MANCHESTER >> When Gov. Peter Shumlin made the state's heroin addiction problem the centerpiece of his "state of the state" message to the legislature in 2014, he drew both praise and criticism. Since then, remedies ranging from tougher law enforcement to more treatment options for those in search of breaking free from their addiction have been discussed and reviewed.
Enter a new option that may or may not have been part of the Governor's thinking when he addressed lawmakers on the heroin issue in the statehouse last year — yoga.
This weekend, Nikki Myers, a yoga teacher and leader in the yoga of 12-step recovery will be conducting a workshop at the Heart of the Village yoga studio on employing the techniques of the process to inform yoga teachers, along with therapists, counselors and anyone else who may have an interest in using yoga in a recovery program.
"What we look to do is connect all the dots ... and have them serve as the basis of a sustainable recovery," she said, adding that she was aware that Vermont, like many other states, was struggling with a heroin and opiate addiction problem.
"I'm hopeful we can do some things and get people equipped and prepared to help address this epidemic," she said.
Myers is herself a recovering addict and alcoholic, as well as a grandmother and business person, she said. Her primary goal is to equip other yoga practicioners and counselors to merge the precepts of the yoga with the classic 12-step recovery approach popularized by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 steps include admitting an individual has a problem and understanding that alone, they are powerless over their addiction.
The original 12 steps also have a local tie. They were developed in part by Bill Wilson, one of the founders of AA, who was a former resident of East Dorset. His former home is now a lodging establishment which often serves as the site for persons in recovery can attend sessions or seminars on coping with addiction.
Myers is a yoga teacher who is steeped in the "y12sr" program — shorthand for the yoga of 12 step recovery. Founded in 2012, The Y12SR Foundation is a program of Off the Mat, Into the World. The mission is to empower the lives of individuals and families affected by substance and behavioral addictions with relapse prevention practices that enhance physical, mental and spiritual well-being, according to their website.
Since yoga practice involves finding a "union," it is potenntialy a useful tool to overcome the seperation many addicts feel as a result of their addiction — a seperation from their friends, family, work, life goals and ultimately themselves, the y12sr website goes on to state.
Myers hopes to work with those interested in the intersection of yoga and 12 step recovery to release the "issues in our tissues," she said.
"A big part is to help create space between an action or a response to change — our pathway to keep from going back towards behavior that no longer serves us," she said.
Instead, someone motivated to seek a recovery pathway can make a different choice from what might have have seemed natural or automatic previously, such as reaching for a drink or a drug, she said.
"We create these little tools — simple tools that involve breathing or breathwork or what we do with meditation," she said. "We do that so when things come up in our lives, we have these tools that will help us make a different decision."
Jo Kirsch, one of the co-founders of Heart of the Village, where the weekend workshop will be held, is herself certified in the y12sr process and attended a workshop offered by Myers last February. She has wanted to bring the session here since then, she said, aware of the prevalence of addiction issues around Vermont and the region.
Yoga is about learning to pay attention to what's happening in the present moment, and the awareness that people develop through its practice helps people let go of stress, she said.
"Sometimes we reach for things to try and make us feel better and they're placeboes, so we get addicted to whatever it is," she said. "If we can pause, take a deep breath and pay attention to the present moment, in that moment the mind quiets itself."
There are still openings for the weekend workshop, which begins Friday evening on Oct. 16 and runs through until Sunday, Oct. 18. For more information visit heartofthevillageyoga.com.