Durga Leela - Yoga of Recovery
Today we are speaking with Durga Leela. Durga is a pioneer in the field of holistic recovery, an Ayurveda and Yoga Therapist and the author of Yoga of Recovery.
Her book offers an integration of yoga and Ayurveda, combining the philosophy, psychology, and physical practices of these ancient traditions, along with modern recovery tools. It goes beyond the traditional pathways and challenges the common diet and exercise dogma promoted by mainstream media. Yoga of Recovery is for people looking to overcome any of their addictive or self-destructive behaviours or for people with a family or personal history of addiction. It’s also a great resource for yoga teachers, yoga therapists or anyone working within the recovery field.
Durga is so knowledgeable, and has such a gift for explaining yogic physiology and philosophy and we think this is a great conversation for anyone wanting to learn more about this traditional wisdom and how it can be applied today.
In the time since we recorded this episode we have seen the disappointing No result of Australia’s voice referendum, as well as horrific and heartbreaking violence unfolding in Gaza. While these are separate events, we see and support the global solidarity of first nations peoples and oppose the rise of racially motivated violence in any form. It can be hard to know what to do to help in times like these, and we encourage you to show support in whatever capacity you have, whether it is supporting local blak owned businesses, uplifting first nations voices online, attending a rally, emailing your government representative to call for a cease fire or making a financial aid donation. To our First Nations listeners - our hearts go out to you - you deserve so much better.
Donation classes: https://yogaofrecovery.com/events/yor-second-saturdays-by-donation/
Yoga for Recovery book on amazon: https://amzn.to/3ZuLjIE
Please email us to report any transcription errorsRane Bowen: Hello. My name is Rane and this is the Flow Artist podcast. Together with my co host Jo Stewart, we speak with extraordinary movers, thinkers and teachers and discover how they find their flow and much, much more. But before we dive in, we want to take a moment to acknowledge and honor the traditional owners of the unceded land where this episode was recorded, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. We pay our deepest respects to the elders, both past and present, and acknowledge the emerging leaders within their community.
In the time since we recorded this episode, we've seen the disappointing no result of Australia's voice referendum, as well as horrific and heartbreaking violence unfolding in Gaza. While these are separate events, we see and support the global solidarity of First nations peoples and we oppose the rise of racially motivated violence in any form. It can be hard to know what to do to help in times like these, so we encourage you to show support in whatever capacity you have, whether it's supporting local Black owned businesses, uplifting First nations voices online, attending a rally, emailing your government representative to call for a ceasefire, or making a financial aid donation to our First nations listeners. Our hearts go out to you. You deserve so much better.
Today we're speaking with Durga Leela. Durga is a pioneer in the field of holistic recovery, an Ayurveda and yoga therapist and the author of Yoga of Recovery. Her book offers an integration of yoga and Ayurveda, combining the philosophy, psychology and physical practices of these ancient traditions along with modern recovery tools. It goes beyond the traditional pathways and challenges the common diet and exercise dogma promoted by mainstream media. Yoga of Recovery is for people looking to overcome any of their addictive or self destructed behaviours, or for people with a family or personal history of addiction. It's also a great resource for yoga teachers, yoga therapists or anyone working within the recovery field. Dorka is so knowledgeable and has such a gift for explaining yogic physiology and philosophy, and we think this is a great conversation for anyone wanting to learn more about this traditional wisdom and how it can be applied today. All right, let's get into the conversation with. All right, Durga, thank you so much for speaking with us today. It's so great to get the chance to speak with you so you open your book, sharing your own story, which is really powerful. Would you like to give us a brief introduction to your life and the path that led you to writing yoga of recovery?
Durga Leela: Yeah, it's great to be here with you. Thanks for taking the time to talk about the book. Yeah, the book does start with my personal story, because generally I want to say for anyone listening, that yoga of recovery is the way I have obtained, journeyed into long term progressive recovery in my own life. So it's always important to start with what did that look like? So that's what the book talks about. And I'm from Scotland, but I was born in America and my father died. My parents were Scottish, so my father asked for us to be taken home to Scotland by my mother. And we were raised there and know kind of had a general regular upbringing. And there was alcoholism in my family and my mother probably started drinking more alcoholically when I was about eleven or twelve. And that became a battle point for me, trying to save her and not have her do this thing that seems so sickening and it just felt dangerous. Not everybody in the whole family reacted to that the way I did, but I had a particular reaction to it. And anyway, I went on to leave home and not much go back, not really welcomed back. And then I moved to London, I got a job. And I would say that I tried to outrun my emotional difficulties that were there when I was growing up. And I got distanced from them, but I never really got away from them. And so I myself became alcoholic. I lost things through drinking, relationships and jobs. And I ended up once in jail, once in the hospital, and I still kind of tried to continue with my life, having a couple of things, like a job, for instance, that meant I couldn't really be the one with the problem. And I was know poor Mia had all these issues around me and I was reactive to it. But then eventually my mother died. And I definitely think her death was early because of the alcoholism. It causes a lot of health problems. We tend to think of it as the mental health issue, but it really is deteriorating to the body, right, as well as the mind. So when that happened, I kind of didn't know how to proceed because then at some point I realized most of my life had been a reaction and a running away to what was happening with my family relationships. And so I did a geographic again. So being in Scotland, then London, then I moved back to America and then I got into recovery. And in the time that I'd been in London, I had a corporate job. And the only thing I did for myself was I did yoga classes after my work some nights. And when I got into recovery, that's something that I went back to yoga on the mat. And then in recovery I was seeing a therapist and my recovery pathway was a twelve step fellowship. And my therapist asked me to see a psychiatrist, which I did, and they diagnosed me with clinical depression. And this was at a point when I had 18 months off of alcohol and drugs. And so it was like, yeah, I'm still not finished with this growth period. And one of my things was that I was a smoker. I was a smoker that had asthma, and so I could be seen to take a puff on an inhaler and then light up a cigarette. And so this diagnosis, the clinical depression, especially with just a little yoga practice, it was enough for me to think like, this is insanity. What I continue to do, it's a deathly habit, and it's in no way acceptable for me to continue with it. And I think really what it comes down to with all addiction, and I see it regularly in my life and the people that I work with, the point of change comes when you can no longer stay the same. You can't stay with what you've been doing, and you also can't stop what you've been doing. And many of us have to find the pivot point around that particular conundrum. And so for me, being faced with the, you're depressed and you need to be medicated, I just wanted to give yoga a try. I thought, this is the thing that just something in me holds to some kind of feeling that I'd never had with anything else from the practice of yoga on the mat. So I asked my therapist, maybe we can delay this, and I'll come off cigarettes using yoga as my therapy. And so that's what I did. I went to an ashram. I was told you weren't allowed to smoke at the ashram. So that's why I went there, because I really needed to be as strictly supported as I could be, where I wasn't going to be allowed to just light up that cigarette. So I did it. And the yoga really helped me, and I put it down to a lot to do with Asana and Pranayama, but it was also the disciplined, daily, structured schedule and the container that a yoga ashram is, because there's a people aspect addiction. And so one of the things was, I wasn't going to go there and kind of trash the relationship that I was building with them. So I had to try and change my habits to be kind of fitting in, I would say. Right, but fitting into something that appealed to me. And so that was a really helpful trip, even although it was sort of terrifying for me. And now I think I have, like, 22 years off of cigarettes. And that's how long I've been studying and practicing more in depth yoga, and I really did see it as a big aspect of what I really needed to do to move my health forward, because let's say that that diagnosis of clinical depression had a lot to do with the metabolic and hormonal disrepair that I was in. And that had been part of my life since I was about twelve or 13. And I drank on some of those issues. And so therefore, resolving a pain issue with drugs or alcohol, for instance, gives you more issues to deal with. But it's kind of funny that a lot of the recovery never really dealt with anything physical. For me. It was always like I was in a twelve step program that's a spiritual basis. And then I went to the doctor and they had me in therapy and seeing a psychiatrist and offering me antidepressants, but no one was actually asking how the physical body was. And I can say it wasn't very good. Right. And I didn't really know how to get a handle on it. So I decided that if anything was going to teach me, it would be yoga. And then I was introduced to Ayurveda, and that was a game changer, basically. It was so helpful. So hopefully that gives a little part of story. Absolutely. Yeah.
Jo Stewart: That gives us some great insights. And I just wanted to interject because a lot of our listeners are yoga teachers, but there are other people who may not have heard of Ayurveda before.
Durga Leela: Or maybe have just seen it on.
Jo Stewart: A bottle of herbs or a tea or something. Would you like to just give us a really brief description of the system of Ayurveda, and especially the doshas and the Gunas?
Durga Leela: Yeah, so brief. I will do my best. I think the best way to be brief around it is to take the word Ayurveda. So it's Ayur, which means life, and VEda, which means knowledge. So it's knowledge of life. It's the science of life. It's the sister science of Yoga, and it basically deals with the human condition. It looks for a way to explain who we are and how we can stay in balance. So the ancient Rishis, the Seers, the ones who got their information from meditation, they describe us as being a manifestation of the five elements. And those five elements are combined into biological forces that they call the Three doShas. And so the three DoShas have very particular functions in the body. So there's KApha, which is Earth and water, and that governs substance, structure of the body. And then there's Pitta, which is fire contained in water, and that governs digestion and metabolism. And then there's VAta, which is air and ether, and that governs movement, all movements in the body and of the body. So structure, metabolism, and movement is the three main functions of those doshas. AND YOGA HAS A VEry PARTiCUlAR UndeRSTaNDING OF US, AND, LET'S SAY, the DiffereNt LayErs Of Our MaNIFeStaTIoNs. So there's the body, and there's also the mind. So the mind is also made up of the five elements. So these doshas give an emotional tendency, and I think that's a part that really helped me relate to it. But the thing that I really needed was how I could resolve some of my depression, for instance, and lack of energy, how I could resolve that by physical means, not just this kind of pray and meditate and take pharmaceutical drugs to improve your mind and your mood. So that was really helpful for me. AND SO WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THE DOSHAS, WE'RE REALLY TALKING ABOUT, MY TEACHER CALLS IT THE PHYSICAL AND THE PSYCHOLOGICAL. But when we talk about the gunas, and the gunas is the words that is the primordial energy of everything in manifestation. SO IT'S THE POWER OF NATURE HERSElF TO MaNiFeST. So it's three words, sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Satva represents intelligence, Tamas represents energy, and Tamas represents materiality. SO A UNIVERSAL LEvEL, THEY ArE INHERENT IN ALL THINGS, BUT AT A PSYCHOLOGICAL LEVEL, ARYVEDA UsES ThEM TO ASCERtAIN THE MINDSET AND THE PERCEPTION THAT WE HAVE. SO THE SATVA GIVES CLARITY, RAJAS GIVEs a STaTE OF ACTIVITY, AND MAYBE DISTRACTION AND TURBULENCE, PERHAPS EVEN AgGRESSIoN. And then Tamas gives a tendency towards, like, heaviness, inertia, lethargy, depression. SO WHEN WE'RE LOOKING AT THE MIND, THE IMBALANCE OF THE MIND IS DESCRIBED AS RAJAS AND TAMAS, WHEREAS THE IMBALANCES OF THE BODY ARE DESCRIBED AS THE DOSHAS. And we could say, just overexpressing themselves. SO IF FATA OVEREXPRESSES ItSELF, IT CAN CAUSE DRYNESS. If pitta overexpresses, it can cause heat. And then if Kapha overexpresses, it can cause, like, swelling and ex congestion, that type of thing. But yoga is very clear that the causation comes from the subtle. SO THE MIND IS CREATING THESE THINGS WITHIN THE BODY. And so we always have to be able to work with the mind. AND so EVERYtHING that we do, we say all our remedies are satvic, which means that they are balancing for both the body and the mind. And that's not true of all remedies that you see either in all medicine systems or in the Western medical model, some medicines can be very activating and other medicines can be very sedating. Right? Like you get something like Valium. It's not changing the actual behavior or the mind, it's just tamping the whole thing down deep, sedatives and things. So I was really interested with that empowerment factor of being able to weave together the aspect of being like the capacity to have mastery over your mind, and that also contributing to being able to lead a life of balance. And I will say at this point, I did have some physical concerns, but they hadn't been diagnosed as these name diseases yet. But I think that's where we need to get to help people is at those points where, you know, your system isn't balanced. Sometimes it is, sometimes it's not. You don't know why, and you're kind of trying to navigate just being able to live well through each day. And how long can you let that continue before it does become a disease and you do need to see a doctor and take the treatments that can be a little bit more invasive or the more we get attention on the Ayurveda, the science of balance, then we give people an opportunity to navigate their own energy, moods, wellness, and ability to live in a day and get the best from themselves. Right, which doesn't mean any aspect of perfection, but just to understand that maybe if I feel this way, I'll choose to do this instead of that, or I won't eat that and I'll go and exercise instead. Right? So it gives us a little bit more flexibility in our choices and rooted in some kind of self awareness.
Jo Stewart: And it sounds like you're really leading us to this point with everything that you've said so far.
Durga Leela: Like, I love the idea that you're.
Jo Stewart: Giving people the tools to do something positive to themselves for their future well being, versus something reactive, trying to fix something that's already happened in the past or in the present, and to work with their systems as a whole, being, not just the mind, and not just trying to change things within the body in isolation of the mind. Would you like to just explain how the whole yoga of recovery model and system is different to a traditional twelve step rehabilitation program?
Durga Leela: Yeah, I think one word that I'm going to use for this is embodied. So the twelve step programs do not have any physical advice. So they say it's a spiritual set of tools, and the set of tools actually is very similar to the tools that's offered by yoga. So without the physical practice, but things like prayer and meditation and self inquiry and service. Like the four Paths of yoga, the twelve steps is like a very good summation of what those four paths of yoga offer us. So, of course, if you want to bring embodiment, then you can get on the mat. And that's what a lot of people do, right? That's what they think I teach. Firstly, they always mistake my name for yoga, for recovery, when it's yoga of recovery. So partly the name says that when you see, for me, my foundational pathway is twelve steps. Now, there's multiple pathways of recovery, and they're all welcomed and celebrated, and you'll find facets of yoga within many of them. Right. Because yoga primarily is a way to balance the mind. It's primarily a psychology. So when I say what yoga recovery brings, we can put people on the mat and we do, and that's a physical practice. But when it comes to especially what I've written about in this book, it's the physicality of knowing your own body and knowing the tendencies that you have, both emotional and physical, and knowing how to balance that with regular, practical, daily choices, like what kind of food you eat, what kind of tea you drink, when do you sleep, when do you exercise, for how long? And that's not fixed, but it gives a person an idea of it's not one size fits all, right? I've got some aspects that for me it's like this. And although it might be like that for you, there's Differences between us. So it helps us really just be able to move into Self care that is like Personalized. Right. And so this is Definitely Something that.
Jo Stewart: I enjoyed Reading about In your Book and something that I personally find really Interesting. And everyone is unique. But just as a general sense, how have you noticed that people's doshas and people's gunas tend to play out in addiction? Do people tend to be more drawn towards something that maybe balances out the tendencies that they have, or are they kind of more drawn to something that enhances aspects of their Constitution and their tendencies?
Durga Leela: Yeah, good question. Right. Is it one or the other? I think I would never say it's this or that. I'd always say it's both. But let me say the way that I understood it to start with, and I could see it, and it was a point of Amusement for us as we learned these things that most people can really relate to. And they resonate with it, because when we're not in Balance, and let's say this big statement, yoga says we're more imbalanced when we're in this SatvA, when we're in a balanced State of mind, but most of us are not, right? So the ego is running the show, and we're in this sense of separation from that separation. We're kind of under the survival stress, so we're kind of Competing and Comparing and despairing, right? So there's always reactivity there. So Rajas, we call reactivity TAmas, we call like, Resistance or repression. So there's things that we're struggling with. There's things that we're hiding, there's things that we're denying. But when it comes to our personality in that situation, we can begin to rely on. And I'd say it's like the force of the elemental power of the Doshas rather than the power of spirit in our life. So it's like we're not plugging into source, we're trying to run off our own Little battery. So there is a tendency, for instance, that Vata people have qualities because they're air and ether, so they're cold, they're light, they're dry, they're mobile. These are qualities that are just more apparent in their system. And so they can be attracted to things that increase those qualities. And as it increases the qualities, it's like, I call it the Dosha driving the bus. It's like this is the way we roll because this is what it feels like in this system here. And if we get more of that, we'll be stronger and quicker and faster. So Vata tends to get more busy and more over scheduled and almost feels like they have a fear of stillness because mobility is their nature, right? Whereas Pitta has this fire nature. So it starts to get attracted to anything that increases its intensity or its heat. And so again, that feels good because it's a lot of drive, it's a lot of ambition. But over time, people start to maybe stay away from them because they're a little irritable and judgmental and impatient and intolerant. And some of the things that they're doing are it gives them that sense of being all fired up. But other people around them just find them sharp and aggressive, right? And then Kafa, they have the quality of earth and water. So we say they're more stable and heavy and moist. So, like what it takes to build structure, it's like mud type of thing. So they have a tendency to become a little bit more complacent, a little bit more laid back than they reasonably should be. And so they're attracted to things that give them the kind of numbed out couch potato thing. And that's going to add more to that heaviness of nature. And so then they'll gravitate towards being overweight, having overeating, especially to do with emotions, feeling lonely, I would say, and also a kind of heavy depression type of mood, more sedentary lifestyle. So the doshas will become more like themselves. And that's a point of imbalance. But I would also say there's also addictive tendencies where they will do something that is against their nature. Like, if Kafa is more, like, sedentary, they might take something that speeds them up so that they feel like everybody else. Right, because we want to be included and we want to fit in. But I think in general, we tend to think of it as the doshas, like, kind of amplifying their own qualities. And it feels good to a certain extent, but to a certain extent, it doesn't work, right. And it starts to have payback. You start to have symptoms and it doesn't feel good. So it's another point where a lot of us get perplexed, because what used to work doesn't work now. So, like, in our wisdom, we think, well, we just need more of it. And if more doesn't work, and that's the definition of addiction in our yoga of recovery, when more is never enough, then when more is not enough, then we just move to the next level. So you see a lot of us on sugar and caffeine, for instance, right? That's like nationwide habits. And then when that no longer gives you the boost, the stimulation that you need, then maybe you're going to start having a cocktail or start smoking a joint. Then you're going to maybe up that into amphetamines and cocaine and things. So addiction isn't an event, it's a process. And we can look at the Doshas and we can sort of see how they've reached out to overstep their mark almost. But I think it really helps to understand, and this is the crux point for me, that Ayurveda describes us in our potential, not just our pathology. So it's something that I cover in the book about the kind of counseling the dosha types. We don't want to meet a person and say, what you're doing here is wrong. What we want to say is, I can see that you've been trying to deal with things and the point of your own personal power, you've tried to build on it, right? And then you've built on it to extent that it started to turn on you to an extent. So what works in the short term doesn't always work in the long term, but a lot of the time, we're doing the only thing we know how to do. And so it's to be able to see that in a person and kind of honor it and then offer the balancing point, because each of those physical and biological forces, they work to a certain extent. And, Joe, you were asking about the doshas and the gunas, right. But the body you're given is the body you're given. You're never going to change it. If you're a dominant vata type, you're not going to then become a dominant pitta type. So what we describe as the evolutionary process is to look at those gunas and understand that there's a certain direction of energy that is the spiritual path. And so a lot of that is to look within and to understand the energies that we are and then to understand how to make that more conscious. Right. And stop externally identifying and finding every fix for every ill or suffering that we have outside of ourselves. So it's a way to bring a person to understand how what they've done in the past has worked, maybe why it's not working right now, and to recognize the intelligence in the system and then attach them more stably to that intelligence. Right. So the solution doesn't lie outside of ourselves. I think that's the point of empowerment for me, and the point of empowerment is to recognize that each of those doshas have what I would say is often our inner intention. Like, we don't wake up in the morning thinking, oh, here I've got another opportunity to be like a pain in people's lives type of thing, right? We go into our world with good intentions, and then we've got all sorts of ideas of why we're not able to manifest those good intentions, and we turn into these bad habits and behaviors. And most of us are always trying to think, oh, I'm going to change this, I'm going to do this. And somehow we can't quite manage that. So I think the conversation that Aryveda has begins to help us recognize ourself. And we call it pitfalls, right? And it's not something to be shamed about, or there's no real need to have this big stigma about it. It's the normal pitfalls of having that type of nature and then to be guided back to the power within us rather than trying to always control or force things. So people generally feel, and I think not just that someone else can explain it to them, it's more that they've felt it within themselves, and so therefore it feels like it's a reality, something that they can really kind of tap into and understand.
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Jo Stewart: That makes a lot of sense, and it does kind of lead me to something that's come up in my mind when I've read quite a few textbooks on Ayurveda and just being in the world that we live in today, like in the media, and I know in the medical realm as well, if you're in a larger body, you come up.
Durga Leela: A lot against a lot of bias.
Jo Stewart: Like, I've heard friends go to the doctor with something completely unrelated and not get the tests that they need because the doctor just tells them they need to lose weight first. And Ayurveda is based on the principle that, yeah, we have this type, and so maybe you are meant to be in this larger body. Like that's the way that you're wired. And yet, a lot of the stereotypes that we see connected to people in larger bodies, like being mentally slow or unmotivated or lazy, also come up as kind of negative aspects of those types in Ayurveda. And I know the system is a lot more nuanced than that, but it seems like there is this real danger of bigger people whO've just had assumptions made about them throughout their life. Like, negative assumptions come up against similar perceptions within this system. That is said, it's going to help them, but it's just the same stuff that they've been hearing their whole lives. I'd really love your perspective on this as an issue within Ayurveda and I guess within the world as well.
Durga Leela: Yeah. Isn't that interesting? Because I would also say, to counter it from the beginning, that some people find a way that their body is finally recognized. Because to be in a calf, a body means, and I kind of like to say they have more cladding, right. Because we've all got the structure, but Kapha has more density even around its bones. Right. And so that's described as not just like there's a downside to that, but it's described as the strength that it is. And I think it can help youngsters understand that. Some people do have that tiny thin, like you can see the bones. That's more of a vatotype. A more moderate build is the pitotype and the more substantial body, which doesn't mean overweight, right. It just means that there's a certain amount of. How can you say it best? I'm thinking of the couple people that I know that there's like a sturdiness to the body, and each of those bodies have a certain sort of skill set. The other thing, all of us have all three doshas within us. And I think in different types times, I'm going to say some of us can feel those doshas more than other times. For a female, I think even more so sometimes. I like the idea that the even.
Jo Stewart: Over the cycle of a month.
Durga Leela: Yes, and that's definitely true, right. Over the cycle of a month, you can definitely feel those different Dosha energies within us. And that helps us, allows us to know that we, the female in this system, she is related to the moon. And the moon is constantly changing, right? Waxing and waning. And that's a bit like the female body constantly changing, full of potential, full of creative potential and energy and power. So it's never going to be our need to tamp that down. It's to live through those cycles and to live well through the cycles by attaching ourselves to the greater cycles, like the cycles of time during the day, the cycles of the month with the moon, the cycles of the seasons and the stages of life. So to me, there's that aspect of rhythm that we don't need to lock ourselves down into one self image now. Like, we are all these three energies interconnected. So let me think as well. The other thing about the perception of the body types with Ayurveda is the mind's ability to perceive clearly is from what we were talking about, the Satva. But we have been so influenced by an expectation and Media and images that we are not seeing clearly, right? So when I say there's Rajas, it's like we can't take information objectively. We color it ourselves. And so I have heard people that have said they've gained weight, so now they've become a kafa and they don't want to be a kafa, and what can we say? But that's not actually the system of Ayurveda, that's the perceptual capacities that we're bringing to it. And so oftentimes I will teach from the elements rather than the Doshas because we have, and I think this is how I sum this up, right? We are people who struggle for a stable sense of identity and a contentment in our sense of identity. So we kind of Latch on to anything that gives us a description of our identity, and we over identify with it and we overidentify with it with this. I heard someone call it their consumer selfhood, like, oh, I am a Vata type, and so I've got to eat this and have this product and do things this way. And that's not really what arguably is about, but we bring to it our own conditioning, right? So I would hope that people would look at the images that are given and kind of appreciate that there really are different types. Like, we're all human and we're all having different experiences. And the experience from being like a dominant type of Vata to a dominant type of pitta to a dominant type of kafa, they all have their strength points, and then they all have points that they're more easily imbalanced. And so they have to make a little bit more effort in that direction. And we all have it. It's like, it's hard to get the vata that's imbalanced, to sit down and be still, where it's a little bit more hard to get the Kafir to be up and moving, but once they are, they're content in that, right? And then it's a little hard to get pittas to kind of take the competitiveness out of just the way they approach things. For me, there's always been a humor in it. My husband and I were going to decorate a room, and I was kind of looking at it like, okay, how much paint will this take and how long will it take? And he was like, it's going to take as long as it takes, right. Why do you need to time this? And it's just mindset of a fire type. Like, let me know, I need to know, can I beat my own personal best here? Can I be faster than you? It's just like win, lose, first, last type of thing, and other people aren't having that same process going on. So what looks like a good day to, let's say, a batter type that's multitasking and likes to keep busy, busy, busy is not, certainly not what looks like a good day to someone that likes to be a little bit more laid back and relaxed and take their time. And so I think for me, understanding that, and I'll say it very much clearly in something that they say in twelve step programs, that we have to concentrate on principles rather than personalities. So knowing those kind of emotional tendency points of the DoSha types helped me activate a reality around principles, not personalities. Because in these peer support recovery programs, you've got a lot of people that want to share their knowledge and wisdom with you, and sometimes you're not asking for it. It's like unsolicited advice. But it's kind of interesting to just look at someone and say, I see that the passion and the rightness that fire can display or just the over zealous attention that maybe the air vasotypes can display. And just if I was to say Kappa there, maybe they get kind of, I'd say, almost overly attached to your business type of thing. So, understanding that, for me, what I saw was this is all divine energy, right? This is all this universal intelligence manifesting as these different elements. And here we're just being like, more fire, like, for instance, and we don't even know it, but once we're given it, and it's, to me, like, when you frame it like that, it's not pathological, right? It's not a disease. It's just an overexpression of something that can be a strength that can also become, like Pittas are good at planning, but then they can become controlling, right? So to understand that means that it's more of a navigation rather than a labeling, right?
Jo Stewart: I think that's really interesting, because just hearing you describe those types, it's like capitalism elevates people who have that drive and have that ambition and people who can multitask and never stop to rest, but it does not elevate and celebrate people who are completely content with what.
Durga Leela: They have here and now and are.
Jo Stewart: Able to stop and rest and contemplate. And this is something that you talk about in your book as well. I'd really love to hear your perspective on the connection between addiction and between consumerism and capitalism. And to expand that even more, do you think that there's, like, a connection between the structural injustices and the lack of compassion that drives our economy, that is actually leading people more and more towards addiction, just like out of despair?
Durga Leela: Yeah. Well, you have said that so well, I think you've kind of answered it yourself. And I'm going to backtrack to something that I was going to say, but didn't finish saying that sometimes we call the Doshas a family, right? So the mAle, FEmAle, and the child. So the female is the kafa, and the male is the pitta. So female is water and male is solar. And that's just like the yoga system, right? That down to the nostrils. The right NOstril is the solar channel, and the left nostril is the Lunar Channel, and right is male and left is female. And then they say VAtA is like the child. So VATA needs the most attention because it gets up to the most mischief and can cause the most kind of mayhem, really. But as has been the case, the one that you're mentioning, which is the Kafa, which is the feminine side, it has been downplayed, right. And that's something that's happened just within this kind of Western model, where it's all intellectual, academic, linear thinking. And that feminine aspect is not so celebrated, and yet it is the creative force. Right. So the more that we diminish that, the more just what you've said. We go into this imbalance where we're multitasking to the point of insanity, and we don't know when to stop. And the only time we're going to stop is when we fall down exhausted and somebody has to kind of pick us up and put us back together again. I think the Rajas in our mind pitches to the idea that if I break down, somebody can fix me. But the kapha is the cohesiveness. It is the idea. At the mental level, we say it's to do with the contentment, that there is a point of the Kafa nature which holds the container, and the container can be the contentment. It can also be the immune system. And so when you operate in such a way that you favor the fiery type of productivity or the incessant movements and being unsettled and transient, then what you lack and what you lose is that cohesive community, which is really part of the love and compassion. So nothing can exist out of balance for too long before the symptoms show and before, hopefully, intelligence revisits the system to create the balance again. And that's why it's good news that Ayurveda is becoming more spoken about, because, unfortunately, a lot of the medicines that we apply to the imbalances that we've created just impact the imbalance even more. Like, I can think of one of the biggest addiction things that you kind of wonder why they couldn't get a handle on. It is that whatever they put in over the counter cold remedies is what people use to make meth. And yet they would not stop putting it into the cold remedies, because it's the thing that keeps you up when you should be resting, like, because you're sick. That became just a practice, that it was unquestionable that people who were sick could just stay at home for a couple of days and recover and feel better and then come back, and people would go into work and they would spread those germs because they're still sick. And as long as they kind of had this stimulant speed thing going on in them. And that comes from remedies that are highly profitable, and the pharmaceutical companies aren't going to release their hold on them. So there's a lot of issues around the alleviation of symptoms and healing. And healing really comes to this. Understand the container, understand the metabolism, understands the activity of the system, and balance it. Balance it for yourself, balance it for your particular disease, for instance. And then also what you're demanding of the system, because we will go through times where we do have to multitask more. There's times when you're asked for almost more than you can give, right? Maybe you're a new mother or new parents, and your life is suddenly very different, and you're not getting the full rest and relaxation that you used to, but your system has resilience built into it. But the resilience part from our lens comes a lot from that Kapha aspect, from that feminine force, the one that holds it all together. So what I like about Ayurveda, and it allows me to kind of rest into this universal intelligence that we are manifestations of. And they have this saying, as above, so below. So what we have enacted, we are suffering with it as symptoms within ourself, and we see it outside ourselves in the weather systems and the climate. So there is imbalance, and things need to be applied to make things balance again. But there's also what we call nature herself, which is Prakriti, and she is the primary energy of the planet, right? So she will also balance herself. Right? And that could be dangerous for some of us, right? Because there is a universal intelligence behind all this. But this, as above, so below helps me understand that as we see massive changes happening in communities or even climates, then that is happening within us too. Like, we will feel those effects. So the whole of the Vedic system works on the law of cause and effect, action and consequence of action. So all of us are to live through this. So I would say it really is a point of wisdom to know ourselves a little better and to be a little bit more self sufficient in our own ability to find balance without being externally dependent on all these other things. And also to release, I would just say, unsubscribe from the media message that tells us somehow that we lack and that we're not good enough type of thing. And so their product is going to fix it for us. I mean, who really believes that, right? I think it's just another point of a desperate attempt not to live with that. What could I say? That was a less than better than type of thing. But if we can all understand that who we are is this perfect for what we're here to do, right? But personally, when I was young, I would pick up a magazine and I would read it, and I would just notice how awful I felt. Like there was no way I could afford shoes that were 1000 pounds or dollars or whatever. And then when you turn the page, there's a diet which nobody can really follow. And then you turn the page again and there is a recipe for chocolate cake that's like 1 million calories. And it was like, this is like insane. And it doesn't make me feel good. So I just unsubscribed. I just never read a magazine again. But I really feel for people now because social media is hard to get away from, right? It's constantly there. And I believe I see the change already in younger people. Just constantly on camera, constantly posing, constantly kind of having to be concerned about how my life looks and spending quite a lot of effort to image it in a particular way. And so that's going to add just different things into this mix of suffering and problems. And the more yoga teachers that turn to this science of life will just be able to help, will be able to help in the most simplest of ways, right? Just a little workshop in a studio, and somebody's going to come and sit and think, oh, my God, yeah, that's me. I really recognize that. And I say that because that was me, right? I heard someone give a talk and I thought, oh, my goodness, how does this woman know this? It's like she's speaking directly to me. And my friend and I were nudging each other and kind of giggling and, oh, my God, that's you. And, oh, that's you. And it was like, so welcome. And for me, from then on in, I viewed the world through this lens of Ayurveda wisdom. And that really helps me unsubscribe, because we say, for who, in what amount, for how long? There is no one. Size fits all. So you can just take that somewhere else, because it's a lie, it's an illusion. So it allows us to celebrate the diversity. Right? And the diversity is the divine coming through different elements. That's as simple as it is. So to me, that gave me a great freedom, and I just don't have a lot of time for people that want to profit off of misery because I believe in the law of cause and effect that I just think that's a really bad set up for them. And so I want no part in it. You can make me feel bad about myself and have me buy your products, and the karma that's coming to you is pretty poor, too, right? That suffering as well. There's a lot of people, even in the addiction fields, that kind of come into it, perhaps with the idea that there's money to be made off of this suffering. And ultimately this law says, no, there really isn't. Right. There's money to be made, but there's no contentment to be gained if you're in anything like this to make a profit on other people's suffering and misery. So I think yoga teachers have that, like, the heart based application. And when they take the Ayurveda view, then they can make it, like, the health and healing a little bit more accessible, I would say, hopefully, yeah.
Rane Bowen: So this is a Question about the AA model of Recovery, the idea that you have to Accept that you're Powerless against your Addiction to be Powerful enough to overcome your addiction. Would you like to share your perspective on that?
Durga Leela: So I think it's a point that's very misunderstood, and it has to kind of be taken in Context, almost the context of the first three steps. Right. And it is very yogic, basically. So the first step says, we admitted we were powerless over our addiction, alcohol, food, sex, drugs, whatever it is, that our lives had become unmanageable. Two, step two says, came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. And step three says, made a decision to turn our will in our lives over to the care of that Power as we understand that power, and it's phrased as the care of God as we understand him. So we're removing the gender, we're removing the. Sometimes we remove the God part because it really does upset people and they can't separate it from religion, right? But that is nothing more than Yoga. And I would say it's Yoga. And I always think it's interesting. Something that we cover very initially within Yoga of Recovery is that Yoga talks about under that disease causing factor, which is Avidya, spiritual ignorance, we are habitually forgetful of our true essential nature, right? And that is the first cause of Disease. And then underneath that cause of disease, the Clacias, the RAgadhuisha, which is the Running towards pleasure and running away from pain, and then the ego Self, the belief in the Separate Self, and then the Clinging to the separate self. Abhinivesha. So those are the Clacures and they're called the Afflictions. And so the Afflictions are There and they're all based in the fact that we mistake our own identity. We attach to the idea of Mind body, rather than attaching to the idea of the eternal essential nature, that is Spirit. So I think the Powerlessness is saying the same thing, like, from this separate self, what you have as your weapons or your crutches or your support system, it can't support you, because that separate self in itself is not reality, it's the illusion. And so when we say that point of us is powerless, and then we turn to. And they name it as, like, higher power, which is Bhakti, right. The inner self is the aspect of the divine that I choose to relate to. And then Yoga or Vedantans pretty much say that inner self is the Atman, and that is the true essential nature that I am. So I am powerless at the ego level, but I'm not powerless when I step into the true witnessing capacity type of thing. So I think that's what that step or that premise is about. It's to step out of the separate self and that suffering and just that constant stress of survival and be able to move through life with that. I'm going to use the word faith, that life has its own intelligent flow, and we're part of that so that we can stop efforting and stop othering quite as much as we do. Right? And both of the pathways have, like Vedanta has the path of effort, constant self inquiry, whereas Bhakti has the path of surrender. And it said that really, because of our emotional temperaments, we need both of those. And then to really do that, you have to be around people that have understood what it means to be powerless over. And a lot of powerless over relates to other people's choices too. So that's a really good thing to learn. Sometimes we feel powerless over our own choices. And really the choice point is Rajas, right? A lot of people say in those Gunas that there's really only two Gunas. There's action that's healing and there's action that's Harmon and the mediator is the choice point. Like, what do we choose to do? So sometimes we're not able to make those choices on our own and we have to take support. Like we have to find people that can support us until we become more steady within ourselves. And I think that's the case in a lot of the changes that we try to make. Someone wants to improve their nutritional choices. Oftentimes they need support in that because it's so easy to go back to the thing that's so quick and I'm so used to. And so when it comes into addictions, we need a great deal of support. And then having received support and felt how it worked for us, then we become the people that are offering the support. So it's a circle of continuity and participation, right? So that's much better than the kind of linear one size fits all. This is the way you're going. This is something that's going to fix this, right? It's another experience that we're having. And so I think someone wrote a book called the Way out was the way in. Right. So we kind of have to kind of travel around the same practices in a way, but become a bit more clear about them. It's not like you get into recovery and everything changes. We often say that when you get into recovery and you have anything of a moment of clarity around this powerlessness and the power that is there and being able to turn their will and their lives over. It's like sometimes it's a moment of clarity that helps a shift in the system where really we'd say that somehow help comes unbidden, right? We've struggled and we've fought at the ego level, trying to control and manipulate and manage and all that. And then we're totally defeated and somehow something comes in and just. There's just shift that happens and it's kind of unexplainable. But we've got to, I would say, make it sustainable. That's one of the big points. And we make it sustainable by turning to wisdom systems and working with that kind of flow of intelligent energy. And when we're not sourced very well in it, we borrow it from others. So support systems and community. And I'm glad to see that the yoga teachers are making such a. They're very well known in community now. Like when I started yoga, which wasn't that long ago, but before it became as popular as it is now, people were a little bit perplexed by me, but I have to say, even as a practiced and alcoholic, people were stopping me in my corporate joB, asking me what I was doing because I seemed to be healthier and happier. And that was with the initial yoga practice that I did. And I felt that always. So anybody that's teaching yoga, I want you to know that you're probably helping people in their recovery pathways. Because one of the things that I saw with one, I run a yoga recovery symposium in the Bahamas every year, and we have speakers that come down, and John Kelly came from the Recovery Research Institute, and he talked about how most of us, when we find the one addiction process alive and well within us, we'll make self initiated cessation attempts, and we'll do that for maybe a period of four or five years. So know that a lot of the students in your yoga class are there, and they're making use of your yoga class and your yoga teachings and the wisdom of yoga to help them change habits. And they think that's brilliant, because to date, we have waited till the most crisis point to offer help. Right. That's the issue of the acute care model, the disease based Western medicine model. So the book yoga of Recovery, especially about our Yurveda for our addictiveness, the one that I've written so far, is to help us have a kind of grassroots conversation about what it means to deviate from balance and be able to recognize the signs and pull it back, navigate our own course, because a lot of us see someone that's kind of basically driving towards the edge of the cliff, but we don't really know how to intervene. We don't know how to say, this is an addiction. Does it need to be, or does it just need to be something that this doesn't seem to be bringing out your best balance or your best self? Like, how could we have a talk about this with people without having to have them declare themselves an addict and go for treatment? Right? So another thing that John Kelly talked about was how currently, for people suffering with addictions, we're going to change that. Substance use disorders. Right? Alcohol use disorders for those people that are suffering only 10% will get treatment. And that's the 10% that are in the most desperate need for the treatment. Like, it's become almost like a death sentence. So the other 90% are not getting treatment because a lot of them are not willing to say, I'm a person with. We would usually say I'm an alcoholic, because they really don't believe they are. They think they're going to get a handle on it. So we also need to approach this from the point of view. Like, some habits are causing problems with the health, and let's help a person find a way to find balance, even if they are not able to become completely abstinent yet. Like, if something's really aggravating your particular Dosha, like you've got terrible inflammation, we can use things to antidote that, and we can maybe suggest different things, that you're not quite abstinence, but you're also not provoking the system into pure pain and suffering, and soon you'll be on the surgical table. Right. So there's ways that we can help without expecting perfection. Right. So anyway, I hope that makes sense. I just really want you see that I think we have a really big opportunity within the yoga world to be a brave space where people can come in and kind of say, hey, I'm kind of suffering here. And in yoga of recovery, we call it the perils and the pitfalls of relying too much on self sufficiency and thinking, like, if I get all fired up, I'm going to be strong. We can do that every now and then, but we really need to source up, not get fired up, not get more active type of thing with going with those Dosha tendencies. And I think when that's explained to people, they understand it. And there's less shame and secrecy and stigma that's needed then, right. Because it's not such. One of the things that really is part of the addictive mind is the shame, right? So if we can take out some of the shame and stigma by having these conversations, people have a bit more self understanding, then that helps.
Rane Bowen: Beautiful. I guess we've got time for one more question. So you've probably touched on a lot of this already, but if you could maybe distill everything that you teach down to one core essence, what do you think that one thing would be?
Durga Leela: I do think there's a phrase that we use to describe the evolutionary journey of being human in the process of becoming more conscious. I think it's becoming more subtle, not just really in the gross field of tangible. We have to get more subtle and understand the invisible, the energetic around us. And so for me, there's three words that sum up what yoga and Ayurveda add to my recovery foundational pathway, which is potential, not just pathology. So I have had and suffered with the disease of addiction, substance use disorder and other behavioral disorders. And the healing of that is, I recognize it, I admit it, and I move in the direction of my potential. And even in sickness, it's latent potential. Right. And then in healing, it's active development. It's not just to overcome symptoms, it's to move in, growing in awareness, growing in consciousness, and becoming a container for the things that in some sense we're here to offer, which is like love, light and service the things that we maybe originally intended. So potential, not just pathology.
Rane Bowen: Beautiful.
Durga Leela: Yeah.
Jo Stewart: Thank you so much.
Durga Leela: Thank you. It's really nice to chat with you and thanks for reading the book so studiously, Jo, because the way you ask the questions really shows that you did digest a lot that's in that book. So it's really my hope that we have some help in Australia for the overall addictiveness. And I know I'm having this conversation with you today, and there's some Australians in the new course that I'm running right now. I think there's two Australians in the course. Of course we have the difficulty with the time, but there's a lot of pre recorded on the course and every live session is generally recorded, so there's a way to participate, but we don't often see our Australian students live, so it's nice to speak to you live. Well, it's been great to speak with you as well.
Jo Stewart: And I really appreciate the book. Like, I got so much out of reading it. And we'll definitely put some resources in the show notes for people in Australia and around the world who do listen, if they do want to work further with you or to learn more, because I think this is such important work that you're doing in the world and so needed.
Durga Leela: Yeah, and there's many of us doing it, and as you see around the world, so there'll be even my friends in Scotland, in London and stuff they'll be listening to. So, yeah, maybe a quick way in is to get the book. Another quick way in is every second Saturday we have a free to register class, so you can pop onto Zoom with us and see what it's like in the circle, what the group of people are like. So that's just a way that people can come in without any big commitment, right? So the book in second Saturday?
Jo Stewart: Yeah, that sounds great.
Rane Bowen: We hope you enjoyed our conversation with Durga. We've included the link for her book and the fortnightly Yoga of Recovery donation classes in our show, notes for more content and updates. You can find me on Instagram as loves yoga and Joe can be found at Garden of Yoga. We love connecting with our listeners, so don't hesitate to reach out and share your thoughts. We'd like to express our gratitude to go soul for generously granting us permission to use their track Baby robots as our theme song. Be sure to check out Ghostsoul.bandcamp.com to discover more of their incredible music. A very special shout out goes to our Patreon supporters. Your continued support means the world to us and we are incredibly grateful. By joining our Patreon Club for as little as $1 us a month, you can help us cover the cost of editing and producing the podcast. If Patreon isn't your thing, there are other ways you can support us. Simply sharing this episode on social media, reviewing us on platforms like Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or even just reaching out to let us know your thoughts and feedback means the world to us. Once again, thank you for spending your precious time with us. We really appreciate you more than words can express here. Arohanui maua kia koutou katoa Sending you big, big love.