The day after I flew back from my 200-hour Teacher Training & Intensive program at Devanadi School for Yoga and Wellness in Minneapolis, I began orientation with Root to Rise NJ, a non-profit organization whose mission is: “to break the stigma associated with addiction by pushing the limits of what is physically and mentally possible.” In the three weeks since, I have gone from metaphorically dipping my toes into the organization’s warm, oceanic waters to diving in waist-deep.
Some of the volunteer work so far has consisted brainstorming around conference tables and coffee shops, ironing out all the details about upcoming community events. (Click https://www.instagram.com/p/BJfqFn8jEHE/?taken-by=root_to_rise for an illustration!) Other activities have included contributing my unique talents (e.g., photography) to the cause. I attended one of the organization’s fundraising events one weekend, Nikon in tow, and captured a few key moments from a Saturday morning class. Other volunteers helped distribute these images online via social media in order to promote the organization.
Last week, I drove 20 miles an inpatient addiction recovery center in rural NJ, where Root to Rise volunteers teach yoga to individuals in treatment. On that night, we were in the adolescent unit. The setting was about as far from the standard yoga studio setting as one could get. Here, the floors were covered in old linoleum, the yoga mats and props had all been donated and weren’t in the best condition, and the lighting was standard industrial fluorescent overheads. The dozen or so youths in class, all aged 13 to 18, seemed to enjoy the break from their usual routine. There was laughter and some banter during yoga instruction, but on the whole, the kids seemed to authentically enjoy themselves.
I didn’t teach that night. Rather, I observed Amy – i.e., the organization’s founder and head teacher – in order to get a feel for her style and rapport, so that I might one day teach a class in a similar vein. I particularly loved her adaptation of defining “Namaste,” which we all recited together at the end of class. Amy defined it as: “the light and dark aspects within me salute the light and dark aspects within you.” This struck me as appropriate on many levels. For one thing, it was a much more linguistically inclusive definition in a racially diverse group. For another, it acknowledged the duality of life itself. Inpatient recovery is a dark time for many trying to overcome their vices. However, it is a path that – if followed diligently and with faith – leads to brighter days ahead. So much the better if yoga is a part of that path.
I’m truly grateful to be a part of the Root to Rise community. Not only is it an amazing way to network with local yogis and yoginis here on the Jersey Shore, but I deeply resonate with the idea of bringing yoga as a tool for mind/body awareness into the arena of addiction recovery.