Yoga’s Power Over Addiction
“Mankind is engaged in an eternal quest for that “something else” he hopes will bring him happiness. Complete and unending, for those individual souls who have sought and found God, the search is over. He is that something else.”
– Paramahansa Yogananda
I used to be a full-time personal trainer in the 90’s and would moonlight at night, teaching yoga. I soon realized my yoga students were losing more weight than my personal training clients. More importantly, not only were my yoga students going through a physical metamorphosis, their lives were transforming as well. Their self-esteem was also improving and they had more peace of mind and seemed happier about life in general.
My students have been a real inspiration to me! Here are just a few people who have made major life changes once they caught the yoga bug:
Lauren started taking my yoga class when she was 20 years old, diabetic, and weighed 280 pounds. However, she didn’t let her weight stop her. She was extremely fit, disciplined and STRONG-WILLED, like a bull! She did ashtanga yoga with me daily for one year, sometimes even twice a day, and lost 100 pounds! Her weight loss, combined with her yoga practice, also allowed her to stop taking her diabetes medicine.
During that transformative year, Lauren also became a vegetarian, which greatly contributed to her weight loss. Most importantly, her self -esteem grew leaps and bounds and she gained confidence, on the mat and in her personal life.
Lauren is now married with a baby boy and has several degrees. She never lets fear or perceived limitations get in her way and is always ready and willing to take on life’s challenges.
One of my old students had a major chain-smoking addiction when she began yoga. One night, after an intense yoga class and a deep savasana, she drove her usual 30- minute drive home and realized that she had forgotten to light up, as she always had done in her long rides in her car.
“I made my entire drive home without my usual smoke,” she said. The silence of her deep savasana had registered in her mind and body, so she had no longer felt the need for the nicotine. She felt fulfilled from WITHIN and during her long drive home, she didn’t need her usual nicotine fix, this is the power of Spirit.
“IT’S NEVER TOO LATE”
An 81-year old MD, from my hometown, read an article about the benefits of deep breathing and weight loss. He followed the guidelines in the article and began to sit daily, doing deep breathing 15 minutes a day, in thru the nose and out thru the mouth. Over the course of two years, he went from 250 pounds to 204 pounds. He lost fifty pounds just breathing 15 minutes a day! He also reduced his meat intake to just one or two times a week, because he said his appetite had decreased greatly due to his breathing practice, he just wasn’t very hungry anymore.
I suspect the prana, life force in breath, was fulfilling his appetite, like the story of Giri Bala, told by Paramahansa Yogananda in “Autobiography of a Yogi.” When Yogananda met her, she was 68 and had not eaten nor taken fluids for over 56 years! Chastised as a young girl for her hearty appetite, she prayed to God for help and he provided her Kriya yoga breathing and meditation techniques, which allowed her to sustain her life force for many years, without food and drink, miraculous!
SO WHAT ABOUT YOU AND ME?
The doctor’s weight loss made perfect sense to me, because as he exhaled consciously, he was releasing toxins and ALL that was not serving him. This included self-limiting and addictive thought patterns, emotional blockages and negative life experiences, not just calories. (Releasing childhood memories and a lifetime of resentment and pain, can create a sense of lightness and peace throughout the mind body connection and do wonders for your personal life as well.)
Thru the deep breathing he was aligning his mind with Divine Mind, which is what happens during a yoga class.
Yogic breathing is very powerful, but many of the benefits go unseen to the human eye, because there is so much going on behind the scenes of the physical body, when we practice yoga. This is due to the magic of Spirit!
I was once addicted to exercise, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, cigs and shopping, thank goodness, not all at once, oh my. I was attempting to fulfill feelings of unworthiness with external substances. As Emmylou Harris sings so poignantly in one of her songs, “Addictions hold on tight like a glove.” This is the perfect way to describe how our addictions hold on to our minds, like a vise grip. I’m grateful to say, yoga and mediation have liberated me from the above addictions, by shifting my consciousness about the way I perceive my myself and my life. God has healed my mind, bottom line, which has helped me heal my life.
There’s a saying in yoga, “Your bad habits will lose you.” How do we work on our bad habits losing us? My Ashtanga yoga teacher, Tim Miller, once said, “Every time you breathe you are doing a dance with Spirit.” During yoga, you are infusing your mind, body and life, with higher consciousness from God/The Universe. This heals your thought patterns, especially about addictions, self-worth and body perception. Addictions begin in the mind not the body. Do our lungs really want another cigarette? Do our livers really want more alcohol? Do our arteries want more meat in them? No, our minds want these things, not our physical bodies.
With daily time spent in the silence of a quiet mind, you will begin to see yourself as God sees you, as divine perfection. Your need to self destruct will begin to lose it’s power over you and you will begin to treat yourself in a more loving and healthy manner.
Weight loss mogul, Jenny Craig, has been quoted as saying, “Self love is the best form of weight loss.” Yoga’s greatest gift is that it helps you to love and accept yourself, as you are in the moment, not when you lose 10 lbs, get married, or get a new job. This kind of self- love cannot be found on a Stairmaster. It can be found through conscious breathing, yoga postures and time spent in silence with God in meditation, filling the internal void with Divine love, not addictions. You are worthy.