Yoga and the 3rd Step of AA



First, don’t let the usage ‘him’ be the end before you even begin.   AA is not concerned with the face – or lack thereof – of God for you.  It is only concerned with your opening to a power greater than yourself.  The ‘as we understood him’ admits from the get-go that your higher power now will certainly evolve and change over time, and that is not a problem.

The Yoga Tradition takes the same view.  The word for God is Ishvara, and Ishvara is neuter.  This is important to understand because the tradition is not concerned with dictating a particular form for God. What is important about Ishvara to the yogi is that “his” actions do not originate in ignorance (avidya).

The third step is a culmination and integration of the first two: we begin to accept that our life is unmanageable and that we have no control over it, that we don’t actually see reality as it is, which is a form of insanity. From this perspective the only action that is clear is complete surrender.

As long as I think I have power, I have personalized action and intent.  There is a sense of “I” that is forever strategizing and manipulating to get more of what it likes and desires – which is pleasure – and to avoid that which it does not like, which is pain.  Until it is realized that in spite all of my efforts  I cannot control the way things go, then I cannot let go.  And letting go of personalized effort is surrender.

Yoga practice in its whole form invites deep relaxation into present awareness, into exactly what is happening in any given moment.  This surrendering into the present flow of reality allows each moment to be just as it is, free from mental projections and identifications.

“Yoga is surrender (nirodah) of the projections (vrtti) of the mind (chitta), then the true nature of the self can manifest.  Otherwise there’s identification (sarupyam) with mental projection.”  
Yoga Sutras,  I-II

To be free is what all human’s (and in particular spiritual seekers) desire; spiritual freedom means to be free from the bondage of the separate, isolated sense of self.  An addict knows this isolation better than anyone; and her experience of separation is continuously strengthened by unquestioned thoughts that become habitual patterns of behavior, generating a feedback loop of unfulfilled seeking.   The question now is, to what degree does this relate to you?

For the addict as well as for the Yogi surrendering to a Higher Power is an act of aligning with a source greater than you.  That power becomes your compass for navigating personal experience and trusting the perfection of each moment.  In the state of surrender we begin to learn how to act in a way that is free from habit.  When our actions are free from habit they do not generate unfinished business or undigested experience (karmic repercussions).

The recovery program offers a prayer to embody the 3rd step: God I offer myself to you (nirodah – surrender) to do with me as you will.  Relieve me of the bondage of self  (chitta vritti – projections of the mind) that I may better do thy will.  Take away my difficulties (sarupyam – identifications) that my transcendence over them  may bear witness to your love, to your power (shakti – divine flow), and to your way of life.  May I do your will always (Yoga – union).

Peace and Joy, Holly

Next Installment – – The action of Yoga is passionate enquiry into the nature of the self, and surrender to God. (YS II -I)

  • Step 4.  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
  • Yoga as a process

4 thoughts on “Yoga and the 3rd Step of AA

  1. I would like to believe in anything ,and thought I did in the past. Now I’m out of touch with my soul. Nothing has any real meaning. I just live the best I know moment to moment.

    • Don, you speak of your soul as if it’s your car keys, something that can be lost. You cannot lose what you are. You cannot not be what you are. You are Soul. Surrender to that. xoxo

  2. As always you come from the heart integrating our body spirit and minds in a way that supports and expands us. Thanks

  3. Holly, this is brilliant! As an alcoholic in recovery (7yrs ~ yay!) I’ve often turned to yoga to find my center and help restore some balance in my life. I realized early how closely related the 12 Steps/yoga were! Thank you for sharing this! Peace!

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