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How Yoga for Addiction Recovery Works

by | Last updated Jul 27, 2021 at 10:58AM | Published on Dec 2, 2019 | Health and Wellness, Sober Living

Yoga for Addiction Recovery

When it comes to alternative therapies that can integrate into addiction recovery programs, yoga is one of the most common ones. Modern yoga uses physical postures to connect the mind, body, and spirit to gain self-awareness and focus. Yoga for addiction recovery can be highly beneficial for those in treatment.

How Yoga Can Help

This ancient practice can be quite beneficial for everyone, not just those in addiction recovery. Some of the benefits of yoga include:

  • Stress relief
  • Improved stamina and strength
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Heightened self-confidence
  • Improved self-image
  • Pain relief
  • Better sleep patterns
  • Increased energy levels
  • Overall health and wellness
  • Emotional healing
  • Reduction in fatigue

As you can see, these benefits can be paramount in relapse prevention, as they might reduce relapse rates in early recovery. Yoga could potentially help ease withdrawal symptoms and drug or alcohol cravings. Besides, yoga provides recovering addicts with a healthy outlet to cope and manage potential triggers and stressors.

How Yoga Affects the Brain

When someone struggles with substance use, the pathways of their brain become altered. The areas of the brain that control pleasure, emotions, and decision-making are often impaired. However, after some abstinence from drugs and alcohol, brain chemistry can start to repair itself. Yoga might be able to help with this process.

According to research and various reports practicing yoga can lead to a reduction in stress. Yoga regulates and balances some of the stress hormones in our bodies, such as adrenaline and cortisol. One study also points out that grey matter and brain regions that control stress may also be enlarged with yoga’s regular practice.

Other reports suggest that yoga increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which acts as a tranquilizer to manage our body’s anxiety and stress response. High levels of GABA can help ease the nervous system and calm the mind. Yoga is often recommended to those struggling with anxiety and depression.

Over 80 percent of the people practicing yoga in the United States, according to a National Health Interview Study (NHIS), reported a reduction in their stress levels as a result.

How Yoga Principles Help with Addiction Recovery

Self-discipline is one of the most significant parts of solid yoga practice and an essential piece of staying sober. Most drug addicts and alcoholics lack discipline because of the internal turmoil that they suffer. The self-discipline and structure required to maintain a solid yoga practice can help teach them to think about consequences and how their behaviors can affect themselves and others. This also includes mindfulness, which is a practice of thinking through your actions.

Steady yoga practice brings you in-tune with your body. It creates more awareness of what is going on, how things you eat and drink and make you feel, and how your mood and how you internalize certain situations can make you feel. A heightened awareness of these things can give you a greater sense of self-worth and self-love. Addicts often lack these qualities and think they deserve punching bags, or even worse, to die.

Yoga Can Help Anyone Suffering from Addiction

Yoga teaches love in all forms. Self-love, compassion for others, loving-kindness, and the idea that every being in the world is interconnected, and our behaviors set off a chain reaction of similar behavior. So, learning this kind of behavior helps addicts treat their bodies like an ally, not enemies.

How they treat others – compassion helps them realize how their actions negatively impact friends, family, and loved ones. There is a concept in yoga called “Ahimsa” or “non-harming,” which means to be conscious of not harming others in word, deed, or action. Practicing ahimsa consistently would lead an addict away from the selfish behaviors of full-fledged addiction.

As always, treatment programs for drug addiction are an extensive and comprehensive endeavor. Usually, it isn’t just one thing that will take care of the issue, but multiple factors and lifestyle changes, coupled with professional help. Yoga is a wonderful addition to addiction treatment in any phase – prevention, treatment, and sobriety maintenance.

Real-Life Yoga and Addiction Recovery Stories

For this woman in recovery, yoga was the one thing that helped her achieve long-term sobriety. Through her struggles with addiction, she lost the motivation to do anything besides using drugs.

“To say I was spiritually lost is a vast understatement. I despised myself so deeply that I couldn’t even turn on the bathroom light to fear seeing my face. Like many addicts and alcoholics, my self-hatred was so intense that I had no choice but to bask numbly in that comfortable blanket of total denial,” she adds.

After seeking addiction treatment, she enrolled in her treatment center’s weekly yoga class. At first, she confesses that practicing yoga wasn’t easy. “Often, as the yoga teacher led us through different positions, I had movie reels playing in my head – all of which were filled with pain, loss, and hurt,” she remembers.

The truth is that yoga can be emotionally challenging for everyone. The more you progress in your practice and become in tune with your body and spirit, the more emotions will resurface. Even without being a religious person, yoga connects you with meditation, prayer, and spirituality at a whole different level.

“As a woman with trauma, the most important lesson yoga’s taught me is that I’m safe. I’m safe to be open. I’m safe to be expressive. Safe to learn how to let go of the false belief that it matters what other people think of me.”

Yoga is a Complement, Not a Solution

While yoga can be a fantastic complement to 12-step meetings and group support, it’s an addiction solution. Yoga should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses your unique needs and challenges. Paired with addiction treatment and therapy, it can be the road to addiction recovery.

However, yoga is a powerful technique to assist you in both attaining and maintaining your recovery. It’s a technique that’s readily available as well as being inexpensive and relatively easy to learn.

Many individuals start their yoga practice while attending an inpatient rehabilitation or an intensive outpatient program. Eventually, they continue this practice as part of their aftercare recovery process.

Science Agrees

While yoga isn’t meant to be the sole form of addiction treatment, it can be highly beneficial. One study analyzed a group of people struggling with substance use disorders. Some received traditional medicine, while others received conventional treatment in addition to yoga. The group that incorporated yoga in their treatment saw the most significant reduction in drinking.

Another study also found that yoga could be highly beneficial for those struggling with heroin addiction. The study results indicate that yoga can significantly improve the mood and quality of life in heroin users undergoing drug detox. So, incorporating yoga as early as in the detoxification process can be beneficial in reducing withdrawal symptoms.

Yoga Poses for Addiction Recovery

We know that yoga isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re willing to give yoga a try, these easy poses can reap the most benefits in your addiction recovery journey.

Sitting Mountain

Sitting Mountain

This pose promotes stillness and balance while helping you open your heart. Start by sitting on your knees and your hands resting on your thighs. Keep your back upright and breathe deeply. If you need an affirmation to calm your mind while in this pose, try, “Serenity will come as I surrender myself.”

Child's Pose

Child’s Pose

This pose helps release tension in the spine and shoulders. It’s a great pose to try when you are struggling with mental stress and fatigue. From the sitting mountain, open your thighs slightly, so your head can fall to the ground and rest on the floor or mat. Let your arms and shoulders fall on the sides of your body. Repeat “I rest in patience and trust” as you stay in this pose for a few breaths.

Savasana

Corpse Pose

This pose is often done at the end of your yoga session. It helps relieve the body of tension while replenishing the mind and spirit. All you have to do is lie on your back, place your legs slightly apart, palms facing up. Gently close your eyes and breathe. The affirmation to match this pose is, “I allow myself to relax completely and surrender.”

Yoga for Addiction Treatment

The main benefit of practicing yoga is that it helps unify the body, mind, and spirit. When yoga is performed correctly, the mind is calmed, the body is exercised, and the spirit is rejuvenated. People with addictive personalities often have trouble feeling at ease. Yoga and meditation allow anyone at any moment to refocus their thoughts and calm their breath.

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we incorporate meditation and yoga into our addiction programs. Our addiction treatment center has professionals who have helped countless individuals learn the benefits of yoga and other life lessons to apply in the real world. Combining these alternative and complementary medicine offers a genuine comprehensive substance abuse treatment plan that focuses on your mind, body, and spirit.

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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