Yoga Alliance Leadership Conference:Transformation Through Yoga

October 25-28, 2012 in Indian Wells, CA

Getting to Know…
Nikki Myers, E-RYT 500

We recently interviewed conference speaker Nikki Myers, E-RYT 500 and co-founder of the Yoga of 12-Step Recovery Program (Y12SR). Nikki shared her thoughts on the transformation of Yoga, staying committed, and how Yoga can serve in addiction recovery.

YA: What does the word “transformation” mean to you?

NM: For me, transformation is a shift that orients the dimensions of my being more toward a state of integration and wholeness.  It’s often not earth-shattering.  In my experience, quite often it’s a single shift, whether in perspective, muscular/skeletal alignment, energy expansion or contraction, behavior, or connection that just realigns everything, internally and often externally as well.

YA: How has Yoga been transformational in your life?

NM: Yoga served as a major catalyst in transforming my relationship with myself.  When I began to get really serious about Yoga practices in the 1990’s, I was misaligned on many levels.  The transformation began at the level of body and then the process toward personal re-integration began (and continues) to reunite every level of my being.  

YA: What advice do you give your students looking to change themselves through Yoga?

NM: Having had the experience of getting caught in what can be the trap of change, I’m not particularly big on giving advice.  What works for me is to share my experience, strength and hope.

That being said, a lot of times it seems that what I am asked is fundamentally about moving from doing to being. And depending on what’s happening, what I will often share is something that has become one of the most useful tools for me. In Y12SR, we call it “hitting the pause button”.  It’s a simple moment of pausing, internalizing my attention and coming into being before reacting, noticing what’s really present (at the level of sensation rather than thought or emotion), and then as necessary, applying a tool or practice from my tool bag (breathe, move, reach out to someone in my sangha, pray, meditate, etc).  What that does for me is expand clarity and then I can do the next good, right, honest thing.

YA: How has your view of Yoga changed since you first started practicing and teaching?

NM:At first, I viewed Yoga as a practice and belief system.  When I ran into the limitations of what I held as beliefs, I began to realize that Yoga is organic and alive.  In this moment, it is much more about acknowledging and moving beyond my identifications and activating inner energies in a way that body, mind, and emotions function optimally.  Today, the path is more oriented toward deeper levels of awareness and surrender.

YA: What was the best teaching advice you ever received?

NM: The two main influences for my teaching are Gary Kraftsow and Seane Corn.  The guidance that I received from both is that the best thing I can possibly do is stay committed to doing my own work.  From that, I create space so that work can be done through me.

YA: Why are you inspired to speak at the Yoga Alliance Leadership Conference?

NM: I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to speak to and learn from those who are so deeply committed to the path of Yoga.  Being a Yoga teacher is ultimately an act of service.  It is an exciting honor and privilege to encourage, validate, share and bear witness to others on this path.

YA: Can you share about the development of the Yoga of 12-Step Recovery (Y12SR)? How does Yoga offer support for recovery from addictions?

NM: Y12SR was born out of my personal experiences with addiction relapse and recovery.

Through treatment for a substance addiction in 1987, I was introduced to the 12-step program.  It absolutely saved my life.  In the course of the next eight years through recovery, I returned to school (completing my B.S. and MBA degrees with honors), co-founded a software company and co-authored a meta data integration patent.  And then, after eight years in recovery, on a business trip to Amsterdam, I relapsed.  Gratefully, after much despair, I came back to 12-step based recovery.

It was during this period that I began a deep re-immersion in the study of Yoga after stepping away from it many years prior.  I stopped my 12-step program practices after a while and solely used Yoga philosophy and practices as my support.  Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on the perspective), after another four years without a drink or drug, I relapsed again.

It was after that second relapse, 12 years ago now, that I realized at least for me, there had to be a union between the cognitive approach to addiction recovery offered by the 12-step program and the somatic approach to healing offered through  Yoga.  Y12SR is just that.  It’s a relapse prevention program, based in the theme “the issues live in our tissues”.  The combining of the 12-step cognitive model with the inclusion of soma, truly addresses addiction as the physical, mental and spiritual dis-ease that it is.

Over the course of my years in the 12-step program, I’ve seen that there are many addicts just like me.  Y12SR was developed (with the support and encouragement from my many teachers) as an adjunct to the 12-step program; another tool to support addiction recovery.

Built on the basis of Yoga Sutra 2:16 “Heyam Duhkham Anagatam”, meaning “suffering that has not yet come can be avoided”,  Y12SR helps the addict recognize the signs of relapse at the level of feeling and sensation in the body and gives them a set of tools and practices that help restore balance, before the relapse.  This combined approach helps them find nervous system regulation in sustainable non-destructive ways rather than destructive ones.

As the Y12SR curriculum has begun spread to treatment centers across the US, it’s  effectiveness continues to be prove helpful not only with substance addiction (including eating disorders and food addiction), but process addictions like gambling, compulsive debt and spending,  and media addiction, as well.

Nikki will be speaking at the upcoming Leadership Conference:

Transforming the Issues that Live in our Tissues

As Yoga teachers and practitioners, we are all aware of the physiological and psychological benefits of Yoga. Psychological issues can manifest physiologically. In turn, practices like Yoga can re-regulate the nervous system. Nikki Myers will explore this linkage and discuss how Yoga aids in recovery, using addictions as examples of “issues in our tissues.” In her session, Nikki will speak about her personal transformations through Yoga and lead us in an experiential exercise.

About Nikki Myers, E-RYT 500 from Indianapolis, IN

Nikki Myers is an accomplished teacher and practitioner on the path of Yoga. A unique focus of her path has been the integration of Yoga in healing. Nikki came to Yoga in the midst of her own health crisis but quickly realized Yoga firmly grounded her in a sacred space that allowed healing to happen far beyond the physical. Nikki’s study led her to The American Viniyoga Institute, where she received certification as a Viniyoga Teacher and Yoga therapist. She has completed her second year of study in Somatic Experiencing, the distinguished trauma healing methodology. She regularly assists and co-teaches with international Yoga teacher Seane Corn at workshops and conferences across the US. Born out of her personal struggles with addiction, Nikki is co-founder of the acclaimed Yoga of 12-Step Recovery program, featured in The New York Times and Yoga Journal.