April 16 is National Stress Awareness Day, but at Phoenix House Long Island City Center and other programs across the country, clients learn skills that help them practice and prioritize stress awareness every day of their lives. “We are always looking for alternative ways to help our clients find health and recovery,” explains Nora Bordeau, a Mental Health Counselor and Art Therapist at Phoenix House. “So last summer I suggested a trial run of weekly hatha and vinyasa yoga classes with a few of our female clients. The women fell in love with yoga and meditation in the very first class.”
Nora’s yoga classes have a simple and accessible structure. She encourages students to “leave their luggage at the door” and focus on positivity in the present moment as they move through stretches and more active poses. “Everyone loves the sun salutations,” Nora adds, “and they’re really proud of their knowledge of the routine.” Class ends with fifteen minutes of guided meditation, where students lie in savasana (“corpse pose”) and concentrate on their breathing.
From a clinical standpoint, as Nora explains and many devotees can attest, yoga and meditation are extremely beneficial tools for recovery from addiction. When struggling with substance abuse, the sympathetic nervous system is often overwhelmed with stress, which can make it difficult to stay calm or fall asleep at night. For many clients, their first yoga class at Phoenix House is the first time they are able to slow down and bring themselves to a level of awareness without feeling agitated. “They can hear the cars, talking, and commotion outside, and allow the noise to wash over them instead of affecting them,” says Nora. “That’s a valuable mindset to have in life—especially in recovery.”
Today, nine months after the Long Island City yoga program’s inception, the classes have multiplied and expanded to include men as well. Clients even borrow the yoga room and mats for peer-led group sessions. “Everyone is so comfortable and respectful, and they really benefit from the practice,” says Nora. “It’s amazing to see them making progress, dedicating themselves, and using their energy in a positive manner. Yoga and meditation brings clients to a level where cravings are workable and don’t lead to relapse. Like the noise outside, they can acknowledge the craving, let it wash over them, and then breathe it away.”Back to Index