Yoga And Mindfulness Can Be Beneficial In Recovery, Says Psychotherapist Ira Israel

By John Lavitt 06/15/16

"Addicts in recovery can use yoga and meditation to get off of the mental hamster wheels in their heads and eventually master any negative self-talk blaring within."

Yoga And Mindfulness Can Benefit The Newly Sober, Says Psychotherapist Ira Israel
Ira Israel Teaching at the Moksha Festival Photograph by Joyful Images Photography

During an intimate event in Malibu last Thursday, licensed counselor and psychotherapist, Ira Israel, revealed how practicing yoga and mindfulness can be beneficial in the early days of sobriety and beyond. Speaking to a group of clinical professionals and holistic practitioners, Israel explained that specific types of yoga and specific types of meditations could be especially useful for addicts. On his website, Israel highlights a holistic practice that can lead to true authenticity. 

“Some of the best yoga and meditation teachers that I have ever practiced with are in 12-step programs," said Israel. "They would be the first to admit that they traded their unhealthy addictions for healthy addictions.” Israel believes that making the shift into a holistic practice allows the compulsive nature of the addictive personality to become the fuel for the truly positive.  

Further making the comparison between healthy and unhealthy practices, Israel said, “For me, the applicable quote is 'One Mountain, Many Paths.' With drugs, people are trying to take the helicopter route up the mountain and unfortunately their helicopters often crash. Yoga and meditation are longer, but more scenic and satisfying routes. Such practices produce a more profound and visceral sense of the inner serenity that is mentioned in AA’s Serenity Prayer.”  

Israel has made five best-selling DVDs on how to employ mindfulness and yoga to overcome depression and anxiety, thus fostering happiness and serenity. He now applies the techniques that have been so successful in helping clients overcome those mental health issues, to the challenge of addiction. As rehabs and recovery centers embrace a more holistic approach, Israel believes mindfulness and yoga practices are essential tools in helping clients attain paths of sustainable sobriety.

“In the end, we all have to overcome the way our minds have assimilated the negative language of our childhoods and have created resentments—woulda-shoulda-coulda-didn’ts. Our resentments transmute into defense mechanisms to try to stave off future traumas. Every child creates a particular ‘way of being in the world’ to try to get his or her emotional and psychological needs met. The problem is that whatever defense mechanisms you created to survive your childhood are now probably hindering you from showing up authentically. Addicts in recovery can use yoga and meditation to get off of the mental hamster wheels in their heads and eventually master any negative self-talk blaring within.”  

Through a practice that Israel describes as "At Onement," Israel supports clients in the process of cleaning up and letting go of the wreckage of the past so they can show up, as he says with a smile, “authentically for their presents (pun intended).” Given the 21st century shift toward holistic practice in the recovery community, the professionals at the event were very receptive to learning about the time-tested tools that Israel had to offer.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.