Some Reflections on Teaching Yoga to Drug Addicts and Substance Abusers in Cambodia

Dealing with those who use and abuse drugs in a humane yet effective manner is a problem that all countries and governments are facing at this time in history. In many instances, governments have been unable to deal with the problem in an effective manner or in some cases, even unwilling to deal it and looked to the “private sector” to deal with it.

In some countries this could include a private organization that gets federal and private funding, while in others it could mean the local Buddhist temple.

It is debatable whether Buddhist temples should be involved in such work, just as Yoga ashrams should or could be. Perhaps in the end, it is up to the abilities and interests of the monks and inhabitants of these temples and ashrams as to whether they should do such a thing.

This writer as recently initiated a Yoga/Buddhist education program to men who are in a facility that has as part of its mandate the rehabilitation of those who have had a drug or substance abuse problem.

Because this facility is under the control of the military, the training that the men are exposed to and the approach that those in power think is most suitable is a military based one.

These man, unlike those men and women disabled by land mines or those men in prison are in this facility because of a different reason, that being a regular or daily desire to use drugs.

In teaching these men Yoga postures, meditation, easy breathing techniques, relaxation practice and other teachings and disciplines of both Yoga and Buddhism, this writer frequently remembers something that he was told during his involvement with a drug program some years back in the state of Texas, that being the drug addicts are the most selfish people in the world.

Whether such a perception is an accurate one is debatable, but it certainly seems that those who use drugs habitually are people who can not feel any kind of peace, satisfaction, joy or focus in a sane and sober state.

Since this writer tries to naturally approach all actions, experiences and people in life based on the two Buddhist teachings and disciplines of wisdom and compassion, I try to look at each man in this program as a potential Buddha and as someone who has been exposed to things that many could not or would not talk about in private or public, perhaps coming from a broken home, or having been emotionally, verbally, sexually or physically abused by someone or another at one time in their life.

These are two reasons why people do get involved with drugs, in addition to a desire to be cool or accepted by others.

It is hard to say how much of Cambodia’s dreadful past or current problems has impacted these young men and led to them to use drugs, or if it is more modern day states of mind that are similar to those who use drugs in western and wealthy countries that leads them down this path.

The sessions that this writer does with these men are strenuous but also supportive and nurturing, and attention is called to Yoga and Buddhist teachings as a way to better understand and deal with internal and other life’s issues and challenges, instead of the use of drugs.

It is thought by this writer, like so many things in life, that much of the success of a man to get away from drugs is based on their own effort, mindfulness and discipline and that one should teach them in the most compassionate and understanding manner as possible in order for them to be able to make Yoga and Buddhist teachings and disciplines part of their life.

It is understood by all who teach and have practiced Yoga and Buddhism for some time that salvation, that meaning making oneself strong and mindful enough to overcome one’s suffering and demons comes, from within.

The teachings, disciplines and practices of Yoga and Buddhism are the means to cultivate that strength and mindfulness.

©2006 John C. Kimbrough