your true self. The yoga we see in studios and gyms is only the tip of the iceberg; a very small part of the world of yoga. (My first book, Yoga And The Twelve Step Path, delves deeply into this philosophy as it pertains to recovery.) Yoga is an ancient philosophy that describes the impedances to being authentic and outlines a path to finding and living from your true self.
- Very few people who acknowledge they suffer from an addiction, suffer from just one aspect of the disease. We may slip from one behavior or substance to another: also this book is not specifically for alcoholic. We may also have behavioral issues that keep us from being whole. Many of us also suffer from co-addiction. Often a parent will have also been an addict, or have themselves been the child of someone who was an active addict. The adaptive behaviours we develop to survive in a home with addiction has altered the brain and circumstances have trained us in unhealthy coping behaviours. This book is appropriate for family members and friends who are working with their own recovery.
- Robert Birnbaum coined a phrase: that “yoga is a holistic solution to a holistic disease.” I believe he is referring to the writings in AA that state “Alcoholics Anonymous describes alcoholism as a threefold disease. … The alcoholic is viewed as dealing with a physical allergy to alcohol, a mental obsession to keep on drinking and an underlying spiritual malady that means willpower is not enough.” The word YOGA translates often to “union of body, mind and spirit” and so addresses the disease as defined by AA.
- This method of going through the steps of recovery is designed to have you experience the steps in your body. It is what I like to call “Gut recovery”.
- In addiction we learn to distrust ourselves and the messages our bodies give us: we ignore feelings of being hungry, tired, lonely, or ignore it when we are hurt. We have no idea what to do if our past is triggered and invades the present. Even in recovery it can be difficult to discern how we are feeling and to pause to decide what to do with those feelings. This book gives you tools to experience your feelings as they are so that you can choose how to respond. Contemplation, breath work, meditation and poses can all be used to help you determine how you want to be as a person in recovery.
How might readers get in touch with you?
*For reference : What is Addiction? From American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM): Public Policy Statement > Definition of Addiction > Short Definition of Addiction:
Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.