Yoga program designed to aid addiction recovery

  • Elizabeth Nett, of Northampton, talks about her life during a class at HeartnSoul Yoga & Wellness in Hadley in 2016. Staff File Photos/Jerrey Roberts

  • Bonni-Lynne Sandler, right, of South Hadley, talks about her life as Jackie Daley, left, of Woronoco, Bekki Strader, of Easthampton, and Elizabeth Nett, of Northampton, listen at HeartnSoul Yoga & Wellness in 2016.

  • Jackie Daley, left, of Woronoco, talks about her life as Bekki Strader, center, of Easthampton, and Elizabeth Nett, of Northampton, listen, at HeartnSoul Yoga & Wellness in 2016.

Staff Writer
Published: 7/20/2020 9:15:31 AM

As various forms of addiction continue to affect Franklin County and communities across the country, a local branch of a national program remains committed to using  a combination of yoga and 12 step recovery practices to help people to cope with addiction.

The Yoga of 12 Step Recovery is a non-profit organization whose program is designed to “connect the dots” between the age old wisdom of yoga, the practical tools of 12-step programs and the latest research on trauma healing and neurobiology.

Founded in 2012, the yoga program works in tandem with traditional 12 step treatment to address the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the disease that is addiction.

“I think the whole thing is fascinating,” said Elizabeth Nett, a local certified instructor.

Nett, who has been teaching classes in the region since 2016, said she felt the program is applicable beyond alcohol and opioid addiction. She said it could be applied to technology dependence, or anything else that produces that psychological and sometimes neurophysical trigger.

Now 70, Nett has been in recovery for alcohol addiction for 30 years. She said her struggle with alcohol addiction started when she was just 20-years-old. She said she first recognized her mother’s struggle with alcohol when she was 13, after her youngest sister was born. She said her mother “turned to alcohol and, in suit (Nett), followed.”

“You can’t quite put a finger on the disease,” Nett said. “You need to find support that works for you.”

For Nett, a large aspect of this support has been yoga, specifically Yoga of 12 Step Recovery. Nett said she was “reaquainted” with her love for yoga after she broke her kneecap in 2014, and a friend invited her to sit in a chair and follow along with a yoga class. In addition to Y12SR, Nett also teaches a seated and standing yoga class for people with injuries or disabilities. When dealing with addiction recovery, Nett said recognizing the physical aspect of recovery in the body is as important as the mind.

“I like to use my body in a physical way — that was one of my keys to recovery,” she said.

Nett said she was in the process of becoming a certified yoga teacher in 2016 when she found out about the 12 Step Yoga Recovery program, and became certified in this training too. According to the national Yoga of 12 Step Recovery website, y12sr.com, the program is designed to serve people recovering from various forms of addiction by “creating a safe place on the mat where trauma can be released.”

Clinical studies have bolstered recognition of the Yoga of 12 Step Recovery as an effective form of adjunctive therapy and intervention for relapse prevention in a growing number of addiction treatment centers. Volunteers nationwide can become certified, like Nett, in how to administer 12 Step Recovery Classes, and run courses in their own communities. The program also supports those who are impacted by a loved one’s addiction. The characteristics and effects of addiction, the website states, “could easily be described as separation.”

“Addictive behaviors disconnect us from ourselves, our loved ones, our environment and so much more,” reads the website. “Conversely, yoga itself means union, integration, balance. Yoga and its practices teach the fine art of balancing our multidimensional lives while living in a complex world.”

For the Yoga of 12 Step Recovery program, Nett said each instructor approaches the classes differently. For Nett, each class combines elements of yoga with a focus on one step of the recovery process, or two steps that go hand-in-hand. This averages to about 12 classes, per “course.” She said each meeting starts with a group discussion. Nett said the discussion leads into the steps that are focused on each class. As members enter into different yoga poses, Nett relates the motions and physical attributes to the recovery steps and group discussion.

After she completes all 12 steps, the course goes back to step one. She said some members return and take the course repeatedly.

Nett recently completed a round of the free, donation-based course she was teaching in Greenfield. She said some instructors have been holding Y12SR classes over Zoom or Facebook Live. Nett said she held her class over Facebook live so members could view it without including their name, and maintain anonymity.

While the classes currently don’t have a location for the next round of lessons, Nett said interested parties can contact her via email at elizabeth.nett@yahoo.com to request further information, or sign up for the local branch of the program. Interested parties can also visit the Y12SR website to see more listings for classes in their area.

“For me, teaching is part of my recovery,” Nett said.

Yoga of 12 Step Recovery Founder Nikki Meyers began offering the courses in 2003, drawing on her personal background and experience to introduce an integrated practice to her local existing yoga and 12-step groups.

As of 2017, there were over 800 active Y12SR leaders and more than 250 weekly meetings worldwide. For more information, visit y12sr.com.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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