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Treating anxiety and addiction with yoga

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Mosaic trys...Yoga
Lorraine Cook/THE REVIEW
Recovery yoga on campus helps students overcome anxiety and addiction through relaxation.


When yoga instructor Natalie Kendall arrives at the university on Thursday nights, she’s here to help students recover from trauma. Every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Christiana Engagement Center, her class of “All Recovery Yoga” provides a safe outlet for many students.

The recovery yoga classes are open to all students, and the program is currently in its second year. Jessica Estok, the coordinator for the Collegiate Recovery Community, says the program is aimed for students who are recovering from an anxiety or addiction-based mental illness.

“This includes recovery from drug and alcohol misuse, eating disorders, trauma, mental struggles, gambling and more,” Estok says.

To keep students comfortable, they are not required to reveal why they are attending each session, Estok says.

In order to bring this program to campus, the Collegiate Recovery Community at UD and Sexual Offense Support (S.O.S.) partnered with the Transformation Yoga Project (TYP), a nonprofit organization that specializes in “healing through empowerment,” according to their website. The next step was to find an instructor who was trained for recovery classes.

To instruct recovery yoga, Kendall had to go through training with the nonprofit. In 2014, she became a certified yoga instructor through the Yoga Alliance, but the 200-hour registered instructor trained for this job in 2016.

Her training with the Transformation Yoga Project covered how to understand addiction and trauma, an overview of the 12-step recovery program, dealing with crisis and learning how to incorporate yoga into a healing practice.

“I can safely say that without the specific TYP training, I would not be fit to adequately teach a recovery class,” she said. “With the training, I have gained knowledge and understanding of trauma and addiction, the recovery process and how yoga can assist the process.”

The most important part of her job is to make sure that her students feel safe. During recovery sessions, Kendall respects her students’ personal boundaries and makes no physical contact with them. Poses are modified and sometimes avoided to make sure that each student feels comfortable.

“My teaching style incorporates a safe and suggestive queuing method, with sequences that are accessible to all students, with poses that are safe and promote a feeling of safety, rather than putting the student in a compromising position that could trigger them in any way,” she said.

Although 8 to 10 students typically attend Kendall’s weekly classes, she believes that with word of mouth her classes will get bigger. Her enthusiastic students have asked her to create a group email, and she hopes that will help build a community for them.

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  1. People who are addicted to a drug will often put their welfare, financial stability, health, and relationships at risk in order to pursue their drug of choice, which can range from gambling to cocaine use to alcohol. Even addictions that we deem less dangerous (typically because they are legal and don’t interfere with our daily lives), like as smoking, require the sacrifice of long-term health in exchange for a short-term dopamine rush. Food addiction, for example, is more difficult to quantify and conceal, but it can be just as devastating — and all addictions have personal and societal consequences.


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