Yoga used to be considered a far-out idea. But the number of Americans who now practice yoga has doubled in the last decades and is into the tens of millions. Yoga is increasingly being used in treatment programs for substance use disorder and throughout recovery to help prevent relapse. Now it’s come to Brookings County Drug Court.
Practicing yoga was never something 58-year-old Tiffany Heyduk thought she would do.
She spent years hiding her addiction.
“I worked the same job for almost 30 years. I raised my babies. Nobody knew,” Heyduk said.
Heyduk says drugs took away the pain of the trauma she had experienced when she was sexually abused as a child.
Heyduk: The first time I did crank, I knew I was going to be a drug addict.
Heyduk: Because it made me feel powerful
Uppers helped her cope with her busy life.
“Meth made me like a superwoman,” Heyduk said.
But after her kids grew up and moved out, Heyduk began to downward spiral, eventually ending up in prison for drugs.
“Prison was easy, drug court was not,” Heyduk said.
She’s been in recovery for three years.
“Drug court worked for me. They were amazing it was amazing. It’s the best thing I ever accomplished besides the birth of my two kids,” Heyduk said.
Heyduk’s yoga partner is Jeramy Novak. The two share a birthday and history.
“Jeramy and I we’ve known each other a long time–we’ve done drugs together,” Heyduk said.
“I was at work and I had wife and home and the kids and I was functioning for a while, but then everything deteriorated.” Novak said.
Jeremy has a 19-year prison sentence hanging over his head if he doesn’t succeed in drug court.
“Follow the simple rules, their motto: show up, try and be honest. That’s what I’m doing,” Novak said.
“I got into drug court, he got into drug court and we push each other, “Heyduk said.
Pushing each other on the yoga mat is helping both of these recovering meth users. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress, manage withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapses.
“It makes me feel powerful and strong, to be able to take and do some things; stand on my head at 56-years-old, I never would have thought I’d be standing on my head,” Heyduk said.
“I like it. I can come here like yesterday, I was mad and I was in the hot room, we had hot yoga and I felt a lot better when we left. Brandy tells me, ‘your issues are in your tissues,” Novak said.
“The whole practice is meant to be meditative, “Weber said.
Yoga Instructor Brandy Weber is teaching Tiffany and Jeramy the Ashtanga method.
“We can’t skip over postures. You do those same things and even if something is challenging, you find a way to work through it,” Weber said.
The yoga program has only been available in the Brookings drug court for about a month and a half. But if it’s successful, Weber hopes to bring it to other drug courts throughout the state.
“This is just something I feel passionate about. I want to be part of the solution; just trying to take some of the stigma away from the whole concept of recovery,” Weber said.
Weber’s Ashtanga teacher is Taylor Hunt, who is in recovery for heroin addiction.
“From the age of 15 to 25, I was putting needles in my arm every single day,” Hunt said.
Several stints in rehab didn’t take.
“I thought I was too far down or I’ve done too many bad things to be saved,’ Hunt said.
But then Hunt discovered that yoga was the key to his recovery. Now the Trini Foundation runs a recovery program in Columbus, Ohio. It’s where Weber got her training.
“I can come here, I can sweat on my mat and everything is gone, my issues, I guess I leave them on my mat,” Novak said.
“I mistreated my body for a long, long time. I didn’t eat, didn’t sleep–did drugs, didn’t drink water. Now I eat, I sleep, I drink water and I do yoga. And the yoga is amazing. It gives me a feeling of empowerment,” Heyduk said.
A feeling that drugs took away that yoga practice is helping them reclaim.
The Trini Foundation provides scholarships for recovering addicts to take Ashtanga yoga classes across the country.