(Originally published at 3HO.org)

Trauma and addiction are increasingly popular topics that continue to gain momentum as the spotlight now shines on America’s growing opioid epidemic. We have become a quick-fix society with a multitude of avenues to avoid discomfort and temporarily escape from suffering.

In fact, it is easy to distract ourselves and many of us will go to great lengths to avoid being present with what is. The complex relationship between trauma and the pain that seeds addiction calls for a multi-dimensional solution, thereby creating a space for the transformational power of the yoga of awareness.

Kundalini Yoga and Meditation does not mask the pain, rather it allows a person to experience the pain and actively participate in a powerful healing process. If we are to resolve our addictions and experience true peace, we must first uncover, explore, and release the underlying pain and trauma.

“The question is never, why the addiction? But, why the pain?” 
-Gabor Mate

Let me begin by clarifying what it is we are talking about. According to Yogi Bhajan, when our habits become self-defeating, they qualify as addictions. In Beyond Addiction: The Yogic Path to Recovery, we are referring to “any pattern of behavior that you crave, and find some temporary relief or pleasure in, but are unable to give up despite the negative long term consequence.”

This means we are having a conversation about much more than drugs and alcohol. There are countless ways in which the individual who is suffering may turn to external sources in search of relief such as social media, compulsive shopping, destructive relationships, sex, sugar, workaholism, fantasizing, and gambling.

Trauma is a common experience including and not limited to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), meaning that any person who has experienced prolonged or multiple distressing or painful events qualifies, regardless of whether or not the individual meets the criteria for PTSD.

For example, a child who was bullied by his peers, pre-verbal witnessing of domestic violence or neglect, physical abuse at the hands of a partner, abandonment, and invalidation all leave a painful imprint. The traumas, stored in the body and left untreated, can be devastating. In addition to psychological and relational consequences including depression, anxiety, and attachment issues, the physical damage is remarkable.

For example, organ health (including optimal brain functioning) is compromised and hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances are observed in individuals with sustained stress and trauma, not to mention the damage that chronic substance abuse adds to the mix. Specifically, the sympathetic nervous system is often in a state of hyper-arousal and the parasympathetic nervous system is under-active. This translates in the following ways: accelerated heart rate and increased blood pressure, disturbed sleep, sluggish digestion, a compromised immune system, an abundance of cortisol—the “stress hormone” flooding the brain with an eventual crash known as adrenal fatigue.

Kundalini Yoga and Meditation works on many levels to eventually bring relief to those who practice. The physical stretching begins to open the body and breathing moves the suppressed emotions and stuck energy so that it can be circulated, transformed, and released. Postures build resilience and meditation creates a space for the calming effects of the parasympathetic nervous system to dominate, as the glandular system re-sets.

Our practice creates the space to heal and let go of what is no longer serving our highest and best, and what is most likely interfering with our ability to experience true freedom and a life beyond our wildest dreams.

“Love yourself. Love your soul and let go of the past. Past pain is keeping you in pain.” 
-Yogi Bhajan

If the root cause of addiction is indeed trauma, is it then possible to heal addiction? This is a question I have been sitting with and actively exploring personally and professionally. My answer is a resounding and triumphant, yes! It is possible to move beyond addiction, to move beyond the pain and trauma of our past and experience a life of freedom from addiction. Kundalini Yoga and Meditation is a powerful, transformational technology that will deliver us from the darkness to the light.


Dr. Wendy Harris created this online workshop, Overcoming Addiction, to help you develop a deeper understanding of addiction and learn tools to support the journey to recovery.

Dr. Wendy teaches Kundalini Yoga the same way she practices it; with compassion, highest commitment, expansive love, deeply rooted conviction, and pure grace. Through the yogic technology of Kundalini, she has given me tools to use on and off the mat that have strengthened and intensified my recovery from a decades-long eating disorder, and helped me prevent relapse. Through the kriya and breath-work I’ve learned from Dr. Wendy, I have leveled-up my ability to manage triggers, distress, anxiety, and negative self-talk. I credit her with her supportive, knowledgeable, fearless teaching for giving me a new, workable foundation, and deepening my spiritual practice.–   Katie P.


 

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