UT Yoga program designed for students in recovery

Lauren Schneider

Students recovering from an addiction or struggling with mental health can find peace of mind and community by attending yoga at the Center for Students in Recovery.

Through this weekly Yoga for Recovery program, the center aims to apply the benefits of yoga to the recovery process. This usually means recovery from a substance abuse disorder, but the center’s assistant director Sierra Castedo-Rodgers said people recovering from eating disorders or other conditions are also welcome.

Research has demonstrated yoga’s role in moderating unhealthy substance use. For example, a 2013 study from University College London found yoga’s breathing techniques can curb cigarette cravings. According to a study from Missouri State University published earlier this year, yoga may not be effective as a primary treatment for substance abuse disorders, but it can help alleviate conditions like depression that are linked with drug misuse.

According to the group’s HornsLink listing, sessions consist of 45 minutes of yoga and a 45-minute peer support group meeting. Castedo-Rodgers said in addition to being certified to teach yoga, instructors must have a personal experience with recovery.

“We want people to have an experience that’s not just this one-way experience with a teacher helping a person along in their yoga practice,” said Castedo-Rodgers. “We also want them to have that experience of community-building and being able to share freely and openly with their peers and get support from that experience.”

Castedo-Rodgers added that like other peer support groups at the center, Yoga for Recovery was initiated by students. She said the students teamed up with members of Austin’s wider recovery community to launch the program about three years ago.

Yoga was already a part of campus recovery efforts before the current iteration of Yoga for Recovery. Alumna Ellan Warren said that the center held Sunday yoga classes years before the official program was formed.

Warren said she became certified to help teach these classes in 2011. She achieved sobriety during her undergraduate years at UT between 2008 and 2012 and credits yoga as an important factor in her recovery.

“It was maybe the biggest part of helping me get sober, especially so young,” said Warren. “It was like what I got really involved in when I was struggling and then it took me on my own … recovery journey. It incorporated the whole mind, body, spiritual healing, and eventually led me to get sober and then go to find other fellowship.”

Warren recently delivered a presentation about yoga’s health benefits to social work professor Lori Holleran’s “Young People and Drugs” UGS 303 course. Additionally, Warren said she is still involved with the same local yoga studio she attended even before becoming sober.

“I feel like (yoga will) always be a part of my life,” said Warren.