Stretching through the trauma of addiction

Local yoga instructor Nikki Myers co-founded the Yoga of 12-Step Recovery in 2004 as a quarterly program at CITYOGA. Today, classes are held in 13 states — and in Indy three days a week.

Stretching through the trauma of addiction

Grown in Midtown Indy, the Yoga of 12-Step Recovery is now

practiced from coast to coast


Through her personal addiction recovery experiences, Indy

native Nikki Myers discovered a lot of common ground with other addicts —

even if they didn't share the same object of fixation.

"Under any manifestation of addiction, there is some

trauma," Myers said in a recent interview. "Not necessarily shock

trauma, but, from an ayurvedic

perspective, anything unresolved or undigested that is just hanging out."

On her own journey, traditional 12-step work — which

involves an ongoing process of spiritual awakening, rigorous personal honesty

and a commitment to help others who are still suffering — anchored her

recovery. Over the years, Myers, who founded the CITYOGA School of Yoga and

Health in 2002, began drawing parallels between the principles she practiced in

her 12-step program and the lessons of self discovery that were manifest

on her yoga mat.

"In many ways, addiction is self-medicating, a way to

cover over core pain, to do something to avoid it or get distracted — an

artificial attempt to bring balance into a system that's in disregulation,"

Myers said.

""The issues live in our tissues," she often

reminds her students.

Working to re-align a person's body, mind, emotions, character

and spiritual heart supports whole-person healing that can enhance, but not

supplant the work accomplished with traditional recovery programs, she


She began the first Yoga of 12-Step Recovery program in 2004


"We started out once a quarter, then monthly, then

every two weeks, then weekly, then people from all over Midwest started

coming," Myers said. "That's when we developed the leadership training

— how you do this safely and hold that space. ... At the last training I

had women from Canada."

Today, almost 300 people have completed Y12SR leadership

training, guiding meetings in 13 states. In Indy, teachers hold

Y12SR meetings three nights a week in different locations, including an open

class at the Fairbanks Recovery Center. [See info box.]

The concept of using yoga for spiritual recovery is not a

new concept, Myers said, but Y12SR forged new ground by pairing a yoga class

with a 12-step meeting that unites addicts of all flavors (alcohol, drugs

— prescription and street — sex, food, gambling, etc.) and people

who suffer from the addictive behavior of others. After about an hour of

discussion on recovery-related issues, the group unrolls its yoga mats for a

themed yoga practice.

"This system is looking for homeostasis; the problem is

homeostasis isn't static," Myers said. "That's why we do these body-centered

practices, because I can know at a level of sensation when I'm in it — but

I can't get tricked into thinking what was homeostasis last week or year will represent

homeostasis today."

The class is designed to "hold space" for people

to experience and work through emotions that may have them trapped in unhealthy


"In yoga feelings are energy and they want to

move," Myers said. "It's only when they grasp me and I want to hold

and carry them that I run into problems ... Whatever the feeling, we do not shame

it or try to shut it down."

Y12SR is not a replacement for 12-step meetings or working

through the steps with the assistance of a program sponsor, Myers tells people

attending her donation-based classes. It simply adds "another tool to the

toolbox" people can use to negate the damaging — and often deadly

—direction of what she calls the "dis-ease"

of addictive thinking.

"Addiction is a fact of life, but it doesn't have to be

a life sentence," Myers said. "There is resilience in the human

system when we're open and willing to have it happen."

After praying to "no longer play small in the

world," Myers said, "this is the answer that has been revealed."

Noting that she feels "humble, grateful and absolutely blown away" by

the growth of the Y12SR program, she added, "at the same time, I'm just

inspired to do everything I can. It's real clear there's something going on

here that's a whole lot bigger than me — and there is a healing involved

in this coupleship. This is my dharma, clearly my

life's work. If I had to go through the hell I went through to get to this, I'm

ok with that today."