Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Guest post : Ashtanga practice and CIRCULO BLANCO - Recovery Center for Drugs and Alcohol Addiction.

Recently I came across a series of photos from Malini Yoga Shala in Mexico on an fb share.

I contacted the Shala to ask for the story behind the photos and received this honest, generous commentary.

I contacted the Shala to ask for the story behind the photos and received this honest, generous commentary.

Thank you to Valeria. Ernesto, the Circulo Blanco recovery centre, to Polo and Edgar and Daniel, to Lupe and Diego and everyone else in these photos for the inspiration and renewal of faith.



ENOUGH

My grandmother used to have in her closet a box full of chocolates. Everyday after lunch, and just after lunch,she would open the lock on that closet and bring out two bite-sized chocolates. One for her and one for me. Then she locked the door and we proceeded to enjoy the chocolate.Little did I know this would be one of the most loving and important lessons in my life. A lesson I would have to practice over and over in different contexts.
This ritual raised would raise many questions in my mind. Sometimes I would voice them, sometimes I would not.

Why couldn´t we just eat the whole box and be "happy"?
Why couldn´t she get bigger chocolate bars instead?
Was she doing this because she thought we did not deserve more?
What could I do, say or be that would get me more than this?

Regardless of my reaction to it, the outcome would always be the same...the ritual was the same and she was teaching me the "art of enough".
The art of contentment, in which I choose to work on every day so I can be connected to what is.



CONNECTION

One of the most beautiful gifts I have received in life was the chance to practice and take a Yoga TT with Shankara and Mark Darby (and Anne-Marie, Joanne Darby, Tara, Jamie,Terri, Angel, Yaelle and Ying). I mention all of them because each they made such an amazing team at the old St. Mathieu Sattva Yoga Shala.


It took took all these people to help me understand that Yoga is Connection.
I had practiced previously in other styles for more than 20 years, but I was missing the point.Their patience and guidance helped me expel from my system that yoga was shape, form and bendiness.
Especially Shankara,whom for me is the embodiment of softness and firmness at once.My heart is forever grateful to them all, but especially to him and Darby for sharing their Connection.


NOT RUNNING AWAY FROM PAIN

During the TT I experience a pretty bad injury of the knees.At that time it seemed like a curse. In hindsight that was just another teacher showing up.It forced me out of comfort into finding a way of learning Ashtanga from "0". I was hurting myself doing things like I was used to.I finished the TT in a plane back to Mexico with the Certification in my backpack wondering how this all happened if I was not proficient at all in the practice.Yet I knew I was willing to put the effort and time required even if it meant my whole life (or many of them!).


ALL ONENESS

Back in Mexico, new city: Queretaro. Practicing alone. In the silence of my breath I was able to process all that was received from Sattva Yoga Shala.





ADDICTION

Food, drugs, alcohol, money, things, beauty, perfection, work, success, sex, approval, permanent "happiness", drama, ego...all the places at some time or another I have tried unsuccessfully for connection. Always feeling more disconnected, empty and not enough after trying so hard to fulfil this natural human need for connection.



TRANSMITION

Transmission of my previous work to my Yoga and Life Partner Ernesto Zarandona to the best of my ability. Learned so much teaching him. I thank him for his love, patience and hard work.





CIRCULO BLANCO

We are approached by Circulo Blanco to teach. Circulo Blanco is a Recovery Centre for Drugs and Alcohol organised by other Recovering Drug-addicts and Alcoholics. Their program is based on a branch of the AA 12 Step Program called 24 Horas. This modality started in Mexico City and I am not sure if it has gone out of our borders.There is a lot of controversy around it, but the fact is a lot of people get help from these places and perhaps they would never get access to live-in treatment. Some people pay, some cannot.


Humans helping humans just cannot be expected to be perfect. It can get very "in your face" and tough.Sometimes they come by their own will, sometimes they are forced by family members and sometimes they have nowhere else to go.


We show-up and Alejandro, the director, greets us. He has two patients. One of them is the son of the person who donated the house this was all starting at. We taught three times a week at 6:30 am. The Photo Album was shot by Cesar Alanis in the middle of a two year process.


Patients came in and out. There were also patients with Mental Illness. This was a little overwhelming and made us question our position. But somewhere a long time ago I had read about Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda helping mental illness patients with Yoga, so we decided to just go in and let Yoga do it's thing, not us.


It was amazing to see some of them respond amazingly.You could not have a conversation with some of them, and yet they grasped the practice beautifully.


The all had to show-up for practice,they had no option.




Polo
There is a picture of them in Sarvangasana. There is a man sitting on a chair. This is Polo.He had severe mental illness.He would be there but at moments, he would follow instructions in his own way either on his chair or he would even sometimes stand up. They found him on the streets and I am almost sure they gave him his name when he joined.



Edgar
You can see him in a photograph of Virabhadrasana A from the shoulder blades up.He is in the white t-shirt. He had received an electric shock through his left hand while working as an Engineer. His fingers were not complete and he had a protuberance bigger than a golfball on his palm. When he came in honestly I thought he would not be able to practice, but did not say anything about it. To our astonishment he figured a way to do everything. For example, he would go to Chaturanga and DownwardDog on his closed fists.


Daniel
Daniel came in one morning. Pretty bad shape, still tripping on some kind of solvent. He sees me, basically kneels in front of me and begs for my forgiveness. This is the first time I saw him, so I just told him I had absolutely nothing to forgive him of and that in time he would forgive himself.
His turnaround was great.He had great facility for the practice. So much, that at some point the director told us he would teach in our place. We left and two weeks latter we were called back.(He is in black in Padangushtasana, second from left.)


Lupe
(In Trikonasana in a blurry picture, he is second from left) Lupe was really young, 13, his family put him there. He thought he did not have a problem with alcohol and/or drugs. We just kept reminding him to keep his eyes and ears wide-open so he would never have to go through what others had to. Such a sweet child.


Diego
(In front of Lupe) had mental illness and had obviously been abused somehow.He had a lot of aggression in him.He had this defence mechanism of attacking before being attacked. This behaviour got him into a lot of trouble with others. He was challenging to teach at first, but somehow he started listening and changing that aggressiveness towards us and he did learn the practice and seemed to be enjoying it after a lot of his own work.I think he even liked us a bit.



CHANGE IS INEVITABLE

Our journey with them ended this last November.They had already 60+ patients.They decided to change to other activities. So instead of Yoga, they would get Kick-boxing and Zumba. Also a Christian group got involved. So they started getting other kinds of help and support.


HUMANS HELPING HUMANS.

I do not know to what extent the practice helped them in their process...
I do not know anything about their recovery success-rate...
Only their smiles and their effort gave us an idea that they were enjoying the now, which is enough...
I can only hope they all got a glimpse at least of how Ashtanga can be one of the best tools to come face to face with oneself and to cultivate a daily reprieve of the connection we sometimes can so desperately seek in the wrong places.




And Ernesto and I are ever so grateful for everything they taught us.Thanks to Cesar Alanis for capturing Circulo Blanco's heart and soul.



*




For more on Ashtanga and working towards recovery from alcohol and drug addiction see the Trini Foundation

The Trini Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the life-changing practice of Ashtanga yoga to those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. It's our mission to provide yoga as a tool to aide in the recovery process and help those who are suffering maintain long-term sobriety.

Taylor Hunt 
Taylor Hunt is also the author of A Way From Darkness and director of the Trini Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing the life-changing practice of Ashtanga with those suffering from addiction.


See too R. Alexander Medin

Alexander is co-founder and co-owner of Puro Yoga in Oslo, as well as the founder of the Foundation "Yoga for Life". The foundation has launched and continues running projects, such as "Gangster Yoga" and "Back in the ring", helping people who have "fallen out" of society and giving them the opportunity to build themselves up again, through a solid yoga practice, heightened sense of responsibility and social work.

Also my earlier post Ashtanga and Drug Addiction Project: Back in the Ring - The Journey so far

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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