A new yoga program geared towards those in recovery from addiction is opening to the public this December.

Registered Yoga Teacher Anne VanDehey of Radiance Yoga Health is starting the area’s first Yoga of 12-Step Recovery (Y12SR) class. As part of a recovery effort that includes resources like Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and mental health treatment, Y12SR is designed to address addiction holistically, recognizing the relationship between our bodies and our minds.

Founded by recovering addict Nikki Myers, Y12SR programs are gaining in popularity across the country. There are six groups in Illinois, including VanDehey’s.

“There are many addicts in recovery just like me who are dealing with levels of disconnection that have roots way beyond the cognitive,” wrote Myers, who turned to yoga after a relapse.

While yoga has clear benefits for cardiovascular health and flexibility, studies also show that it improves mental health, even reducing our response to stressful situations. In her teens, VanDehey was a model and self-described “party girl,” but after getting into yoga she found a sense of purpose.

“We know that everything that happens in our thoughts and experiences manifest in our bodies and all that crap gets trapped inside,” said VanDehey. “There’s the saying ‘our issues are in our tissues.’ Just doing a yoga class, you feel relaxed afterwards. For people with deep-seated issues you have to literally move to get them out of their body. Instead of just working with the mind and the intellect, bringing the body into it lets you let go of that and work it out.”

The classes are open to anyone affected by addiction, including loved ones and people who might be questioning whether they have a problem. It is also completely inclusive, open to people of all ages and skill levels, as well as all addiction backgrounds, from alcoholism to compulsive gambling to overeating. The Y12SR program is spiritual but not geared towards any particular religious beliefs.

Classes will be donation based and open to the public, and there’s no athletic ability required. As VanDehey puts it, a paralyzed person could do yoga: It boils down to breath and awareness.

“As long as you’re pushing yourself, it’s not a competition,” she said. “It’s about getting in touch with who you are. Yoga gives you confidence, and you can accept yourself. It’s a proven fact that people who do yoga are more peaceful, happy people. More likely to contribute in the community. It just gives a feeling of completeness and wholeness and lets us bring more to others.”

If you or a loved one is interested in attending one of these classes, you can get in touch with VanDehey at annevandehey@comcast.net. Reservations are not required for the first meeting, which will be on Dec. 8 at 12 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of Central Christian Church, 310 Main St. NW, Bourbonnais. Future classes will be scheduled after this first meeting.

Want to get involved in yoga but don’t think Y12SR is a good fit for you? Through December 20, Radiance Yoga also has classes Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. and a Saturday morning class at 10:30 a.m. Classes are $10 and you can pay at the door. Visit VanDehey’s website, www.radianceyogahealth.com, to see schedule changes and get more information.

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