Practicing since 2000, devout Yogi Nicole Riviere sheds light on the benefits of Yoga during addition treatment as well as the tremendous focus and strength Yoga can provide in everyday life.
In my own experience, my yoga practice and my own psychotherapy got me through a lot of tough times. I think it’s a wonderful combination to have somebody that you’re talking to that can offer insight and advice on a different level and then also going to your daily yoga practice and having meditation practice. I think those two things combined are really strong in recovery.
I mean it really just works. It works for everybody across the board and Yoga incorporated with addiction treatment is no different. If you’re looking at yoga in terms of practices that calm the mind, whether it’s a strong physical practice or it’s a meditation practice or it’s you focusing on your breath, those are all things to get us to calm down the noise that’s upstairs in our head. I think that noise upstairs in our head is conducive to a lot of suffering and a lot of reasons that people act out or reach out or use. I think this particular reason is one of the ways that it works for recovery. I think people are finding a whole lot of peace in their own bodies and in their own heads by practicing yoga.
The yoga that I bring to the treatment facility is so gentle, so everybody can benefit from it whether they’re detoxing or they’re almost getting ready to leave rehab. The restorative yoga posses are really gentle, using props and bolsters and blankets. It’s a very quiet practice, a lot of breathing practices, and a lot of different guided meditations. It’s not that I come in with a progression every week because that doesn’t work for everybody. I come in with just a certain intention for that specific class everyday and I try to make it a little bit different every week so that everybody learning these different tools that they can take with them out into their daily lives. At this treatment facility, what I bring is something for everybody across the board, even if they’re … a lot of times they say, “I don’t have my yoga clothes.” I said, “Perfect, you’re in your jeans. That’s perfect.”
I specifically give each individual references. Actually, surprisingly, they come to me and say, “I’m leaving next week. What is that book that you were reading from? What can I look on …? What do I look for online when looking for a yoga class that’s like yours? Are there any online meditations I can follow? Then I point them in the right direction. I do let them come to me when they want specifics like that. Every week, I do very simple practices that each individual can pick up on and I say in each session like, “This 4-count breathing that we’re doing is a really great tool to do daily when you feel overwhelmed, when you feel stressed.” We’ll revisit it. We might start that practice at the beginning of class and we’ll revisit it in the middle and at the end like, “Come back to your 4-count breath. Remember that tool that you’ve been given,” so that hopefully this sticks with them when they’re driving in their car and getting mad at the person that cut them off.
I went through several teacher trainings that are Yoga Alliance certified. Yoga Alliance is the main … I guess, you could call it union. It’s not really a union, but it’s the only thing that there is out there that actually shows that teachers are certified and validated teachers and they’ve gone through certain amount of training. My first training was a 200 hour regiment. My second training was a 500 hour regiment.
Then I continue my education. I continue to sign up for workshops and trainings to further my growth as a teacher and to have more and more to offer my students. I think those kinds of things are very important to look for in a teacher. I personally would be weary of a teacher that’s only done a very little bit and doesn’t continue their own practice or their own research or their own study or further their training.
So 500 hour certified with Yoga Alliance. Like I said previously, I did an 11-step yoga teacher training and that incorporated some of the step work which isn’t part of this particular rehab into teaching yoga in a class. Then another part of my qualification is also having a 12-step program under my belt because I did grow up in a house of alcoholism and addiction. I have an affinity for the addict. I have a deep understanding of what addiction is since I’ve grown up with it since the day I was born. I have a lot of relationships with addicts. I think I come bringing yoga therapy to our clients who are recovering with a level of compassion, but then also good level of patience and boundaries. I think those are important things to look for in the yoga teachers that are coming into rehabs.
My public classes at the studios are pretty challenging, pretty physical. I teach Level 1 yoga, I teach Level 2, I teach Level 3 all the way up through the fancy yoga poses that you see on the covers of yoga journal and yoga books. It’s a pretty strong practice.
When I come into the treatment center, what I find is way more beneficial for those going through recovery is a softer, more gentle practice that is tangible for everybody because they want to feel … I think it’s important to feel successful and that you’re understanding what the practice is really about. I mean I know that they can leave and go to a studio and take a harder class if they want to. At least, with me, what they’re getting is a true message of yoga to keep under their belt no matter if they’re sweating and burning calories and standing on their hands or if they’re seated and meditating.
Here I think it’s more important to provide something that’s more conducive to recovery. I think their heads are too overactive, that they’re stressed out, that they’re sad. We want something that’s a little more kind and compassionate and start that way, yeah.
I’m always surprised that it’s less than I would hope for. If there’s 10 or 11 clients, oftentimes there’s 3, 4 people in the yoga room. Those 3 or 4 people come back every single week and they are extremely grateful for what they’re getting. After the sessions, they are professing how they haven’t felt that peaceful in they can’t remember how long, and that’s after just one session.
I think, for others, it’s hard. I’ve seen some of the clients not interested in what I’m teaching because it’s not hard, that they’re not … or, and I’ve seen some people not interested because they think it’s hard even if I try to explain like, “No, no, no, no. This is all breathing meditation. You can wear your jeans.” They’re like, “Oh no, no. It’s not for me.” There’s already a pre-conceived judgment that keeps a lot of clients out of the yoga room. I wish it was mandatory because it is so profound and healing but it’s important that each finds their own way, too.
It’s also a lack of knowledge. Depending on the person and how they’ve grown up. If they have a certain religious background or something, not that … yoga is not a religion, it is a spiritual practice but I know it does … some people have already a story about it even without having ever taking it. Some people have taken it once or twice and had a really bad experience. They’re fearful of trying it again. I really stress that it is just a spiritual life practice thing and it’s important to find a teacher that resonates with you.
I’ve also had people walk out of sessions. It happens more than you think, but it’s usually somebody who’s really suffering, who cannot sit still, who cannot be quiet and alone with their own mind and take the time that it takes to actually take a deep breath for some period of time and practice that. Or I lead guided meditations and sometimes that’s too much.
I did that a few years ago. I left my dance career. I have been practicing yoga all through the dance career and stuff. A decade ago, I suffered from panic attacks and anxiety attacks and I needed my yoga practice more than every because it really was helping to calm things down and get me through that time. Then probably in 2007, that’s when I really got serious about my yoga practice. That’s when I felt like there was much more than just physical things going on, that it was a life practice. It was a spiritual practice. There was a lot of philosophy. I was very interested in about the practice that was helping to better my life. In 2009, I got certified as a teacher and I started teaching in 2009. Then I left my dance career about 2 years ago.