The origins for “Yoga for Addiction, Recovery, and Mental Health” involve serendipity - having taught other yoga classes at the Y, a mutual acquaintance put Liz Belser E-RYT 500 in touch with Dion Lovallo, owner of the new Carolina Center for Recovery. The two decided to join forces and offer a class for addiction recovery.
Yoga for Addiction, Recovery and Mental Health, Mondays from 7-8 PM. Brace YMCA, 3127 Weddington Rd, Matthews.
With a new class, “Yoga for Addiction, Recovery, and Mental Health,” starting this month at the Brace Y (Mondays 7-8 p.m.), long-time yoga teacher and Matthews resident, Liz Belser will be doing what she does best in all her classes – bringing awareness to the body and helping accentuate the breath.
“I always weave into my classes the “tools,” (which are) anywhere from breathing – there’s all kinds of breathing that can (help) people (cope with) anxiety and stress – down to places of being present and aware,” said Belser.
A Matthews-based practitioner, Belser’s classes and workshops have primarily revolved around yoga for mental health – a topic she knows well, having suffered from depression and anxiety. She will bring to the mat her knowledge and understanding of the complexity these stressors trigger. “It’s always a work in progress,” she said. “Sometimes it will (be ok) and sometimes it will rear its ugly head… All the (same) tools worked for me and I just had to share it.”
The origins for this new class involve serendipity - having taught other yoga classes at the Y, a mutual acquaintance put her in touch with Dion Lovallo, owner of the new Carolina Center for Recovery, also in Matthews. The two decided to join forces and suggested this class to Y leadership. To both of them, this would be a win-win for all.
Lovallo’s clients are given Y privileges as a way of integrating mind and body. It is mandatory for those in the highest level of treatment to exercise and/or work out at the fitness center daily. For Belser, this would be a way to stretch her repertoire, connect with, and help a new group.
“(This will be) different than the mental health group, but, there’s always going to be a mental health piece. I’m still teaching the same tools, but there will absolutely be another layer of compassion - another layer of sensitivity,” she said.
“I’m so excited to move forward and get this going. It’s funny how the universe works. As a community a few years ago, I don’t think we could have gotten this going. But the recovery center is now here and the Y is onboard,” said Belser.
For Lovallo, this is a natural progression of the recovery and healing process. “We always wanted to incorporate yoga somehow but didn’t know how to do it. This just showed up and worked out perfectly,” he said. “For myself, since I’m (also) in recovery, being in fitness (is important)….anything to get people out of their comfort zone helps in many ways.”
Belser understands the complexity of these issues.
“What sets this class apart from other yoga classes is an extra level of mindfulness and compassion,” said Belser. “If people have been through a traumatic experience, and may just be fearful, they may worry about where to stand in the room or recognize there may be the possibility of triggers. That being said, I won’t hand out (exercise) straps... You never know what emotions or experiences someone is bringing to the class,” she said. “(I’ll be) bringing into it (the importance of) reconnecting with the body, rather than assuming that people already have that connection to the body and body awareness.”
“Addiction is a place to disconnect,” she said. “We want to help them connect to their body safely and feel resilient in that moment, feel strong in that moment - this is instrumental in cultivating self-belief. Just being in that moment and acknowledging your body is a step toward healing,” said Belser.
Will she ask information of the participants? “The only information I’ll ask is if there’s anything they want to share. It’s not my place to understand what someone’s diagnosis is, what someone’s struggle is. I’m not a therapist; in yoga, it’s all about the body experience,” she said.
To that aim, she’ll be available before and after class, for anyone in need of some help. She also plans to attend an AA or NAMI group – something she’s never done. “I’ve gone into this very humbly because I haven’t had an experience with addiction. (Regarding attending a meeting) I don’t mean to come into it with judgments, but with curiosity and compassion, so that I can teach with an open heart.”
Belser says she’s already been approached by people curious about the concept, but mindful of the stigma that taking the class may hold. “A student asked me if they will call (the class) that, but I feel strongly about (doing so). There are people who I know must be thinking, ‘If I walk through that door at that moment (class time), then I’ll be judged as an addict or in recovery, or dealing with some sort of mental health issue.’ ” However, Belser said she is happy that the subject (and the descriptive name of the class) aren’t being “sugar-coated.”
“We all have our own addictions; one person’s addiction may (or may not) be as serious. We are all struggling with something, whether it’s (serious) or you’re having a crappy day,” Belser said. “Hopefully I’ve presented it in a way that will allow people to come thru the door and just see what happens.”
“I can only speak from personal experience. It’s invaluable to discover and use and see the efficiency and success from your own ability to find your strength and create change in your whole being,” she said. “It may happen in baby steps, but you might, in a moment, say that you feel better now than an hour ago.”
Ultimately, the healer becomes the individual. “Nothing major changed. I didn’t give you a box of pills. I didn’t say you were healed. YOU created that change,” said Belser. “That’s all I’m doing is guiding and (letting) you do the work. I don’t know what kind of price tag that you put on that. To be walking around as a human being who is healing and thriving. I just think that’s amazing.”