Beyond Addiction: A Yogic Path to Recovery

Sat Dharam Kaur & Dr Gabor Maté

Sat Dharam Kaur & Dr Gabor Maté

Addiction is displaced longing – we all have a longing to be “at home” with ourselves, comfortable in our own skin, and to be loved. Often because of early childhood stress or abuse, lack of safety, or unmet developmental needs, we look to satisfy that longing in other places. Those other places can take the shape of a daily Starbucks coffee, a cigarette, a glass of wine every night before dinner, a closet full of shoes, marijuana a few times a week, checking Facebook every hour, a string of unfulfilling relationships, or the need to be constantly pushing for success. There are so many ways it expresses itself.

We can do this for decades before realizing that what we are really looking for is unattainable from external sources. It all comes back to acknowledging the pain, hurt, discomfort, or emptiness we’ve been carrying, then developing the capacity to give ourselves the love, time, and space we crave from other sources, and opening to receive that love and support from those who can provide it to us.

Dr. Marc Lewis, author of The Addicted Brain, says it this way: “Addiction is a neural mistake, a distortion, an attempted shortcut to get more of what you need by condensing ‘what you need’ into a single, monolithic symbol. The drug (or other substance) stands for a cluster of needs: in my case, needs for warmth, safety, freedom, and self-sufficiency. Then it becomes too valuable, and you cannot live without it. But one thing cannot be all things. And that’s why, in the long run, addictions do such a lousy job of fulfilling needs – if they fulfill them at all. At the same time, many addictions, and certainly addictions to drugs, dash real opportunities to fulfill those needs elsewhere. That’s why addictions are such a poor bargain.”

From a yogic perspective, we are all addicted to our finite identity, the egoic personality, the known small self. We attach to this as “me.” But at some point in one’s yoga journey, the awareness comes that we are so much more than that. The practice of yoga and meditation can reveal to us that we are all connected as One Being, existing in a sea of universal energy, responding with our finite selves to the great creative consciousness as it flows through us, informs us and connects us. When the small egoic self experiences separation from the larger creative consciousness (existing within and externally), it sends a spiritual distress signal seeking a replacement for that connection. This can manifest as any addictive substance or behaviour.

Over the last five years, I have been developing and teaching a Kundalini Yoga-based recovery program called “Beyond Addiction: The Yogic Path to Recovery”.

Early in 2012, I had the good fortune to teach the four-weekend program in Vancouver in concert with Dr. Gabor Maté, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. I learned so much from him about addiction, compassion, and the human condition. It has been remarkable and gratifying to see people transform, experience their spiritual identity, and gently release the emotional patterns that kept them addicted to an unhealthy behaviour or substance.

The program includes dietary and nutritional guidelines to balance brain chemistry and glandular function; yoga and meditation practices to cultivate relaxation, awareness, concentration, spiritual awakening, and inner strength; and a safe, loving group environment to support personal healing and transformation. The program is open to anyone interested in re-routing unhealthy habits, as well as health professionals, social workers, educators, people in recovery, and yoga teachers. We are also training Kundalini Yoga teachers to be able to facilitate the program. If you would like it offered in your workplace or centre, please let us know.

The Beyond Addiction program includes specific guidelines for a variety of addictions. Here are some of the recommendations for those of you ready to replace smoking with positive health and energy.

Beyond Addiction Program for Smoking Cessation

  1. Practice Sitali breathing – curl your tongue into a “U” and extend it out beyond the lips like a straw. If you are unable to curl your tongue, make your mouth into a beak and place the tongue close to the lips. Inhale slowly through the curled tongue or mouth; exhale slowly through the nose. Sit quietly and practise this breathing for five minutes every morning and five minutes every evening before bed. Also practise 10 long breaths using this technique every time you have an urge to smoke, and make a commitment to yourself that you will do 10 of these breaths before you smoke. Often the urge will pass once you do the breathing.
  2. Practice the Kundalini Yoga set called Preparatory Exercise for Lungs, Magnetic Field and Deep Meditation every day for 40 days (see http://bit.ly/RZiWfj). If you are able, practise it at the same time each day to develop a positive habit.
  3. Practise 11 minutes of “Breath of Fire” with your arms up at a 60 degree angle, shoulders back, your fingers curled in to the palm but thumbs up straight. This exercise is called “ego eradicator.” Pick a time of day when in the past you would have had a cigarette. Start with one to three minutes and slowly build up to 11 minutes a day. This will help to detoxify your lungs and bring renewed energy. You can find a demonstration of “Breath of Fire” here: http://bit.ly/RZiT2Q

Recommended Supplements to Help Stop Smoking:

  • 1000 mg vitamin C, five times daily (start at two times daily and slowly increase to prevent loose stools). This will help to decrease cravings and balance the adrenal glands;
  • B complex 100 mg daily to support your nervous system;
  • B5 (pantothenic acid), 500 mg three times daily, to support your adrenal glands;
  • Magnesium Taurate, 400 mg before bed, to support relaxation;
  • Stress Tincture by St Francis Herbs, 50 drops before breakfast and lunch, to support the adrenal glands (do not use of you have high blood pressure);
  • 200 mcg chromium picolinate with breakfast and lunch to balance blood sugar
  • L-tyrosine, 500 mg daily to support the adrenal glands, thyroid, and dopamine production;
  • Drink licorice root tea twice daily to support the adrenal glands (avoid if you have high blood pressure).

Dietary Recommendations

  • Eat protein with each meal (hemp, quinoa, hummus, beans, organic tofu) and have a few almonds between meals. Minimize or avoid sugar.
  • Eat eight servings of fruits and vegetables daily, enjoying a salad or steamed vegetables with lunch and dinner and several fruits as snacks through the day.
  • If you are able, drink a blend of carrot, celery, beet, kale, spinach and ginger juice – three eight-ounce glasses daily
  • Keep a journal, recording your emotional state (just acknowledge it) as you go through this. Set a goal of 40 days of practice to be completely free of your addiction to cigarettes.

Let me know how you do!

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