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Beyond Addiction: The Yogic Path to Recovery

By Dr. Wendy Harris/Livtar Kaur

Trauma and addiction are increasingly popular topics that continue to gain momentum as the spotlight now shines on America’s growing opioid epidemic. We have become a quick-fix society with a multitude of avenues to avoid discomfort and temporarily escape from suffering.

In fact, it is easy to distract ourselves and many of us will go to great lengths to avoid being present with what is. The complex relationship between trauma and the pain that seeds addiction calls for a multi-dimensional solution, thereby creating a space for the transformational power of the yoga of awareness.

Kundalini Yoga and Meditation does not mask the pain, rather it allows a person to experience the pain and actively participate in a powerful healing process. If we are to resolve our addictions and experience true peace, we must first uncover, explore, and release the underlying pain and trauma.

“The question is never, why the addiction? But, why the pain?”
-Gabor Mate

Let me begin by clarifying what it is we are talking about. According to Yogi Bhajan, when our habits become self-defeating, they qualify as addictions. In Beyond Addiction: The Yogic Path to Recovery, we are referring to “any pattern of behavior that you crave, and find some temporary relief or pleasure in, but are unable to give up despite the negative long term consequence.”

This means we are having a conversation about much more than drugs and alcohol. There are countless ways in which the individual who is suffering may turn to external sources in search of relief such as social media, compulsive shopping, destructive relationships, sex, sugar, workaholism, fantasizing, and gambling.

Trauma is a common experience including and not limited to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), meaning that any person who has experienced prolonged or multiple distressing or painful events qualifies, regardless of whether or not the individual meets the criteria for PTSD.

For example, a child who was bullied by his peers, pre-verbal witnessing of domestic violence or neglect, physical abuse at the hands of a partner, abandonment, and invalidation all leave a painful imprint. The traumas, stored in the body and left untreated, can be devastating. In addition to psychological and relational consequences including depression, anxiety, and attachment issues, the physical damage is remarkable.

For example, organ health (including optimal brain functioning) is compromised and hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances are observed in individuals with sustained stress and trauma, not to mention the damage that chronic substance abuse adds to the mix. Specifically, the sympathetic nervous system is often in a state of hyper-arousal and the parasympathetic nervous system is under-active. This translates in the following ways: accelerated heart rate and increased blood pressure, disturbed sleep, sluggish digestion, a compromised immune system, an abundance of cortisol—the “stress hormone” flooding the brain with an eventual crash known as adrenal fatigue.

Kundalini Yoga and Meditation works on many levels to eventually bring relief to those who practice. The physical stretching begins to open the body and breathing moves the suppressed emotions and stuck energy so that it can be circulated, transformed, and released. Postures build resilience and meditation creates a space for the calming effects of the parasympathetic nervous system to dominate, as the glandular system re-sets.

Our practice creates the space to heal and let go of what is no longer serving our highest and best, and what is most likely interfering with our ability to experience true freedom and a life beyond our wildest dreams.

“Love yourself. Love your soul and let go of the past. Past pain is keeping you in pain.”
-Yogi Bhajan

If the root cause of addiction is indeed trauma, is it then possible to heal addiction? This is a question I have been sitting with and actively exploring personally and professionally. My answer is a resounding and triumphant, yes! It is possible to move beyond addiction, to move beyond the pain and trauma of our past and experience a life of freedom from addiction. Kundalini Yoga and Meditation is a powerful, transformational technology that will deliver us from the darkness to the light.

For more information about Beyond Addiction: The Yogic Path of Recovery, go to www.BeyondAddiction.ca and to find out more about Dr. Wendy Harris, please visit www.YogiWendy.com or email [email protected]

As a dedicated IKYTA certified yogi, teacher, and therapist, Dr. Wendy Harris (Livtar Kaur) is committed to bridging the gap between Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, academia, and clinical settings. She graduated with her doctorate in clinical psychology from California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University and published Beyond Addiction: Kundalini Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation for Recovery from Opioid Dependence (2015). She currently teaches undergraduate psychology at Mount Saint Mary’s University and graduate courses in CBT, DBT, and Addiction Studies to emerging Marriage and Family Therapists at Antioch University.

Dr. Harris is an international trainer and teacher for Beyond Addiction: The Yogic Path to Recovery (www.beyondaddiction.ca) and will be leading a 10-day immersion March 18-27, 2017 in Switzerland. She completed Level 1 teacher training in 2004 and Level 2 in 2011 before launching the Kundalini Yoga and Meditation for Recovery from Addiction community-based program at Golden Bridge in Los Angeles. She is in private practice in Pacific Palisades under the supervision of Dr. Jon Ubick, DBT specialist (www.drjonubick.com) and works with individuals, couples, and groups. For more information, visit www.YogiWendy.com