Community Spotlight: The Wandering Yogis & 11th Step Yoga

Jun 15,

Blaire chats with The Wandering Yogis founder, 11th step Yoga teacher and overall badass wild woman Casey, about how yoga changed her life and how she’s now sharing her practice with others.

Blaire: So lets start off with The Wandering Yogis, can you tell us what it is?

Casey: The Wandering Yogis is a platform for yoga instructors and studios to share information about their free/low cost donation-based yoga classes in Southern California and Hawaii. The site is broken down by location in order to help yogis connect with like-minded individuals and classes no matter where they roam. I have traveled the entire world by myself and have driven cross country 6 times. I truly believe that the world is the size of my passport and I see no reason to sacrifice one passion for another. The Wandering Yogis enables those who travel to maintain their yoga practice and community no matter where they are. We also want to encourage Seva, selfless service so intrinsic to the yogic traditions. Many of the yoga studios and instructors we work with tell us that they have a strong desire to make yoga approachable, accessible and affordable.

B: How did your yoga journey begin?

C: I come from a long line of athletes and my mother is one of the most athletic human beings I have ever met. Participating in physical activity was always encouraged. Yoga combined my passion for spirituality, meditation and physical activity. I was first exposed to yoga at a summer camp in the Berkshires called Rowe Camp + Conference Center. We practiced yoga in the woods. It was accessible, fun, and exhilarating. I fell in love for life!

B: I met you working in a restaurant in NYC about 8 years ago while you were still going to school…long before this amazing transformation. Can you tell us what your life was like before and after The Wandering Yogis?

C: I am a licensed psychotherapist who just really doesn’t want to be a therapist! While I had the utmost respect for therapy, it was not my passion. I was pursuing a life path that was not aligned with my goals and ideals. I wanted an opportunity to connect with others on a deeper level. Yoga is my path for that connection. The Wandering Yogis is still in its infancy. We are working hard to connect with studios and instructors who match our passion. I get the opportunity to wake up every day and do what I love. There is no better feeling.

B: So what inspired you to teach Yoga and not just practice?

C: I love teaching! In the past I have taught dance, cooking, skiing, and arts and crafts. For me, teaching is just a way to share my passions with others. I truly believe we get to keep what we have by giving it away. I realized that yoga is often misunderstood and even more often it is misrepresented. I wanted to share my yoga experience with others. I also teach something called 11th Step Yoga.

 B: What’s 11th Step Yoga?

C: Abbie Britton founded 11th Step Yoga to enhance the joyous adventure of recovery from alcoholism by opening the body up to grace, peace, contentment and power. This is done through a format that combines physical mediation (yoga postures and principles); guided meditation & breath work as a means to focus on themes of recovery and the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Created by recovering addict/alcoholics for recovering addict/alcoholics provides an experience of serenity, empowerment and calm. Its mission is to bring about a deeper more physically rooted—even cellular, contented recovery. Our idea is that addicts and alcoholics in recovery are not broken, but are broken open to their greatness.

Studios here in Los Angeles donate space where we hold our classes. Yoga instructors with strong recovery are thoroughly trained in 11th Step Yoga protocols and volunteer their time to lead classes. 11th Step Yoga is an open 12 step meeting in a yoga format.  We practice for one hour with a dharma talk led by the teacher focusing on a 12 step theme woven throughout the class.  After practice we circle up for 30 minutes of sharing. All classes are free. We simply pass the basket for donations.

B: Amazing! This is the  first I’ve heard of 11th step yoga, could you give us some insight about your teachings and the impact is has on your students? 

C: What happens in meetings definitely stays in meetings. I will say that very often I focus on Yin Yoga in my 11th Step Classes.  We hold poses for up to 4 minutes and students are encouraged to find the pose, breathe and yield to it versus muscling through.  While holding a pose for that length of time, some strange alchemy happens.  Students burst out in laughter and very often in tears.  My own experience with Yin Yoga and 11th Step Yoga is that it releases trauma and pent up emotions.  We create a safe space for that experience.

B: What would you tell someone in recovery who’s trying 11th Step Yoga for the first time?

C: “….and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray” It is my favorite line from the Big Book of AA and summarizes my experience with 11th Step Yoga and Yoga in general.  For maybe the first time in your life you can just take it easy, set aside what you think you know, and get quiet. Take what you like and leave the rest.

For more info head to The Wandering Yogis, 11th Step Yoga and follow on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!