“The Issues Live In Our Tissues” — My reflections on the Niki Myers lecture by Gabi Esser


IMG_1640It was such an honor for me to get to attend this event. Niki Myers’ discussion of the relatability between yogic philosophy and the 12-step recovery framework for addictions recovery was touching and thought-provoking. This happened just two days after the US election; people were looking for hope and inspiration, and she offered that. Her unique perspective on the yoga’s benefits on reframing the psychology of addictions and her focus on long holds in postures to release tensions and issues that are quite literally stored in our tissues and fascia was refreshing point of view that is nonetheless tied into yoga history.

She invoked the B.K.S. Iyengar quote, “The yoga starts when you want to come out of the posture.”

She explained her R12YS program for yoga and 12-step recovery. The way she presented, however, was probably what touched me the most. She embodied such strength in vulnerability as she related her perspective on yoga to her own personal narratives struggles with addictions, recovery, and relapse. I have not personally been through a 12-step process; I felt acutely aware of how this limited my understanding of the ideas and experiences that she presented, but I never felt excluded. We can all think of some addictive behavior in our lives, whether it be Netflix, chocolate, or negative self-talk.

When Niki described our repetitive negative thought and action patterns as Samskaras, this conceptualization made so much sense to me. The moving cycles, or Samskaras, that we tend to fall into unconsciously reflect experiences or labels that we have not been able to process. I loved the metaphor of stuck experiences and feelings manifesting psychosomatically in our bodies. I think we can all recall a time that stress resulted in a kinked neck or a sore jaw; issues of trauma also manifest psychosomatically and frequently result in people self-medicating which can lead to substance misuse and abuse.

This discussion before she guided a brief practice led me to some deep reflections about my own recovery process from past trauma and how yoga has played such a large role in my own recovery and processing from past trauma.

I was inspired to analyze my own repetitive behaviors and their relationship to trauma. Again I was struck by how relatable my experience developing a yoga practice was to a person going through a 12-step program. Yoga transforms the way we view our behaviors and lives, so it follows that yoga can be used to transform a relationship with a substance.

When we got to practice with Niki, we moved through some Sun Salutations to warm up a bit and then moved through a very Yin practice. Yin yoga breaks down the issues that we store in our tissues, but the way that Niki cued was what made this practice special. A tone of empathy imbued her voice as she used empowering cueing and gave us, her students, agency to choose and personalize how we practice. This has fundamentally changed how I have cued in every yoga class that I have taught since this lecture and practice.

This lecture and practice was a perfect complement to Street Yoga, because it focused on how trauma affects our physical, but also emotional and energetic bodies. I left this evening feeling reflective, but with a deep sense of hope and a new perspective on the power of Yoga to release physical and emotional scar tissues on out bodies.

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