Triggers and Tunes

Many of us in recovery have triggers: smells, sights, areas of town or even stories / dramas can trigger a memory. Even worse, some of these can trigger a craving. For instance where I once liked all manner of action shows I now can’t watch the ones with graphic scenes of drug use. I can’t watch them; I get itchy. Not to use, but it reminds me too much of what it was like. I prefer things that keep me in the “what it is like now”. Music can be one of those triggers and when your heart is open, when you are vulnerable and defenses are down, it can be overwhelming. On the yoga mat and totally present aware of nothing but the moment, music, that powerful magical art form that is designed to inspire you, can have its way with you. When that music is evocative of a life before sobriety – a tamasic and rajastic time, it does not enhance serenity. It does not enhance your yoga practice. Sattvic tunes are really the preference for me. This weekend’s entry is by guest blogger William Zell Space. He is a regular yoga practitioner who reveres his time on the mat as part of his recovery path. It is a sacred time. William Space is currently a single writer, artist, grad student in psychology, and yogi in Minneapolis. Yoga has been an integral to his recovery and he hopes to bring recovery yoga to Minneapolis. He changes his name for fun and has a passion for exploring where brain change, art, and life intersect. I know what’s it like because that used to be me sweating it out at sculpt and loving every second of it when a series came to a climax with the song about the weekend.. getting down and getting drunk. The beats and the vocal effects can create a feeling so like being intoxicated at times I could literally see a dance club in my mind’s eye. I would leave the studio with my head held high just knowing this weekend I would be a little better, drink a little less, and if not I earned it and would be back at yoga tomorrow or Sunday no matter what happened that night. Seldom was that the case and eventually I had to abandon my practice and put the entirety of free time into sobriety. Now I’m back and yoga is a serious part of my recovery. Like many people I had to choose between a yoga studio or gym membership. If you cannot afford a yoga and gym membership you will find yourself working out in a yoga sculpt class. Here things are not necessarily as yogic as they are in other classes at your studio. Before class the volume level in the classroom can like a school lunchroom instead of an ashram. That and the music in the locker room and in the studio before class can be whatever the teacher feels like. Even the locker room is special to me. I just do not need Justin Timberlake in there with me. I endured the songs about getting wasted in class for as long as I could. It is not that they are even about getting wasted but more specifically they tend be about that point of losing control and things going way too far. The beats are intoxicating and if you are like me and an alcoholic you can almost just feel that moment.. the point of no return. The rush. The place every alcoholic drinks for and once there cannot leave of their own freewill. Hey! I came here to do yoga! Sometimes there could be more than one song about partying in a class. I mean come on. Two songs about using in one class!! And not songs like Hotel California. They have to be about LOSING CONTROL. I put off the decision the write the company about it for a while but in the end I figured it was the best for everyone. I knew it would have some effect but did not expect it to become a law that there could be no party music in class and that, to my knowledge at least, is not what happened. I figured whether they knew it or not they were hurting everybody by playing garbage in the studio just like how it is bad read in bed because you stop associating your bed with sleep… So I wrote my yoga studio headquarters to ask if they might not cease to play songs in sculpt classes about using or getting wasted and taking off clothes on the dance floor (wasted). I added that a lot of people in recovery turn to yoga as a release and it can be hard to build strength to that kind of music. They wrote back that each teacher has their choice of expression about which music they play. It has been a couple months now and while I wrote the headquarters out of state(they have studios in multiple states) I haven’t heard any music about getting wasted in sculpt since then! I am a terminal rule breaker and get kicks asking people to do things that are against policy when I get a chance, so it was hard for me to be the bad guy but I think it was worth it. My studio has over fifty locations in different states and to think how many people in recovery must have also been bothered by this it feels pretty good to have made a difference with my one little letter. This is evidence of exercising the “power to change the things you can” – by reaching out and telling your truth.

Kyczy Hawk E-RYT200 is the author of “Yoga and the Twelve Step Path”, a leader of Y12SR classes, and the creator of SOAR(tm) (Success Over Addiction and Relapse) a teacher certification training she holds with her good friend Kent Bond E-RYT500. Find out more about her, her classes and the training at

3 thoughts on “Triggers and Tunes”

  1. Music is so triggering of emotional cues. As a person who comes from the family side of the disease, I too have found I need to stay away from some songs as they trigger my anxiety and urge to act, to control, my attempts to stop the emotion. I enjoyed reading William Zell Space’s post and thank you for raising awareness about the role of music as a trigger.

    1. Lisa, Thank you for adding your experience. It is an important point in recovery to take care of the FEELING o being in recovery and not teasing the anxiety and urges.

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