Resilience & the Yoga of Recovery

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Nikki Myers, founder of Yoga of 12-Step Recovery, shares some ways to build resiliency, one of the most powerful tools for finding health and balance in recovery.

By Nikki Myers

After her struggle with addiction, Nikki Myers founded Yoga of 12-Step Recovery (Y12SR), a relapse-prevention program that integrates yoga with the tools of 12-step programs.

Myers says that addictive behaviors can disconnect and separate you—from yourself, your loved ones, and your environment. In Sanskrit yoga means "union" and the practice can help restore balance and wholeness, especially for those in recovery.

Omega: What does resilience mean to you?

Nikki: Resilience is the process that enables us to tap into our innate capacity to heal.

Several years ago one of my teachers, Peter Levine, coined the terms “trauma vortex” and “healing vortex.” The healing vortex refers to our inner resiliency, or the ability to draw on deep inner resources to heal from a trauma, setback, or challenge.

Omega: How can yoga help those in recovery and particularly those who have relapsed?

Nikki: Yoga Sutra 2:16 says Heyam Duhkham Anagatam, which means “suffering that has not yet come can be avoided."

Yoga can help someone in addiction recovery to recognize the signs of relapse at the level of feeling and sensation in the body. It gives them a set of tools and practices that help restore balance, before the relapse. When combined with a cognitive approach, like a 12-step program, it can help a person to find nervous system regulation in sustainable, nondestructive ways rather than destructive ones.

Omega: What tools do you turn to when you feel challenged?

Nikki: My 3 go-to tools are: 

1. Breath and grounding: Focus on the breath brings me back to the present moment and grounding connects me back to Mother Earth.

2. The serenity prayer: This prayer helps me acknowledge what’s outside my control and what’s within my control in any moment. Recognizing this helps me to find the balance between acceptance and change.

3. Tonglen meditation: This practice is a way to connect with suffering (my own or someone else’s) rather than following my old pattern of running from it.