The Role of Yoga and Exercise in Recovery
As it currently stands, the relapse rates amongst those who complete inpatient addiction treatment with no solidified program of continual aftercare rings in at somewhere over 40%. And while 12-step methods of addiction recovery are an extremely popular and successful component of aftercare, the incorporation of yoga as an adjunct form of therapy has proven extremely beneficial in maintaining fulfilled and meaningful sobriety long-term. Because of the recently proven benefits of yoga in the realm of addiction treatment, many inpatient treatment facilities have begun to incorporate yoga into their overall programs, allowing clients the opportunity to participate in classes on a weekly basis. We also encourage our clients to continue with yoga as a supplement to their 12-step programs, considering the proven benefits are so overwhelmingly extensive.
Yoga and The Recovering Addict
What makes yoga so advantageous for recovering addicts? Addiction is a disease much unlike any other – one that devastates the mind, body, and spirit inclusively. While many other chronic ailments exclusively target the physical body, addiction ruthlessly strips sufferers of dignity, integrity, and all sense of spiritual interconnectedness. Because of this, addicts and alcoholics must not only focus on the recuperation of their bodies and their minds, but on bolstering their connections to something outside of themselves – on something spiritually-based. Yoga touches on all three of these factors, helping substance dependency sufferers strengthen their physical bodies while training their minds and facilitating transcendent connection.
Some of the more specific benefits of incorporating yoga into a program of addiction recovery are as follows:
- Mood Regulation – Yoga allows individuals to practice mood regulation through self-soothing techniques, such as breath control and meditation. The slow, flowing movements that most yoga practices utilize also help to stabilize emotional balance.
- Lessen Physical Discomfort – Stretching of any kind has been proven to help alleviate physical pain and discomfort, and has become a standard in physical therapy. The slow and fluid stretches taught in yoga are specially designed to target the parts of the body that tend to hold the most tension and stress, ultimately relieving pain.
- Facilitate Self-Awareness – One of the main intentions of the practice is to help foster self-awareness – both physical and emotional. Those that participate in yoga regularly report a dramatic increase in the ability to identify feelings, both within the body and of the emotional variety.
- Calm the Body & The Mind/Self-Soothing – Meditation is a large part of the practice of yoga, and meditating regularly has proven to help those in early recovery quiet racing thoughts and focus their attention inward. The calming affects of yoga have also been shown to greatly help those who suffer from anxiety disorders, as well as depression.
- Build a Positive Relationship with The Physical Body – Yoga can be extremely beneficial to those who suffer from negative self-image, as well as co-occurring eating disorders. Nurturing the body and nourishing the soul is a major component of the practice – and doing so regularly will help to foster feelings of self-love and self-appreciation.
- Restore Inner State – Inner peace is a major component of early addiction recovery – as is building a spiritual connection with a higher power. Many recovering addicts find that yoga helps them to foster a relationship with the world around them while restoring their inner peace and serenity.
- Relapse Prevention – Those who continue with yoga after graduating from inpatient treatment tend to have significantly lower rates of relapse. This is because all of the above listed benefits are continuously enhanced, and addicts become able to identify and work through any potentially dangerous feelings and emotions based on a better self-awareness and ability to self-sooth.
Our Values & Goals
Yoga is not the only method of physical exercise that has proven immensely beneficial for recovering addicts and alcoholics. Attending the gym for as little as 30 minutes several times per week has proven to be very beneficial for those in early recovery. Not only is physical exercise crucial to comprehensive recovery (recovery of the mind, body, and spirit), but physical activity helps those in early recovery work through aggression and other newly surfacing and sometimes overwhelming emotions. The importance of individualized inpatient treatment is made even more apparent when dealing with the role that exercise plays in the lives of newly sober addicts and alcoholics.
Physical health is a crucial component of every program of recovery, and we at the Lighthouse Recovery Institute work to incorporate yoga and exercise on a near-daily basis.