Editor’s Note: Yoga is not intended to be a replacement for your current recovery plan. Instead you can use meditations and yoga for addiction and recovery support. If you are in recovery, please talk with your doctor, counselor, or other professionals about using yoga for addiction/recovery support.
Yogi Bhajan came to America at a time when many young people were immersing themselves in the counter-cultural movement. Trying to find alternate ways of living than what society expected of them, many young hippies developed addictions to drugs as a means of expanding their consciousness. Yogi Bhajan had a strong, forceful message for people who turned to illicit drugs – “All drugs are a rape of the body. They stimulate certain centers not ready to be stimulated. You are not earning it and must eventually pay the debt.” That debt could come in the form of loss of family and friends, health, and possibly even life. Yogi Bhajan taught Kundalini yoga as a means of repairing the damage caused by drug use, and also opening oneself to the possibility of safer, greater, more satisfying “highs” than those caused by drug use.
Although many years later, Yogi Bhajan’s teachings on drugs and addiction are still relevant to many. People use alcohol and other drugs for various reasons – perhaps as a form of escape, as a way to relax or to perk up, or to alter their consciousness in some way. The consequences of addiction are no less real today than when Yogi Bhajan came to the West in the late 1960s. The CDC estimates that there are 80,000 deaths per year attributed to excessive alcohol use, making it the 3rd leading lifestyle related cause of death in the United States. In 2009 there were approximately 2.1 million drug related visits to emergency rooms in America. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, when looking at both licit and illicit drug use (alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs), 1 in 4 deaths is attributable to drug use.
Yoga teacher Tommy Rosen has been outspoken in his use of yoga and meditation as tools to help support addiction recovery. He has shared his own story of recovery, and teaches classes that are a mix of vigorous hatha yoga and Kundalini kriyas. In this video he shares two powerful meditations that can help a person in the process of recovery from addiction,whether to overt things like drugs and alcohol, or more subtle addictions that reside on an emotional or spiritual level.
Another meditation you can practice to help with addictive or compulsive behavior is 31 minutes of Left Nostril Breathing. Breathe slowly and fully, but don’t force the breath. Breathing through the let nostril is calming and cooling, and relates to apana, which is the eliminating and cleansing counterpart to prana.
Several other excellent resources on the theory and practice of Kundalini yoga as it relates to addiction and recover are Sacred Therapies and Meditations for Addictive Behavior. When used in conjunction with your recovery plan, yoga is a wonderful tool to help support those in recovery.