“One of our favourite sayings is ‘our issues lie in our tissues.’”
The Yoga of 12 Step Recovery (Y12SR) program will be offered in Kentville starting in September, the first time in Nova Scotia.
Y12SR leader Betty LeBlanc says some form of underlying trauma is the source of addictions. This has been her own experience, as a recovering addict who suffered childhood trauma. Y12SR is a “trauma informed” yoga class where a leader offers invitations instead of instructions.
Y12SR begins with an all-inclusive 12-step recovery session, followed by a yoga session. LeBlanc described Y12SR as a relapse-prevention program, an adjunct to 12-step recovery but not a replacement for a 12-step recovery group.
“Our bodies remember everything and often rather than releasing trauma, tension and stress we attempt to pretend, ignore or rationalize or justify this energy away,” LeBlanc said.
She said this is futile because the nature of energy is to move. Nikki Myers of Indianapolis, a recovering addict, developed Y12SR following a relapse. LeBlanc said Myers combined the wisdom of 12-step recovery with the wisdom of yoga.
“We have to move our trauma through our bodies because our body keeps score,” LeBlanc said.
As part of the recovery effort that includes resources such as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, for example, Y12SR is designed to address addiction holistically, recognizing the relationship between our bodies and minds.
Y12SR is all-inclusive in terms of the types of addictions that can be addressed and in terms of participation. The classes are for addicts or people impacted by another individual’s addictive behaviour.
A registered yoga teacher, LeBlanc completed 200 hours of studies with Breathing Space in Halifax in 2015. She went to Toronto to study Y12SR in July 2018 and continued her studies for three weeks in the Bahamas this past May.
“When I took my 200 hours, I knew I wanted to help addicts. I just didn’t know how I was going to do it,” LeBlanc said.
After discovering Y12SR and contacting Myers, LeBlanc knew she had found her passion. She has been teaching yoga at a Valley treatment centre since she graduated and said her passion to help addicts has only grown since.
“I just know that body awareness combined with the 12 steps has been such a powerful tool for me,” LeBlanc said.
She said there are many addicts in recovery like her who are dealing with levels of disconnection that have reached outside of themselves and they engage in addictive behaviour or substances.
LeBlanc said yoga has clear benefits for cardiovascular health and flexibility. Studies also show that it improves mental health, even reducing our response to stressful situations. She said this has been the case for her. It helps to calm the nervous system and connects us to our mind, body and spirit.
“If you can breathe, you can do yoga,” she said. “It boils down to breath and awareness.”
LeBlanc said people don’t realize that you can regulate your nervous system through breathing. It’s something that isn’t taught in 12-step rooms. She said the Y12SR program is spiritual but not geared toward any particular religious beliefs.
The two-hour classes begin Sept. 22 at My Yoga Space at 360 Main St. in Kentville, running from 1 to 3 p.m. LeBlanc said it’s very fitting to launch the classes in September, National Recovery Month. There are 14 spots available but LeBlanc is willing to add another class if the number of interested participants exceeds this.
“These classes are confidential, so what we say and what we see stays in the room,” LeBlanc said.
The cost of the classes is donation-based, essentially a free-will offering, and there is no athletic ability required. LeBlanc said it’s about getting in touch with who you are. She said those involved with Y12SR believe you are more important than your money.
LeBlanc said a third of the proceeds will go to the yoga studio, a third will go to her and a third will go to a charity of her choice. She said the classes are her way of giving back to the community for what was so freely given to her.
For more information or to reserve a spot, email firstname.lastname@example.org.