Addiction, Recovery & Yoga - About the film
Addiction Recovery and Yoga is a documentary that I did not expect
to make. It contains innovative and valuable information, which
I hope will help you or someone you know. I distribute it for
free because it is simpler that way. And it is not a propaganda
film or an infomercial for anyone, any product or service; so
please relax on that account. There is a lot in the film. Please take
what you can.
Addiction, Recovery and Yoga came about through my work as a yoga
teacher and yoga therapist. For about twenty years, I have been
teaching mostly privately and specialize in treating people who
have stress-related conditions. Over the years, a few students
have had addiction problems - cocaine, alcohol and prescription
drugs mostly. They were dealing with staying free of their addiction
in a number of ways, one of which was AA
- Alcoholics Anonymous.
I did not know anything about AA, and I wanted to know more about
it. I only had a vague idea that there was might be something
uncool about it - a sort of prejudice that I had picked up along
the way somehow. I know a little about drugs and addiction, not
so much from personal experience, but as a filmmaker in the '70s
and '80s, I had directed many music
videos and was used to musicians and artists using drugs as
part of their work. And, in some cases, the way they suffered
as a result.
I had started my yoga practice in 1970 and, along with my wife
had spent a lot of time in Pune, India attending month-long intensive
workshops taught by B.K.S. Iyengar,
the famous yoga teacher. So in London at that time, I was the
odd man out when my filmmaking clients, music celebs and record
company executives, were snorting cocaine at the nightclub. Drugs
were cool. But yoga was not cool in 1970s; it was only just beginning
to catch on in the West.
So, twenty years later, as a yoga therapist, retired from filmmaking,
I was not shocked to learn that some of my (very successful) students
had addiction problems and were attending AA twelve-step meetings,
which deal not only with alcoholism, but with drug and other addictions
as well. So in order to educate myself, I went along to the nearest
AA meeting. It happened to be held at the Community Center, which
our garden backs onto here in Greenwich Village, New York.
To my surprise, my experience of the AA meeting was more than
positive. I was inspired by it. I had never experienced a social
situation where people were being so open and honest about the
most intimate, difficult, and sometimes disastrous aspects of
their lives. But more than that, there was an atmosphere of genuine
support that was based on a group practice of non-judgmental fellowship.
It was an effective practice that made it possible for people
to confront their own difficulties more clearly | basically being
on their own case, not everyone elsefs, and learning from each
other, taking support from the group. I learned that this was
just a small part of some very practical and profound principles
that made up the AA 12-step program.
My vaguely prejudiced attitude had changed. So, in the class that
I teach at
the New York Iyengar Yoga Institute, I said to my students
"Oh, I went to an AA meeting the other day, it was really
great, I was so surprised." Anyway, about three months later
one of my students in that class came up to me and said, "Thank
you so much for saying that about AA, I am now 63 days sober."
Well, if you have ever been to an AA meeting you will know that
when someone is counting the days that they have been sober (one
day at a time) it is very important to them. I was happy that
something good had come out of my comment.
It struck me that, unlike some addiction rehab facilities that
can cost a thousand dollars a day, AA 12-step and yoga were really
cost-effective options. Ordinary people could afford them.
I think that it was after the third cup of tea one morning that
it further struck me that if I made a film about addiction, recovery
and yoga, I could distribute it for free on the Internet and help
many more people, maybe thousands, the way a few words had helped
the student in my yoga class at the Iyengar Institute.
After all, I was some sort of award winning filmmaker at one
time, so why not do it. And anyway, where did I stand now, forty
years later? What was my attitude now to the '60s & '70s era
of sex, drugs and rock and roll and the voices of the social revolution
that was hoped for at the time? I'll keep it simple, no room to
examine these issues now, except to say that the drugs were the
By a fairly large and influential generation of artists writers
and musicians, the idea was indirectly proposed that the way to
be cool or explore and manage consciousness was with drugs, including
alcohol. Some creative people gained useful insights and perspectives
because of drugs, but at what price? I wondered about it then,
but now I clearly think that substance abuse, either recreationally
for stress relief, or psychotherapeutically with overly prescribed
pharmaceuticals for depression, anxiety etc., is a cause of unhappiness
and worse for many people.
I was part of that '60s generation. I can remember joking at the
time that I thought that commuters would get a better grasp of
reality by smoking a joint in the morning rather than reading
Rupert Murdochfs newspapers. But times change. I have seen the
very bad effects that drugs can have and I have seen the substantially
positive effects of yoga on many people over my forty years experience
with yoga So I do not have any doubt on the subject. And I felt
a need to make some sort of statement with the film as well as
taking an opportunity to be of some help to people generally.
I was very lucky that my old friend from years ago in Pune, India,
Joe Pereira, was coming to New York to teach a yoga workshop
at the Iyengar Institute. He was actually staying with me and
my wife Bobby, and he liked a cup of tea in the morning, so we
had a chance to talk about the documentary project that I had
Father Joe is probably the worldfs leading expert on yoga and
12-step recovery. He is a longtime senior student of B.K.S. Iyengar,
heads up 30 rehab centers in India and had just been honored and
awarded the Padma Sri medal by the Indian Government for his work
in addiction recovery. A great yoga practitioner, Father Joe was
my first interview, so very open-minded and knowledgeable, he
got me off to a good start.
You might think that it would be difficult to get people to talk
about this, usually hidden, part of their lives, especially in
a film. But it is one of the AA principals to reach out and help
others. This is most clearly expressed by Louise in the very first
line of the film when she says:
gI donft have a problem with answering questions about alcoholism
because I think it is such a huge problem for so many people.
And its part of my duty | not duty \ duty is too strong a word.
Itfs part of my recovery process to allow people into that part
of my life, and to own it. There might be someone out there, who
is struggling, who might need some help - who might think, oh
my God, that girlfs an alcoholic, perhaps she can help me. So
thatfs why I am prepared to talk about it.h
statement was an inspiration for me.
When they watch the film, students of yoga, and people with addiction
problems, will appreciate Louise in many ways. Notice, that in
her very first statement, she makes a switch from using the word,
gdutyh, with its implication of an externally approved edifice
of individual achievement and virtue, to gmy recovery processh
with itfs liberating humility and profound focus on the subjective
condition and freedom from affliction | an important principle
Liberation from the dominance of that aspect of our mental process,
which we refer to as ego, and the sometimes lethal delusions and
capacity for denial that can be part of it, is an interesting
theme that runs throughout the film \ explained very adequately
by all the interviewees who include two yoga teachers. Also explored
is the concept of surrender to higher power, which in AA is considered
essential to recovery. It is interesting how people effectively
interpret this idea in different ways and for others it is a stumbling
block. Nonetheless, freedom from ego-driven and compulsive behavior
will help anyone be a little happier. The film does not have a
position on Higher Power. It is not an infomercial for any particular
group. It hopes only to inform the viewer as a way of helping
with the difficulties that people sometimes face in life. And
it is there for free.
It is early days. We have had a very good response showing the
film and following it with a workshop. Robert
Cory and I have done one and so has Tori
Milner, who is the expert, and more are planned in USA and
Canada. We welcome other teachers to do the same. It is possible
to make a DVD by downloading from one of the sites listed below.
Working with Director of Photography, Jake Clennell and editor, Hisayo
Kushida it took 18 months to make the film. Currently the
film is being translated into Japanese and Spanish. I want to
get a Russian translation started soon. (any offers??)
I hope you get a chance to view the film. Itfs easily available
Vimeo, or www.adyo.org.
I hope you enjoy the film.
My best wishes to you.
download director's note