Yoga for Addiction Recovery program starts sessions this spring

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, February 14 2017

A Yoga for Addiction Recovery program will be offered for 10 weeks with funding from the Gabriola Recreation Society, the Regional District of Nanaimo, and Vancouver Island Health Association starting in the spring of 2017.

“We got some funding and it will allow for people to make a small donation of $25 each and the rest of their program costs will be covered for them to participate for the 10 weeks,” says Kelly Price (seen right), a yoga therapist and yoga instructor at the Haven who has been running seasonal yoga sessions on Gabriola.

“My hope is that the Yoga Recovery program will be accessible for people that might not have the finances for it.” If people are interested they can connect with their health practitioners and arrange for a referral or they can contact Price directly. Price will be managing the registration herself to ensure the confidentiality and anonymity of participants.

No previous yoga experience is necessary and Price encourages people to access the program even if they haven’t done yoga before. Price says the definition of yoga therapy is an integration of the technical and therapeutic aspects of yoga with a Western approach with body-mind psychology, looking at how yoga and body-mind psychology can be applied to create optimum health.

“Every person is so unique, each of us has different imbalances that are on spiritual levels. Yoga helps heal imbalances. The program is designed to focus on what yoga has to offer in the process of addiction and recovery,” says Price. “Yoga is such a powerful tool for transformation, so we’re working with the body, the emotions, the mind and the spirit, and looking at the challenges of healing on those levels.”

Price says that a big part of addiction is that it can move us out of a relationship with our bodies. It can be a distraction from our reality. “So often the body can suffer during the process of addiction. Substances can take a toll on our physical body and the brain and all the organs in the body.” 

Price says addiction is, “not just substance abuse. It can be behavourial addiction as well. I always open this program up to people healing from trauma, PTSD, [post-traumatic stress disorder] anxiety and depression. The process is hugely beneficial for people working with those challenges as well.”

Looking at strengthening the physical body and finding more mental-emotional balance and stability, and increasing vitality and a sense of aliveness, is at the core of the program. “It’s also facilitating a process of supporting detoxification, and managing stress.”

Learning to de-stress is a huge part of recovery. Learning to heal, getting more control over impulses are all key parts of what Price is exploring with her program.

“My goal is to give people simple but powerful tools they can use.”

The first yoga class Price took was in Vancouver in 1992 and she didn’t do her own formal training until 2011. Price worked in the Vancouver Downtown East Side as an outreach worker through the Carnegie Community Centre and was a Youth Care Worker at the Urban Native Youth Association for seven years, and at their Treatment Lodge from 1995 to 2002.

“I wasn’t trained as a yoga teacher at that time, but I practiced and noticed how helpful it was for me, and started to share it with youth at the Treatment Centre, in South Vancouver. The Urban Native Treatment Centre is one of those amazing programs where they’ve tried to create a model that bridges traditional Western treatment with spiritual-cultural healing practices.”

Price started studying yoga at the Pacific Rim College in Victoria and completed a two-year program which culminated in a thesis research project. Price chose yoga therapy addiction recovery as her thesis in 2013.

“I was motivated by my experience working with youth in treatment, in my role as a street outreach worker, and by my own experience with addiction, to see how yoga could be applied. It turned out there was research being done already in the US and Canada, particularly around how to transform negative patterns through repetition, working with the brain, balancing the nervous system, looking at things like the physiology and psychology of addiction and how it intersects with yoga’s therapeutic ability to target healing through physical postures, breath work and meditation.”

Price put the word out on Gabriola and requested that people work with her for 16 weeks. What she developed was an initial template for the program, and participants provided feedback about the process. After that, Price started to offer the program locally. Price says one of the key features of the program is that it offers something called Trauma Sensitive Yoga, which offers a safe space for cultivating a compassionate relationship with the body, a place to practice being in the moment, an opportunity to learn and practice techniques for self-regulation, and to develop resources to draw upon in day-to-day life. 

“Because we’re working with resetting the nervous system, that’s a process. One of my teachers says “the issues are in the tissues.” So how can we gently and safely become more embodied in that process we may experience? Essentially it’s about creating safety in the body and also, if we’re dealing with addiction and trauma, we tend to move out of embodiment because those experiences are stressful and scary. In order to re-engage with what’s there in the body, we need a safe process for moving back in.” 

Price talks about needing a gentle way to move out of survival mode and she wants people to know this is not meant as a replacement for a traditional 12-step program but it could be a complement to one. 

“It offers the body peace, in the sense that most of those [12-step] programs are cognitive, they’re not necessarily involving the body in the process of recovery.” Price does ask that interested participants have six months to a year of recovery.

“I think the main thing is allowing people to experience feeling better in their bodies. Recovery can wreak havoc on our ability to feel good. Once we move out of addictive patterns we need an alternative, or even ways to feel good and get high naturally. It’s provocative to think our bodies are able to produce the same effects without substances or negative behaviour.”

Yoga also creates new pathways in the brain through repetition. Price says she’s worked with a lot of beginners and people who have never tried yoga, and they have always been very happy. 

“They’ve been able to learn simple, powerful tools. They may not become serious yogis, but they can begin to integrate the tools into their everyday lives that improve their quality of life.”

Price wants participants to identify surrender as a feeling in the body. She also blends tantric philosophies with Ayruveda, the traditional medical system of India.

“There’s so much in all those threads to work with, the healing is so individual and unique that it requires presence, intuition and curiosity. I feel like I admire people in the process of healing and personal transformation; something about it feeds me. It requires discipline and a level of commitment. When I see people engaged in this process it’s really inspiring and it drives me the most [seeing] peoples’ willingness to engage with themselves and know themselves on a deeper level.”

Price looks forward to creating a safe space and process for people to deepen into themselves. Course dates are to be determined, but will run in the spring. 

Contact Price by email at kellypriceyoga@gmail.com or at 250-713-6082. 

Kelly Price is a Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT), and a Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT 500). She holds a certificate in Yoga Teaching for Trauma, Mental Health and Addictions, and is a Certified Y12SR (the Yoga of 12-Step Recovery) Leader.