Celeste Mendelsohn

Yoga Brings Balance For People in Recovery

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bilal-treatingtraumawithyoga

Yoga Brings Balance For People in Recovery

Hatha Yoga, the most popular and well-known style of yoga, has its beginnings in India with the Hindu tradition. The word “Hatha” comes from two Sanskrit words: Ha, meaning the Moon, and Tha, meaning the Sun. The word “Yoga” also has an entwined meaning here. “Yoga” is generally thought to be derived from the Sanskrit for “Union.” Hence, Hatha Yoga is the union or balance of the Moon and Sun nature in people, or the cool with the fire. This balance is desirable for all but is especially helpful with PTSD, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) as our natures conflict and cause imbalance within the body. That imbalance and discomfort is what people with PTSD, C-PTSD and SUD seek to medicate and avoid with drugs and alcohol, food, sex, love, Internet, gambling, etc.

Kundalini Yoga Was Introduced as a Therapy for Substance Use Disorder (SUD), aka Addiction

There are many offshoots of Hatha; Tantra, Viniyoga, Anusara, Iyengar, Power Yoga, Bikram, and Sivananda are a few of the most popular. Kundalini Yoga is an exception; its lineage traces its roots to Tantra, which is a Hatha Yoga style, but Kundalini practice went in different directions from Hatha.

Kundalini was introduced to the U.S. by Yogi Bajan as a therapy for the Western culture of overwork and stress. According to him, overwork and stress caused mental dysfunction and addiction became a way to cope with the dysfunctions in our lives. Kundalini is a valuable tool in the toolbox, and its Kriyas (posture and breath) and Pranayama (breath) practices are incredibly helpful when used with knowledge and awareness.

That said, I believe that Hatha is more accessible for students new to recovery. At this stage, the body is untrained and not strong, making participants more susceptible to injury. Also, the repetition of many of the Kriyas is reminiscent of calisthenics and does not induce the meditative, inward focus that I have found to be so helpful to people in recovery from SUD.

I teach Hatha-based classes, however, once students have moved on from detox (where I prefer to teach Restorative I encourage the exploration of different techniques and styles of yoga, including Kundalini.