Beyond Addiction: The Yogic Path to Recovery Comes to Casa Om

Nirmal Singh and Whitnee Denard are coming to Casa Om for an extraordinary workshop on addiction, based on the work of Sat Dharam Kaur, Gabor Mate, and of course, Yogi Bhajan and the teachings of Kundalini yoga. This retreat is for everyone—yoga teachers, health professionals, or anyone who wants to make a positive change in their life. Blogger Kathryn E. Livingston caught up with Nirmal, who is based in Toronto, to ask some questions about this exciting opportunity for learning, growth, change, and fun.

Q: What can you tell me about your retreat and why you are offering a program dealing with addiction?

Nirmal: This program was developed by Kundalini Yoga Lead Trainer and naturopath Sat Dharam Kaur. It consists of a 70-hour training program that is delivered in a number of different models including a 9-day training intensive, a 4-weekend training intensive, and an online training program. This program is so important since it applies to those who wish to deal with unwanted habits and thought patterns as well as addictive behaviors. In other words, pretty much everyone! The depth and breadth of this program is such that participants have profound shifts in their attitudes and behaviors. Teachers who wish to teach the program, as well as anyone who wishes to change their thought patterns and behaviors, will benefit from this program.

Q: What topics will you be covering?

Nirmal: There are 16 different modules and themes that make up this program. There are also 12 components to the program: Kundalini yoga, breathing techniques, meditation, counseling and communication skills, lifestyle and stress management, hydrotherapy, exercise, detoxification, humor, self-reflection, service, and community support. We also get into the science of addiction with information on the stress response and cortisol (the “stress hormone”), and neurotransmitters (like dopamine).

Q: Are there specific meditations and kriyas you’ll be using to deal with addiction? Could you offer a sneak preview of one you find particularly effective?

Nirmal: There are many pranayams, meditations and kriyas that apply to addictions and unwanted thought patterns. We capture at least one of these per module. I love “Sitali Breath” which works well for combating cravings for cigarettes. And there’s the “Exercise Set to Activate the Frontal Lobe of the Brain,” since the frontal lobe is the executive center of the brain and helps the brain respond to conflicting thoughts. And the “I Am I Am” meditation which reminds us we are spiritual beings having a very human experience as we deal with our “stuff.”

Q: This is a program designed by Sat Dharam Kaur. How did you get involved in teaching it?

Nirmal: Sat Dharam and I have a long history. She was my naturopath in 1994 when I developed health issues, and eventually I started taking yoga classes down the hall in her clinic, with one of her protégés in 1995. Many years later she agreed to be my mentor in the Aquarian Trainer Academy so I’ve been working with her as a teacher trainer since 2007. Sat Dharam developed the “Beyond Addiction” program and I was naturally drawn to it since we work so closely together. And I have the good luck to be teaching with Whitnee Denard in the Mexico training since she works very closely with Sat Dharam in Sat Dharam’s hometown, Owen Sound.

Q: How did you get into Kundalini yoga and become interested in its use for addiction?

Nirmal: When I came to my first class in 1995 through Sat Dharam it was in answer to my question, “can yoga help my back?” It did and then some! I took the teacher training in 1999. I have what some refer to as “monkey mind,” and I could see how this program helps get at the core of challenges that show up in one’s life, including the unwanted thought patterns and other demoting habits in my life.

Q: What other activities will you be offering?

Nirmal: We have an excursion built into our schedule, visiting a cenotes (underwater pool) in Puerto Morelos. There’s also the opportunity, at an additional cost, to visit the Mayan ruins Chichen Itza, which I’ll certainly take advantage of after the course.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about Gabor Mate?

Nirmal: This program is primarily based on the teachings of Yogi Bhajan, but also includes the work of Dr. Gabor Mate, a renowned teacher and author who has specialized in mind-body approaches to addiction recovery. His books include In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, When the Body Says No, and Scattered Minds.

Q: I believe this program has a very special component even after participants have returned home?

Nirmal: Yes, the program doesn’t end with the 9 day intensive. It is followed by a 16-week follow-up home study program at no extra cost, reviewing one of the 16 modules each week. The review includes the curriculum, doing pranayam/yoga/meditation, diet/cleansing, videos with Sat Dharam and Gabor Mate, and participating in a weekly small group check-in call via Skype. This is so important to help integrate this training, to help develop healthy lifestyle habits and continue to grow into our “Best Future Self.” Of course, this part is optional, but it makes sense to take advantage of it. You’re not just ‘shown the door’ at the end of the training; participants have the option of staying connected with the information and with each other.

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