Tommy Rosen is a leading authority on yoga, addiction and recovery with 20 years experience helping others to overcome addictions of every kind. (Plus, he's a really nice guy). Tommy is one of the pioneers in the relatively new field of 'Yoga and Recovery', which utilizes yoga and meditation to empower people to move beyond addiction and build fulfilling lives.
Tommy talks to us about his own journey and the power of yoga and meditation to transform lives.
MBG: Why do you think yoga has helped so many people recover from addiction?
TR: Truthfully, I do not think it has yet. Most people in recovery from addiction find themselves in 12-step programs. If we are talking about that population, I would say we haven’t yet scratched the surface. From my personal experience and interactions, an amazingly low percentage of people in 12-step programs practice yoga. I believe that is going to change. In fact, it is my mission to change this. Once people in recovery feel the incredible effects of yoga, they will gravitate to it in great numbers. After all, yoga taps into the endocrine system and the nervous system and gets things moving in the right direction. It produces a euphoric effect and if there is anything people in recovery can relate to its that euphoric effect. It makes you feel great. Except with yoga, your body is left strengthened, your mind calm and your connection to everything becomes clearer and sweeter. Yoga is a massive upgrade from drugs and alcohol. This cannot be overstated. You get everything you were searching for in the first place and no hangover. The only requirement is steadfast diligence and commitment to practice. If you have that the rewards come.
Now, if we are talking about people who struggle with addictions, big and small, who have never been in 12-step recovery, now that is quite another story. That population is much bigger than the 12-step population.You are talking, quite frankly, about the entire human race, nearly 7 billion people.
And, of course, there is not really a way to characterize these people. You cannot give them a designation like they are in 12-step recovery. I guess you could call them human beings. I am not trying to be funny here. I actually feel that addiction is that widespread and quite misunderstood especially in some of its less visible forms. I ask a lot of people what their addiction is. Many of them say they don’t have one. Then I give them my definition of addiction: Any behavior that you continue to engage in despite the negative consequences that the behavior leaves in its wake. If you are not addicted to The Big 5 – drugs, alcohol, food, sex or money. Then you might be dealing with what I call The 4 Aggravations: Resentment, Negative Thinking, Self-Doubt and Procrastination. These “less harmful” addictions sap us of our energy, cause lots of damage and must be faced in order for us to live a life of fulfillment and to heal ourselves and the world.
So, that is all a long-winded way of saying that we are at the beginning of putting yoga and meditation into mainstream use as tools to fight and overcome addictions of all kinds.
How has yoga helped you personally recover?
You could write a book covering the answer to this question and I have. It is called Recovery 2.0: Using Yoga and Meditation to Overcome Addiction and It will be out this year. Here is an excerpt from it: