19 Jan Recovery Yoga and Meditation
Los Angeles, as much as it is ostentatious, is just as much a city of hidden things. There are positive hidden things like delicious bistros, negative hidden things like crumbling neighborhoods, and there are also hidden things in its residents: desires, worries, fears, loves, angers, and doubts. If there were a place that combined all of these aspects with a spin of positivity and hope, it would be the most authentically Los Angeles of all. Amazingly enough there is — and it involves, of course, yoga.
by Cody Brooks
On a small street in West Hollywood, amongst houses and shiny businesses, it’s easy to overlook a small brown cottage obscured by trees and bushes. The Log Cabin, built by the international community service club Lions Clubs International, has many events and outreaches. Every Tuesday evening Pia Artesona opens the doors, lights candles, dims the overheads, and welcomes substance abusers and trauma victims to an hour and fifteen minutes of recovery yoga.
Recovery yoga isn’t anything particularly special, which is exactly what makes it so. The session begins with a participant commenting on one step of the 12-step program, then everyone readies themselves on their mats. The yoga positions are simple, Pia doesn’t scold people on bad form, and the hour moves calmly and slowly; you won’t break a sweat. Pia wants those who come to focus on themselves, their minds, their problems and addictions, and to “forgive yourself for any judgement”. While in a plank or happy baby position she strokes and coos the troubled minds of those who come with phrases like that. After nearly an hour of yogic meditation, the participants gather the candles into a cluster and sit down in a circle around it to share a minute of whatever is on their minds — whether it’s the British woman’s unfamiliar feeling of having a good day or the realization of the elderly woman whose struggle to rent out her apartment, while tiresome, isn’t the apocalypse.
The yoga aspect allows people to think about their woes while still having to vaguely focus on something else, allowing a sort of mental net so they don’t spiral downward in their thoughts. What may be the most important part is that they are doing their own thing and doing it alone, but they are all alone together, and the sense of knowing that other people are around, allows them to think about their problems productively and to accept themselves. “They have their space,” Pia says, “where no one can come in and mess with them, but they’re still part of a group.”
Pia is delightfully New Yorker, which works well with the nature of addiction recovery. She is kind, but firm and frank in her intentions, which hits those she helps with a disarming honesty. She had called a regular to ask about her positive experiences for the article. At first the regular was hesitant, her voice was shaky, and she asked several times “who wants to know?” In her Bronx accent Pia said bluntly “Me, I wanna know”. She opened right up and explained how great the yoga had been for her, saying that “feelings come up that I can process when I’m in session,” and that while doing the yoga “everything is where it’s supposed to be”.
Pia was once a substance abuser herself, but a combination of a 12-step program and yoga helped her to become sober. She started instructing her recovery yoga two years ago. She uses the ideas of the 12-step and also some of its tools, such as the Daily Reflections book written by A.A. members. She welcomes one and all to these sessions, and they are donation-based. The connection and reflection of recovery yoga soothes the souls of those who got a little too close to the sun with the aloe vera of optimism. And it all comes in yoga pants. What’s more LA than that?
For more info and class schedules please visit www.piaartesona.com
About the author: Cody Brooks is a journalist and musician living in Los Angeles