IIn the context of a neo-colonial global market that markets South Asian religious practices, yoga and mindfulness have been used for abstinence-based recovery. But a yoga teacher, massage therapist and chemsex activist is about to turn the script around.
On February 18, Adam Nathan Schultz, a Polish migrant based in the Netherlands, will begin the first session of Breathing Space Yoga – a harm-reduction, zoom-based program for transgender and cisgender men who have sex with men and they struggle with their sexualized use of chemicals, namely methamphetamine, GHB / GBL and synthetic cathinones.
“I don’t preach sobriety. That approach never quite worked for me, ”Schultz told Filter. He started meth around 2010, exactly when Chemsex took off in the UK, which is where he was living at the time. “Yoga was a way of engaging with my body, hearing what it was trying to tell me, what kind of journey it was trying to take me on.”
By 2018, Schultz had achieved the goal of his “Journey from Active Chemsex”. Yoga, he said, “was one of the most important parts” of his recovery from problematic methane use. He realized that “this could be a reality for other gay men.”
“Yoga is harm reduction in its very essential form.”
The nine-week program from Schultz’s small massage and yoga company, Body Quake, will cover a topic in each session that he himself had to work through in his own recovery. They are in the order: impatience, vulnerability, boredom, presence, loneliness, stress, desire, intimacy and “my body”. Each session begins with the participants anchor their breath, then move on to movement, and then reflect on the emotional experience that emerged, especially with regard to the topic of that session.
For Schultz, yoga is “damage reduction in its very essential form”.
“It gives people a space to gather together, to speak freely, without fear of judgment,” he said. “I think that’s the most important thing in harm reduction: enabling people to speak, express themselves through the body, [through] the use of words or body sensations – that entire vocabulary. “
Schultz hopes the program will provide participants with a “sense of narrative, purpose and direction”.
“We start with patience,” he said, “and go through topics that are very important to the Chemsex experience [will] Finally coming to something essential: the body. “
The concept of embodiment is too often overlooked in Chemsex reactions, Shultz said. While the drug-using body is systematically screened by the medical profession and cancer status, the chemsexeurs themselves lack organized support to understand what it means to live in their own body.
“There is such a void in the actual address of the body; the body is an integral part of gender,” said Schultz. “It’s the driving force; All emotions are physical experiences. We’re not talking about what’s going on in the body – there is an opportunity to fill this gap. “
“We’re so brainwashed because of the poses.”
Schultz has a differentiated perspective on yoga, especially with regard to its appropriation and marketing through the middle-class culture in the global north. In recent years, diasporic South Asian and indigenous scholars have analyzed the continuities between the violent British colonization of India and today’s multi-billion dollar “yoga industrial complex”, as well as the jerky reactions of liberals to the “decolonization of yoga” to do so, rather than alleviate guilt to be active anti-colonial.
“We’re so brainwashed because of the poses,” said Schultz of the skill marketing of yoga participants. In Breathing Space Yoga, the participants promote an “awareness of [their body’s] own needs ”and not geared towards competing with one another. After all, queer men are already familiar with marketing their bodies. “We were reduced to the visual [the hookup app] Grindr, ”lamented Schultz, who contributed to the psychological complications that lead to or can be exacerbated by problematic chemsex.
Schultz received his yoga training in India but has no intention of conducting an exotic rehearsal of Hindu traditions from this country where some strange men also struggle with chemicals.
“It’s a philosophy that wasn’t developed from the culture I grew up in. What’s important,” he said, “isn’t.” [creating] a dishonorable copy. Rather, Schultz intends to incorporate elements he inspires into his own experience of recovering from Chemsex.
In short, he said the program was “a love letter” to yoga from queer men struggling with chemsex – and hoping to find a break in it.
Photo by Adam Nathan Schultz, courtesy of Schultz