A Yogic Way to Understand Addiction, and Be of Service

At the spiritual level, Yoga regards us as eternal beings of divine origin, unbound by time, space or condition.  On the physical level, we are subject to universal cycles of creation, sustaining, and destruction.  Our essential, spiritual nature is thus contrasted by the rawness and fragility of life.  

Yoga is both a self-activating medicine for the human condition, and a ticket home (OM) to our divine roots.

Through practices that have been handed down for thousands of years, we align the body, mind and breath (or spirit) with the universal energy from whence we came.  It's the journey of a lifetime.

Along the way, we need things.   

Yoga of Recovery points out that we were born dependent on the food, air, water, touch and sound that fuel our bodies with vital prana. As we mature, the logistics of meeting our basic needs and nurturing our interpersonal relationships diverts attention from our all powerful, spiritual aspects.  

Consciously or not, we long to experience that which is divine in us.  

Many a yogic path has begun as a response to one's desire for meaning, connection, and real intimacy with life.  This longing is satisfied by recognizing the "light", or simply the life within, and nurturing a relationship with it.  Our inner "light of being" illuminates the patterns that inform our present circumstances, thus enabling us to transform our lives from within.

From the yogic perspective, there is one addiction process, regardless of the substance or behavior.  Addiction, in this science, is rooted in a belief of separation from whence we came.  The basic premise of yoga is the universality all things, and our sense of being separate from that is considered the spiritual root of our suffering.

A side of the self that knows no pain.

To soothe ourselves, we'll reach for something on the outside to get closer a side of ourselves that knows no pain.  We call it the bliss body, ananda maya kosha.  While the physical body is always dependent on externally-sourced prana, and oftentimes requires medication or other interventions, our spiritual hunger is fed non-materially.  When we get in the habit of meeting our spiritual needs with worldly solutions, our pure, soulful callings are "corrupted into cravings," to use the words of Durga Leela. 

Thus, the addiction process begins. This process is shared by the workaholic, the drug addict, the late night cookie monster, and the media obsessed, as well as the alcoholic, the yogaholic (yep), the compulsive cleaner, and the sex addict.  What's also shared between these types is that everyone is capable of healing.

Yoga's role in recovery

Treatment for the seriously addicted is the work of medical and psychological professionals for good reasons.  Their interventions are vitally important for stabilizing people on the brink, and even protecting those around them.  

The needs of the physical body and circumstances must be met with the right solutions first.  Thus, Yoga is to play a supporting role in one's recovery and to help prevent relapse.  The job of the yoga therapist is not to treat the addiction.  It is to nourish the individual on the soul level that is ailing, through an array of yogic practices and new habits that make for a sattvic balance of radiant health. Our contribution to the world of addiction recovery is to  guide people to their inner light, and to teach them how to keep it lit.

For support with addictive or self-destructive behaviors, please visit Yoga of Recovery.

Country Rainbow.jpg

Yoga as an Environ-Mental Practice

Yoga is a process of systematically liberating ourselves from needless suffering. In the yogic worldview, we suffer due to perceiving ourselves as separate from the enduring, cosmic essence from whence we were created.  We practice yoga, essentially, to touch our divine nature, which is untouched by human error.  

For me, being an urban yogi requires frequent expeditions out into nature to reconnect with the source of our energy, prana.  Prana exists in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods of the earth.  We increase pranic energy in our bodies through yogic practice and lifestyle. 

Yogic practice takes many forms, each one pointing the way to the divinity within us, and around us.  

The yamas and niyamas teach us basic morality and how to go about our day-to-day lives in excellence. The asanas we use to invigorate the body and set it free from its stressors.  We learn to breathe for greater vitality and "give the mind a bone" in pranayama.  We tame the senses á la pratyahara to be in control of our actions.  We boost our effectiveness by concentrating in dharana.  We transcend the limits of the mind in meditative dhyana. We embody our highest potential of living as a divinely connected human being in samadhi

From ego-centric to world-centric yogis.

In teaching my students these eight "facets" of yoga, as Nischala Joy Devi refers to them, much emphasis is placed on our individual processes of assimilating these teachings.  It takes a lot of reminding ourselves to stand with axial extension (asana), to stop interrupting people (asteya), and to be kind to ourselves (ahimsa), as examples.  

It's easy to be so self-centered in our yogic pursuits that we lose sight of the role the entire world plays in our growth.

While the self-study (svadhyaya) of understanding our personal challenges and triumphs in yoga is essential, it tends to dominate much of the conversation in the yoga teacher trainings I've led and attended.  While we strive for our own yogic equipoise, the natural environment that provides our life force is reeling from worldwide human behaviors that are decidedly non-yogic.  Many seemingly inconsequential things done without environ-mentality are proving to have big effects that we can no longer ignore. These, naturally, affect our wellbeing, as there is no real separation between us and our surroundings.  

Not everyone is as fortunate as the yogis of Southern California.

From my pirch here in San Diego, I feel profoundly blessed to live where I live, and do what I do.    For this reason, I feel that I have a much greater responsibility to the world, to be less self-centered in my practice and more world-centric, to use the phrase of Ken Wilber.  Our consumption habits as yogis, from what we buy, how much gas we burn, to the impact of heated yoga classes, must be acknowledged and reckoned with if we are to be truly aligned with yoga.

It's time for urban yogis worldwide to apply our yogic efforts to the wellbeing of our planet.  

We focus so much on our physical bodies and personal lives in yoga.  How about applying ourselves to the task of healing the ecosystems to which we are inextricably linked?  In yoga we adopt the first yama of non-harming and kindness (ahimsa) in relation to ourselves and others. Thus, isn't it essential to be as kind as possible to that which feeds us, and gives us all that we cherish?

Yogic devotion is a renewable energy source.

How about we tap into the devotional bhakti of yoga as a resource to put back into the ecology that gives us life?  Why not perfect our environmental practices as fervently as we approach our asanas?  The results will reveal themselves in time, but what matters now is action.  As Lord Krishna stated in the Bhagavad Gita, "established in Yoga, Arjuna, perform actions."  We must act on behalf of our environment now.  It is our collective dharma, our life-saving duty, to do so, and every choice counts. 

"Planet, my friend, how should we do this?"

I think our best strategy for loving the earth like we love our yoga, is to befriend the environment, and treat it like a friend in our daily actions.  When making plans with friends, we ask for their input as far as the logistics, their wants and needs.  Not doing so is, frankly, unfriendly.  When we're at choice about how to go about some thing, asking for the environment's input just seems more civilized, and could give us some wonderfully pleasant, and unexpected answers.  

Me: "Planet, my friend, shall I drive to the store nearby?  I am so tired and achy."

Planet: "Dear one, I am sorry you're not feeling well.  Perhaps a gentle walk to breathe my fresh air and see my sunset colors would make you feel better?"

Then, like friends do, you weigh the options and make the most logical, kind decision.

We need new societal norms around this. It is in our power to raise communal awareness and appreciation for that which sustains us. It is truly in our best interest to do so, and will undoubtedly serve to advance our yogic embodiment.  The exact approach, as in yoga, will vary per individual.  

There are countless ways to practice yoga, just as there are innumerable ways to care for our planet.

In our household, our environmental choices include urban composting, limiting our driving mileage, voting on environmental policy, reducing single-use containers, and using remotes to turn off our power outlets at night.  Can we do more?  Absolutely, and I consider every effort to be yogic in nature.  My next step is to extend my efforts outside of my work and home.  Thus, I've found the collective of San Diego-based non-profits and volunteer opportunities.  Angel Being.  Please check out their website if you're called to join a local effort that inspires you.

I love that "mental" exists within the word "environmental."  

We know yoga to be as much a mental exercise as it is physical and spiritual.  While we're at it, let's be inclusive of the environment as we take actions that shape our realities. Let's make yoga an environmental practice that supports the web of life that supports us.  Please, share your thoughts and ecological practices or resources below.

In gratitude,

Susana Jones

"The Blue Marble" from Apollo 17.  Photographed by nasa in 1972, this first image of earth from space, and an iconic image of the environmental movement.

"The Blue Marble" from Apollo 17.  Photographed by nasa in 1972, this first image of earth from space, and an iconic image of the environmental movement.

Welcome Om: A Forum for Urban Yogi Teacher Training Grads

To the Graduates of The Teacher Within 2013-1017,

I am feeling the call to engage with you all, and see where you're at on the "web of life" lately.  How might we propel each other through these times on Earth, as fellow seekers and teachers?

Perhaps you'll join me and fellow Urban Yogi teacher training grads on December 2, 2017 in Balboa Park to connect, practice and share teaching resources and opporunities. I'd love to see you! 

I started my day today with an Energizing Yoga practice, led by one of your fellow graduates of The Teacher Within, Sofie Blicher, at the new Saffron & Sage therapy space in Mission Hills.  It was so sweet to be her student, and to see the ways in which she has adopted the teachings she gained through her 200 hour training, and made them her own.  How lovely it would be to partake in more classes led by those I've guided through training, or at least see their faces again!

Perhaps it's been some time since our paths crossed, but I think of you often. I have group photos of each Tribe here in my office.  Every time I see your yoga-inspired faces, it lights me up. What I haven't mastered yet in five years of raising new yoga teachers is answering to my students, "what happens next?"  The possibilities are endless, and I may take for granted my own experience of "just going for it" in building my career as a yoga teacher.  

The dizzying world of yoga opportunities may feel from the outside like a carousel moving at high speed.  We wait on the sidelines for that right time and place to leap onboard, grab a hold of something, and take a ride.  Once on board, the real work begins.  The highs and lows of life combined with the cyclical nature of teaching weekly classes puts our practice to the test.  Are you on that ride?  If so, how's it going?

Perhaps the right place and moment to "jump on!" hasn't happened.  Do you want it to, or  is life moving you in other great ways? 

Basically, how the heck are you? I miss you!

As you may know, my past year has been full of Yoga Therapy Training, and other life-changing events like my marriage to Brian.  He's the best, and we talk about Urban Yogi all the time. As I go more deeply into this new domain of yogic healing, Urban Yogi wants to reach out to people and places of all sorts to bridge the gap between human wellbeing and yoga.  Do you want to be part of that with me?

However we decide to hold down our place on the "web of life", the world needs us, aligned and empowered, more than ever. I find that the yoga community is vital to my wellbeing and to our collective ability to shift things toward a harmonious direction.  I know you care deeply about the state of things in our country and on our planet.  You are not alone in your efforts and caring.  Let's hold each other up!

Welcome Om, dear ones.  That's what I'm calling a gathering I'd like to hold for the tribes of "The Teacher Within" 2013-2017.  This is a time to see and hear each other, practice yoga, connect with nature and share teaching opportunities and resources.

Thank you for your sweet attention, and for all you do.

Honoring the teacher and the yogi in you,

Susana Jones

Urban Yogi
E-RYT 200
Reiki Master
Yoga Therapist-in-Training

 

Mural found in the tenderloin district of San Francisco.  Do you know this artist? 

Mural found in the tenderloin district of San Francisco.  Do you know this artist?