Rahasya and Dhara’s story from The Orion.
Yoga, meditation help tame addiction and
Jennifer Olinger Staff Writer April 28, 2004
Yoga, among other non-Western practices, can be tailored to help with the physiological and emotional aspects of addiction. Regardless of whether the addictive substance is legal or not, as harmless as coffee or as hardcore as heroine, treatments that work on a spiritual level, as opposed to a chemical one, are slowly becoming mainstream. “Personally, I think that even if it’s not a problem yet, now is the time to start things like yoga, before weight starts to become an issue,” said junior Celine Pettyjohn. She said her tendency toward comfort foods in times of stress has been reduced. “Because I’m in yoga and I’ve learned to do breathing control, I don’t eat chocolate as much,” Pettyjohn said. She said she plans to take a yoga class next semester as well. Chico State yoga instructor Annalisa Cunningham has paired yoga with affirmations and incorporated it into the 12-step program. She said that being aware of the body’s signals is key. “Fatigue is one of our bodies’ first warning signs that we are out of balance in our lives,” Cunningham said in her book on the topic. “There are many ways to ignore the body’s signals, but in the long run we are only doing harm to ourselves.” She promotes breathing, stretching and journal writing as means of dealing with demanding situations. “Those of us who don’t take time out for self-nurturing are more likely to relapse into self-destructive behavior due to stress,” Cunningham said. Cunningham points out that yoga is most effective as part of a healthful lifestyle. “My system of healing addiction with yoga is to be used in addition to the 12-step program and recovery counseling,” Cunningham said. “I would never say that yoga cures. I wouldn’t be that presumptuous.” Holistic therapy can attain good results. It can be preventative as well as therapeutic. “Because addiction is such a complex problem, it needs a treatment that can work on all of the issues,” said Lisa Hill, a Chico acupuncturist who has been practicing for 17 years.
She said acupuncture, used in conjunction with other holistic therapies, such as yoga and meditation, can fight addictions less invasively and with a higher success rate than traditional Western medicine can claim. “It’s sort of the anchor that all the other therapies work around,” Hill said. She said addiction tends to creep up on college students. “Most students don’t think their drug use is particularly life diminishing,” Hill said. Patients who had the thin needles placed in five or six strategic location in the cartilage of their outer ears spoke of a calming sensation that negated the need to feed their addiction. Meditative dance can also be used to deal with the emotions that people sometimes wish to suppress with a substance. Dhara Lemos has practiced and instructed dance meditation for more than 20 years. Her husband, Rahasya Poe, co-authored a book with her about the spiritual laws of healing. “It’s deceptively simple,” Poe said. “It all starts on the energy level.”
Dance meditation works by acting on emotions instead of just indirectly talking about them or ignoring them altogether. “Non-directive, or talking therapy, can work but it takes years and years and years,” Poe said. “You can’t do that with serious addiction because you might not even have days.” He said that meditations help prevent relapses because they negate the effects of peer pressure. “It makes you less dependent on what other people think of you or want you to do,” Poe said. He said it is important to get over the fear of self-expression. Lemos said she agrees. “Something happens to you when you allow yourself to express your emotions,” Lemos said. “I don’t want to be dependent on something to make me feel happy. Meditation gives me that.” Jennifer Olinger