“So why yoga”? I was recently asked, and my response was “I’m a recovering drug addict, and the practice helped me overcome my addictions to drug and alcohol”.
That is and always will be my response, when people ask me that question. It’s not as simple as that, but I try to keep it simple and succinct, quite like my teaching style.
This isn’t just about yoga, I want to talk about the journey of self-realisation and spiritual awakening that I have personally experienced through my recovery and how yoga has shaped that journey.
For a decade I was unaware, unconscious, moving through life like a small boat, being thrashed around on a great, rolling sea, I picked up my first drink at 12, and by 14 I was using recreational drugs in the small seaside community that I was raised in, slowly but surely, things got worse.
I was so angry, so lost and so scared that the only reprieve I had from being me was the substances I used to escape my reality. I was unable to accept myself on any level, as a homosexual, as a young man, as a human being. The lengths that I went to and the damage that was done in every area of my life started to take me further away from myself, and closer towards this great shadow I came to spend my days and nights in..
I wanted to change, and there was a part of me that truly wished one day I would be able to see myself as I was made, to feel and be the love I so desperately longed for.
I found my way into a recovery program when I was 24, It was 9 days after I had been released from St. Thomas hospital, after having been drugged, violated and left for dead in a Wandsworth street early hours one Monday morning.
It was 10 years after that first drink, my using had taken a progression from fun, to silly, to stupid, to crazy, to dangerous, to life threatening. Very shortly after putting down the drugs and alcohol, with the support and love of a community of people who had shared the same journey as mine, I was able to start to look after myself, and find the mat.
I went along to a class at my local gym, to stretch out, and I remember that first savasana as though it was yesterday, something had shifted, it made me feel something deep inside myself but completely outside of myself at the same time. I felt like I had come home. I picked up the practice in the same way I did drugs, and the further along I went in my recovery, with the guidance of my wonderful sponsor, I got deeper and deeper into myself and in turn the practice.
One day I realised just how much yoga had given me, and that it was time for me to give back to the practice, so I left my life, went to India and I trained to teach.
Almost a year on from qualifying and eighteen months into my sobriety, I am able to honestly say my life has become a living dream.
I have changed, I am always changing, that’s what the mat has taught me and what life teaches me every day. What I cherish most about the practice, is that it’s already there, it wants to be done, it wants to help you get better, both inside and out, it wants nothing in return.
Life is the same, it wants to be lived, experienced, loved and cherished, that’s what it’s there for. I no longer have to be thrashed around by the changing tides of life, I’m able to move with them today, to flow and be taken wherever I am meant to be.
That’s the beauty of yoga, and all that it has given me today, the awareness and ability to connect with myself on a deeper level, to consider and respect myself, and to come from a place of love, not fear – my incredible teacher once said, and it stuck with me ever since
“True love, is when you fill yourself up with so much love, it flows onto everything and everyone around you”.
So let the practice fill you up, all is coming.
Written by: Michael Caleb-George
Michael is a vinyasa and yin teacher based in London, engaging with the energetic body through the subtle body to restore a sense of balance in both body and mind within the practice of yoga asana, pranayama and meditation. You can find out more here!