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Natural Awakenings Lehigh Valley

Y12SR: The Yoga of 12-Step Recovery

May 13, 2013 12:01PM ● By Josh Kehler


Since the 1930s, the 12-step based recovery model has been proving itself in the lives of those affected by their own addictive behaviors, or the addictive behaviors of others. Yoga, too, has its own long history as a tool for personal transformation. Both yoga and the 12 steps embody many common principles that work together to clear self-centeredness from our path. By applying the principles of yoga and recovery to our daily affairs, we begin to be guided by a loving and caring power greater than the attitudes, beliefs and actions that fuel our addictive behaviors. From the common ground of these shared principles, Nikki Myers developed Y12SR and began to support others to go back into their communities and hold space for local Y12SR groups.

Y12SR is based on the principle that ‘our issues live in our tissues’, meaning that every ounce of negative emotion—rage or grief or harm—manifests itself in the body. If left there, it can become disease and the fuel for us to abuse drugs, alcohol, food, money, sex, control - whatever an individual reaches for to not feel and not deal. Supporting this principle, the yoga practice begins with the physical body, working to release these long- held tensions. As we find spaciousness in the body, a sense of freedom begins to grow from which we may find the courage and insight to address our unresolved traumas. The yoga practice itself is not being offered as a cure or a panacea, but a very practical and practicable tool that is available to support the work we do off the mat. By taking the time to check in with ourselves on a physical level, we build a path to also recognize what is going on mentally and emotionally. In addition, we begin to build a pause of awareness into our lives. We no longer have to act out upon every thought or feeling that we experience, but instead, are able to choose to respond to ourselves and to the world in a more thoughtful manner. It is a means by which we may feel and deal, so that we may be freed from our old patterns of behavior.

Y12SR differs from a regular yoga class in that we place a strong emphasis on creating a safe and sacred space. We each explicitly invite and evoke the God of our own understanding into the practice as a way to move beyond self-absorption. Each intentionally themed yoga practice is grounded in the 12-steps, and through our practice we seek to understand the principles of each step in both our body and our minds. We also reserve a period of time in which each participant is free to share with the group their struggles and triumphs; their experience, strength and hope. In no way is Y12SR a replacement for traditional 12-step work. It is simply another tool to address the physical, mental and spiritual dis-ease of addiction. Conversely, there is no requirement to be a member of a 12-step fellowship in order to participate. In the past, attendees have been active members of many different 12-step fellowships, as well as those who may simply be struggling with an adverse attitude or belief in their lives. We emphasize creating an open, inclusive and welcoming environment.

Josh Kehler is a yoga teacher, Y12SR facilitator and activist based in the Lehigh Valley. Y12SR at The Yoga Loft is held on the First Friday of every month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit YogaLoftOfBethlehem or 

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