There are many ways to be an angel, but the one chosen by Angel Lucia is very low-key. Three days a week, a van drops off groups of women, young and older, from a nearby substance-abuse residential program. They practice yoga as a form of therapy. Lucia, who has run the Bindu Yoga studio for 10 years, has taught yoga for 17 years and has worked as a massage therapist.
Q. How did you get interested in helping people with severe problems?
A. There is addiction in my family, I grew up in that environment. My whole family had to go through rehab with my father, group sessions. There were a lot of emotional ups and downs.
Q. Do you need different techniques to teach to people with addictions?
A. I tailor it each day, depending on what they are showing up with. I give them a really broad spectrum (of activities). You never know what’s going to touch people.
Q. Can you describe the women you work with?
A. Some of them are getting right out of detox and shaking like a leaf. In that case I just let them sit it out. If I have a whole bunch of young girls I will try a physical flow. They will often have body image problems and eating disorders underlying addiction. There are days when they push every one of my buttons. They will sometimes try to manipulate the situation, maybe by trying to get by doing the most minimal work.
Q. What other therapies do they do, before you see them?
A. They have a rigorous schedule. They have probably been doing intense psychological work in group sessions. They have deep family issues. They may be completely exhausted.
Q. What can yoga, a physical discipline do that other modes of therapy can’t do?
A. Yoga teaches them to find their way back into their bodies. Their bodies are so wrecked, their minds, their nerves are fried. Yoga gives them a space where they can let go of all their masks.
Q. How is an addict’s body different from somebody else’s?
A. On a physiological level, addicts are acting from the sympathetic nervous system — fight or flight. In that state, a person is breathing shallowly, they are reacting with snap judgments and they numb themselves so they don’t feel anything. Yoga helps move them to the parasympathetic state, where the heart rate and the breathing can slow down.
Q. How do you gauge whether you are getting through to people who are so troubled?
A. Maybe I won’t see anything right away. But a year down the road, they may get in touch and tell me they are totally at peace. That will put the biggest smile on my face, when somebody is out of rehab and they will walk through my door. A couple women have come back and trained to be yoga teachers. I’m spurred on by the people I work with.