Trigger warning: This article contains references to addiction, trauma and mental illness. Reader discretion is advised.
Editor’s Note: Yoga for Recovery students were unable to be reached for comment on this article.
Cat Lauer was overcoming an eating disorder when she realized yoga was her medicine.
“There were a hundred things I could have done recovery without, but yoga was my glue,” Lauer said. “It was there on a good day; it was there on a bad day.”
Lauer worked with a yoga therapist to recover from her disorder and immediately felt inspired to help others. This prompted the creation of Yoga for Recovery, a free yoga session founded and taught by Lauer for people in recovery from addiction, trauma or mental illness.
“The idea is that it is creating a safe space for people to make connections with other people in recovery and to be comfortable with their yoga practice,” Lauer said.
Each recovery session is four weeks long with a one-hour class each week. The first week focuses on simple yoga poses; the second week is for body movement; the third week is slow-paced and restorative; and the fourth week is for making connections with classmates.
Lauer said she promotes a safe environment for free-expression in her classes.
“It is a space where people can come in and cry, or be angry or laugh,” Lauer said. “You can come into this class and sit down the whole time, and that’s cool. Or you can come in ten minutes late because you were so stressed about coming. All I ask is people show up and give it a try. It’s a very, very simple thing, which I think can have a big impact.”
Emma Hogan is a sophomore at CSU studying communication studies. She is not in recovery from addiction, trauma or mental illness but avidly practice yoga two to four times a week and can attest to the power of yoga in her everyday life.
“It’s super spiritual,” Hogan said. “Yoga has definitely encouraged me and given me strength. When I am stressed or have a lot going on, I just think of the spiritual wholeness in my practice.”
Lauer said yoga helps people in recovery specifically because it forces people to come into their breath and focus on their body.
“I think by practicing (yoga) that we get motivation to practice recovery because we get these little glimpses into being calm and comfortable,” Lauer said.
Lauer’s yoga trainer and Fort Collins RYT 500-hour yoga teacher Andrea Bilderback said yoga helps with recovery because it forces people to be in the moment.
“Often, a separation from understanding and accepting one’s body and focusing on things outside our control, i.e. past and future events, can be a major hurdle in recovery,” Bilderback said.
Yoga for Recovery is free and accessible to anyone in recovery.
“I really want it to be something that anyone in recovery can do,” Lauer said. “Recovery is hugely expensive. All the time in different doctor’s offices. In therapy. In different groups. All the loss of time at work. Loss of work. So, if someone is going to spend 15 dollars, I want them to spend it on themselves. Even for someone who could afford it, just take this for you.”
While Lauer is a regular instructor at Old Town Yoga, the recovery sessions take place in a different studio or location every time.
“I always try to pick spots that people can easily walk to or that the bus is close by,” Lauer said. “I like that because it introduces people to different areas, and it kind of gives us our own space. It’s very contained. It becomes this really tight community because it’s just us.”
Hogan said yoga is most beneficial to her when she has a lot on her mind. She believes this is why yoga could help someone in recovery.
“When you go to practice, it really is your time to focus on you, and to think about all of your thoughts and to release anything that you are worried about,” Hogan said. “It just reminds you to take a moment out of each day to really settle down and think through all of the thoughts racing through your head.”
Bilderback said anyone considering Yoga for Recovery should know that Lauer’s makes students feel comfortable and at ease in their practices.
“Cat’s approach to teaching is one of patience and compassion, and yet she has a strong, clear presence so that you feel safe to explore unfamiliar territory if you are new to yoga,” Bilderback said.
To sign up for Yoga for Recovery, go to catleaslauer.com. Registration is as simple as answering a few questions and providing contact information.
“I like to have some way to contact them because I like to reach out and create a way for them to tell me something that’s not in person,” Lauer said. “Sometimes people just want to share something with me beforehand that they want to be private. So, I want to make sure that they can text me, or email me or call me. I just like making sure that there’s a conversation there.”
The spring session of Yoga for Recovery begins in May.
“Come on it, and learn little yoga,” Lauer said. “See if it works for you. You don’t have to come in and feel like you need to talk or share. It’s just a safe place.”
Collegian reporter Randi Mattox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @randi_mattox.