Yoga and Drumming as Catalysts in Addiction Recovery

Reclaiming Passions and Talents to Help Others

Yoga and drumming may seem like two disparate practices. Yet one couple blend the two to achieve a harmony that can richly enhance recovery: Don teaches drum circle and Julie teaches yoga. And while each has their own story, over the years, they have learned to use pieces of their pasts to support and enhance their collective journey.

Fitting in her own skin

For Julie, her passion for yoga was preceded by a love of gymnastics in high school. Gymnastics provided a means of visibility and acceptance for an otherwise shy teenager. The transition from gymnastics to yoga came naturally as an extension of body flexibility.

Yet the practice of yoga provided more than just outward body flexibility. It provided the ability to look inside as well as out. Though flexible on the outside, Julie had developed many fixed and unyielding defects of character. Through yoga, Julie had to face why she was using an increasing amount of alcohol.

"I began to realize that the use of alcohol was an effort to bridge a gap between outer flexibility and inner rigidity," said Julie. "This gap was the space for character defects and secrets to hide."

In essence, she had reached her personal bottom. Through her commitment to the daily practice of yoga, Julie was increasingly aware of what was hiding between her outward flexibility and inward rigidity. Awareness of a problem is the first step, and she began the work of bridging the gap between her outer- and inner-self.

In the process, Julie gained skills in successfully integrating the principles of the Twelve Step program with her yoga practice.

"Stretch enough, and you might just fit into your own skin," said Julie. "The important lesson to realize is that not all stretching is on the outside."

Giving it all up to gain life

While drumming has always been a passion for Don, it wasn't always a healthy or constructive activity. His passion became a talent; talent became a tool; and as with any tool, it could be misused. For him, the result was 22 years of wine, women, and song.

In facing his addiction, though, his primary question was: Do I have to give up everything to stay sober?

Through "giving it up," Don found ways to use his talent and the tools of drumming without triggering the former connections of personal and chemical use. The process of recovery made it possible to share and enjoy the passion of drumming without the former entanglement of addictions.

The couple collaborates for retreats at the Dan Anderson Renewal Center, called Yoga and Drumming as Catalysts in Recovery. Participants experience new energy and insights through the inward practices of yoga and the outward expressions of fellowship through the drum circle. They share the tools of the Twelve Step program to reclaim and enjoy the passion and talents of life, so that, ultimately, your gifts can be used in service to others.

Julie KarskyJulie Karsky, yoga instructor at the Dan Anderson Renewal Center, is certified in all levels of YogaFit. She teaches young children, elders, first-timers, experienced practitioners, and those with chronic pain, sharing an extraordinary level of love and light.



Don Karsky headshotDon Karsky, a former addiction counselor, is a drum circle facilitator with more than 50 years of drumming experience. He has facilitated drum circles for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health, and the National Rural Institute on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

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