Stretching through the trauma of addiction 

Local yoga instructor Nikki Myers co-founded the Yoga of 12-Step Recovery in 2004 as a quarterly program at CITYOGA. Today, classes are held in 13 states — and in Indy three days a week. - ADAM STURM
  • Local yoga instructor Nikki Myers co-founded the Yoga of 12-Step Recovery in 2004 as a quarterly program at CITYOGA. Today, classes are held in 13 states — and in Indy three days a week.
  • Adam Sturm


Stretching through the trauma of addiction

Grown in Midtown Indy, the Yoga of 12-Step Recovery is now practiced from coast to coast

BY REBECCA TOWNSEND

Through her personal addiction recovery experiences, Indy native Nikki Myers discovered a lot of common ground with other addicts — even if they didn't share the same object of fixation.

"Under any manifestation of addiction, there is some trauma," Myers said in a recent interview. "Not necessarily shock trauma, but, from an ayurvedic perspective, anything unresolved or undigested that is just hanging out."

On her own journey, traditional 12-step work — which involves an ongoing process of spiritual awakening, rigorous personal honesty and a commitment to help others who are still suffering — anchored her recovery. Over the years, Myers, who founded the CITYOGA School of Yoga and Health in 2002, began drawing parallels between the principles she practiced in her 12-step program and the lessons of self discovery that were manifest on her yoga mat.

"In many ways, addiction is self-medicating, a way to cover over core pain, to do something to avoid it or get distracted — an artificial attempt to bring balance into a system that's in disregulation," Myers said.

""The issues live in our tissues," she often reminds her students.

Working to re-align a person's body, mind, emotions, character and spiritual heart supports whole-person healing that can enhance, but not supplant the work accomplished with traditional recovery programs, she explained.

She began the first Yoga of 12-Step Recovery program in 2004 at CITYOGA.

"We started out once a quarter, then monthly, then every two weeks, then weekly, then people from all over Midwest started coming," Myers said. "That's when we developed the leadership training — how you do this safely and hold that space. ... At the last training I had women from Canada."

Today, almost 300 people have completed Y12SR leadership training, guiding meetings in 13 states. In Indy, teachers hold Y12SR meetings three nights a week in different locations, including an open class at the Fairbanks Recovery Center. [See info box.]

The concept of using yoga for spiritual recovery is not a new concept, Myers said, but Y12SR forged new ground by pairing a yoga class with a 12-step meeting that unites addicts of all flavors (alcohol, drugs — prescription and street — sex, food, gambling, etc.) and people who suffer from the addictive behavior of others. After about an hour of discussion on recovery-related issues, the group unrolls its yoga mats for a themed yoga practice.

"This system is looking for homeostasis; the problem is homeostasis isn't static," Myers said. "That's why we do these body-centered practices, because I can know at a level of sensation when I'm in it — but I can't get tricked into thinking what was homeostasis last week or year will represent homeostasis today."

The class is designed to "hold space" for people to experience and work through emotions that may have them trapped in unhealthy patterns.

"In yoga feelings are energy and they want to move," Myers said. "It's only when they grasp me and I want to hold and carry them that I run into problems ... Whatever the feeling, we do not shame it or try to shut it down."

Y12SR is not a replacement for 12-step meetings or working through the steps with the assistance of a program sponsor, Myers tells people attending her donation-based classes. It simply adds "another tool to the toolbox" people can use to negate the damaging — and often deadly —direction of what she calls the "dis-ease" of addictive thinking.

"Addiction is a fact of life, but it doesn't have to be a life sentence," Myers said. "There is resilience in the human system when we're open and willing to have it happen."

After praying to "no longer play small in the world," Myers said, "this is the answer that has been revealed." Noting that she feels "humble, grateful and absolutely blown away" by the growth of the Y12SR program, she added, "at the same time, I'm just inspired to do everything I can. It's real clear there's something going on here that's a whole lot bigger than me — and there is a healing involved in this coupleship. This is my dharma, clearly my life's work. If I had to go through the hell I went through to get to this, I'm ok with that today."

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