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Mantras are wonderful tools to replace negative thought patterns. Repeating a mantra when a negative thought arises, allows positive samskaras to develop. The mind runs smoothly on the beautiful mantra groove, with no opportunity to slip back into the previous addictive pattern.

In addition, we need to work to purify all the old negative samskaras that are logged more deeply in the subconscious. These will surface into the conscious mind eventually and we need to look at them, detach and let them go. We can say: ” this is not serving me, it is of no use to me anymore.” It is important to stay vigilant. The moment we are unable to release a negative thought, the mind reabsorbs it and it takes only one thought to re-ignite a negative thought pattern. Then all we have built up begins to crumble. The lesson here is that we need to keep working on the mind and empty it of everything except positive thoughts.

We need to carefully limit the influences to which we expose ourselves. Influences can come from anywhere, from friends and family, for example. They may unconsciously encourage us in our addictive habits. We need to be aware of the influence of films, television shows and literature, advertisements and song lyrics. We must be wise with whom we mix and how we spend our time. We need to mix with people who think positively and radiate positivity.

Another tool in the yoga of healing addictions in the method of self-surrender. Many of those who have strong addictions know that they cannot rely on themselves to heal and become whole again. Here the method of self-surrender is a powerful instrument to overcome addiction. The addict says ” I know I cannot deal with my mind and I need support. I am going to call on a higher power to help me.” We surrender our own will and instead ask for God’s will for help. In doing so, we link, through devotional practice, to a source of power that is stronger that our mind. We surrender to God and the addiction knows that it cannot compete with God and leaves us in peace. All we need to do is surrender and relax. We become as a kitten in the mouth of a mother car. When we surrender to God, or to the Divine we know that the work will be done.

We have only to relax, surrender, pray, and connect ourselves to God. We bring the presence of God into our life and that is all. We just have to remember God. This is the method of self-surrender and it is very powerful. Bhakti yoga is the science of devotion which teaches us about God. It teaches the ways and means to dwell on the Divine presence, via name and form. Self-surrender can be difficult in the beginning but it becomes easier and easier. We ask forgiveness for our past mistakes and make amends if possible. We ask forgiveness from God. By doing this, we take responsibility for our lives and clear the path towards behaving differently in the future.

We use yoga and meditation to slow ourselves down and to watch our thoughts and our mind, and to break the old negative addictive patterns as we create new positive ones. And through the Grace of God we reach freedom from our addictive behaviour.

Swami Sitaramananda is the director of Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm and oversees the Centres in Los Angeles and SanFrancisco in California.