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What is Yoga of Twelve Step Recovery (Y12SR)?

beginners meditation breath step eleven yoga and twelve step recovery yoga practice Aug 16, 2022

What is Yoga of Twelve Step Recovery (Y12SR)?

Yoga of Twelve Step Recovery is a method coined by Nikki Myers. In order to lead Y12SR meetings, one may become a certified Y12SR space holder by attending Nikki’s two day leadership training. In the training, Nikki outlines many of the intersections between yogic philosophy and twelve step recovery tools. As a certified space holder you will receive a meeting script and different resources to facilitate a Y12SR meeting. Y12SR is not yoga teacher training. You will not leave the training as a certified teacher, but you will be qualified to lead a meeting. If you are not a certified teacher, you are encouraged to find one who can teach the class, while the Y12SR space holder can chair the meeting. A signature of Y12SR is the guided breath after each share. There is a volunteer meeting breath guide who says,“let’s root and ground and take a deep breath with…” and names the person who just shared. 

I attended Y12SR training with Nikki Myers in March of 2021. It was a life changing experience as I was truly ready for someone to lay the groundwork for weaving yoga and twelve step recovery together. At the time, I had a dedicated yoga practice and twelve step program and was deeply relieved to hear someone point out many of the intersections I had been experiencing all along. Nikki gave me a framework, and language to acknowledge the deeply shared wisdom of these two spiritual paths. I was so relieved!

All along I was hearing yogic wisdom that sounded a lot like what I was reading in Al-anon literature. We talk about detachment, truthfulness, prayer and meditation, practicing principles in all of our affairs! It was blowing my mind to hear so many similarities being spoken in the meeting and on the mat. When I took Y12SR training, someone finally gave me the permission I needed to integrate these spiritual paths.

The Twelve Steps of Alanon give me a wonderful structure to my life. I run my everyday life through the steps and it’s how I manage my shit. I do what the program tells me: I read literature daily, attend meetings, have a sponsor, I sponsor others, and I participate in service to my group. This is what the program asks me to do in order to recover.

Yoga gives me the tools to keep my shit together and live life in this body. My body is also in recovery because 100% of my experiences happen through my body. When my body feels jacked, so does my mind and vice versa. Think about the last time you were in physical pain and the thoughts that move through your mind while you’re experiencing it. Life in a body is hard. Our experiences can become “stuck” in the body. Physical practices help us move energy through the body, which can definitely be painful, especially if we haven’t moved in awhile. Practices like yoga and meditation can help us become more in tune and able to listen to what our body needs.

When I first started practicing yoga, I had no idea what the fuck any of that meant. What do you mean listen to what my body needs? That was a truly foreign concept to me. I had no way of understanding what the yoga teacher meant by that at the time. However, as I continued to practice, I understood how important breath awareness is. When I started developing a relationship with my breath, my entire world started to change. I recognized that what my body needed was often detectable by the sound, pace, and rhythm of my breathing. The more yoga I practiced, the more I became in tune to the importance of this relationship. What my body really needs is ample amounts of breath.

Connecting with the breath and physical senses has been a powerful way to learn about myself on the yoga mat. When I started to combine physical self knowledge with mental, emotional, and spiritual knowledge, my whole world changed. Step eleven of the twelve steps says “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God…” For me, conscious contact with God, looks like a connection with my breath and the present moment. Higher Power can only be experienced in the present moment. We don’t experience HP in the past or in the future, we experience HP right now! It is through practices that demand my presence in the moment that I connect with flow and ultimately tap into a power greater than myself.

I encourage people to find a physical practice they enjoy. I also enjoy brisk walks. Lately, I don't listen to anything while I walk, no podcasts or music. I take in my surroundings with all of my senses and I focus on the sensations of my body and the rhythm of my breath. When all of my senses are engaged, I feel connected to myself and the world around me. Recently, I went on a long walk through my neighborhood and experienced some funny little moments with other people. I passed a mother with three young boys, and all three of them were chanting about a “poopy diaper.” As I passed them, we had a good little laugh together and for a moment I felt connected.

It’s been said that the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection. One of the magical parts of a twelve step program is going to meetings and connecting with other people who struggle too. We listen for the experience, strength, and hope of our fellows who share our common problems. When we attend yoga class, we are in connection with the teacher and the other students. Gathering is an important part of how we heal ourselves.

In Yoga of Twelve Step Recovery we believe that the “issues live in our tissues.” Through our themed yoga practice, guided by our breath, we can begin to release whatever is held. Learning to release tension in the body is part of how we recover. Learning to let go, surrender, and admit our powerlessness are experiences we have in our body. Yoga of Twelve Step Recovery is an opportunity to try on the embodiment of these principles and have a somatic experience of healing.  

I invite you to try a Yoga of 12 Step Recovery Meeting with me. You can attend virtually or in-person with me if you live in Portland. Here is a link to check out the schedule.

I have a weekly podcast called Luminous Recovery Yoga Podcast. This podcast is an exploration of the intersections between yoga and twelve step recovery. If you’re curious about a Y12SR meeting, this podcast serves as a “mini meeting.” Every episode includes an honest share from my experience, strength, and hope on a topic, and a gentle yoga practice. Enjoy these resources and please let me know what you think.

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