Yoga of 12 Step Recovery: The Issues are in the Tissues

By Rosemary Keevil 11/20/18
Y12SR Nikki Photo.JPG

November 15, 2018


Rosemary Keevil

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Yoga of Twelve Step Recovery

The Issues are in the Tissues


“The Twelve Step program and yoga saved my life….one is my lifeboat, the other my launching pad.”       

Nikki Myers

Bringing the Twelve Steps and yoga together offers us a way to, not just process what goes on at the level of mind, but also release whatis being held in the body,” says Nikki Myers, the founder of Yoga of Twelve Step Recovery, or Y12SR. This is a two-hour class that connects the cognitive and spiritual work done in the Twelve Steps with the body-based and meditation work done in yoga. 



Addiction is often referred to as a physical, mental and spiritual disease, but there is no physiological component to the Twelve Steps. “We assert that what underlies any addiction is some kind of trauma and your body holds everything. The issues live in our tissues and until there is a release at all levels something is missing,” says Nikki. She adds that yoga also complements the Twelve Steps because it involves meditation: “The Twelve Step program talks a lot about prayer and meditation but there are no meditation techniques taught. I assert that yoga is good for the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Steps are good for yoga, because,” she states that some people feel, “We can get a little airy-fairy in the yoga world.”  


Nikki is a yoga teacher with an MBA who founded CITYOGA School of Yoga and Health in Indianapolis. She launched Y12SR in 2004 based on her own struggles with addiction. Nikki explains, “My addiction took me into some perilous conditions like domestic violence and commercial sex work.” She also had a son die shortly after birth: “I was in the throes of addiction at the time of his birth.  His health condition at the time of birth is something I've had to deal with.”


Nikki went into treatment in 1987 and embraced the Twelve Steps but she relapsed after eight years. When she became clean again she re-immersed herself into yoga and stopped practicing her Twelve Steps, but she relapsed once more: “It was after that second relapse that I realized, at least for me, there had to be a union between the cognitive approach to addiction recovery offered by Twelve Step programs, and the somatic approach to healing offered through yoga. Y12SR is just that.” Nikki combined the two and has been clean since July 15, 2000.


As a testament to her commitment to the Twelve Steps Nikki has a tattoo of the last line of the Serenity Prayer on her right shoulder that reads, “wisdom to know the difference.” 


In order to become a certified Y12SR leader, one must attend a weekend training session and complete a course which explores the symbiotic relationship between yoga and Twelve Step programs. Annie McCullough attended the Vancouver, Canada, Y12SR training with Nikki and states, “I felt like Nikki. It’s not like I was trying to stay sober on yoga alone or on the Twelve Steps alone but I felt like I was marrying together my two favourite things—yoga and recovery.” Annie appreciates the integration of the body work with the Twelve Steps: I didn’t realize until I was 37 years old and got sober that feelings happen in my body.”  


Nadine Bell also attended the Vancouver Y12SR training. She was a dancer since she was a young girl and lost connection with her body when she was in her addiction and Y12SR helped her to reconnect with her physical self: “When I was in my addiction I had a hard time retaining information so the cognitive element of the Twelve Steps helps as well as the breath work and movement work of the Y12SR. This has allowed me to walk as more of an integrated person. I don’t feel so fragmented.”



The Y12SR leader training costs about $550 US. It is open to yoga teachers and any professionals who work with people impacted by addiction, such as therapists and probation officers. 


Anyone dealing with addiction—their own or someone else’s—can attend Y12SR meetings.  A Y12SR meeting includes a Twelve Step meeting and a yoga practice.  Nikki explains, “Sometimes we do a meeting and then a practice or a practice and a meeting. The practice is themed in whatever topic is discussed in the meeting, such as surrender, gratitude or acceptance.”


There is no charge to attend Y12SR meetings but, like in any Twelve Step meeting, a donation is expected. The money goes to the host facility and its head office. 


Currently, there are more than 400 Y12SR meetings worldwide.



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