Yoga and Addiction Recovery: What’s the Connection?

Yoga and Addiction Recovery: What’s the Connection?

By In Addiction Recovery, Tools for Recovery
Posted December 6, 2015

What comes to mind when you hear or think about the word yoga? For many, it’s simply another type of exercise. You meditate on breathing, stand in funny pretzel-like poses that help improve your balance and sweat all over your yoga mat as you stretch your body in ways you weren’t aware it was able to stretch.

Have that picture in your mind? Good, now wipe it out. Yoga is more than just an exercise in flexibility. It has real-world benefits that go beyond the physical. It’s a practice that improves on your body, but also your mind and soul. It improves your energy level, helps to reduce stress and assists you in achieving a deep, spiritual peace you may not have been aware even existed. Yoga is a term that literally means “to join.” It helps bring your mind, body and spirit into harmony. The different poses and lessons it teaches bring about healing of all three.

So, is it any wonder it’s becoming a popular holistic treatment method for addiction recovery?

Yoga as an Effective Treatment

A Novel Approach to Alternative Integral Practices in African American Communities Challenged with Substance Abuse is a study that considered the effects of yoga on addiction recovery. The study took place in Little Rock, Arkansas with 23 men and women. Yoga was introduced to those in the study, along with the conventional 12-step treatment program at the recovery center. Along with other alternative practices like reiki, Ayurveda and meditation, the study showed yoga helped users to sustain their sobriety.

In many cases, substance abusers face dual diagnoses for both addiction and other mental health issues like depression and anxiety. In American Family Physician, an article was published in 2010 recognizing yoga as a real treatment for these two issues. Other studies have been published since, recognizing the fact that yoga is capable of increasing levels of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Those who have depression, anxiety and even suffer from addiction have been shown to have low levels of GABA.

Yoga Poses to Fight Addiction

Yoga teaches you how to breathe correctly, reduces stress and helps your mind, body and spirit work together to improve the health of every aspect of your body. There are several yoga poses you can try to achieve the healing benefits of this practice. First, you’ll need to make sure your muscles are properly warmed up. You may also need to modify the postures somewhat to fit your body’s capabilities.

Once done, consider these two poses for fighting addiction.

Standing Bow Pose

This pose helps improve your balance and increases your concentration. In order to do it correctly, you must calm and quiet your mind so you can achieve the right balance. A bar or a chair can also be use for extra balance until you become comfortable.

  • Stand with both of your feet together. Bend your right leg while placing your weight on the left. Move the heel of the bended leg up to your bottom.
  • Use your right hand to reach for your right heel.
  • Lift your left arm and point at the ceiling with all fingers.
  • Hold the position until you feel stable. This typically takes only 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Once you feel stable, bend forward slightly at the hips. Don’t lock your knee, but keep the left leg straight. Don’t let go of the right heel.
  • Breath in and out deeply, holding the position for as long as you can. Switch to the other side when you are comfortable doing so.

Tree Pose

This pose is all about balance, but also gives you a chance to connect with YOU, which is essential in addiction recovery. It’s an empowering pose that will probably be one of the first you learn.

  • Stand with both feet firmly on your yoga mat.
  • Shift your weight to your left leg while bending and lifting your right leg until your foot is resting on your left lower shin, leg or ankle.
  • Maintain that position for a few seconds until you feel completely balanced. Once you do, breath in.
  • On the exhale, lift both of your arms over your head. Interlace your fingers over your head and point up with your index fingers.
  • Hold the pose, concentrating both on your balance and the way you are breathing. Depending on your capabilities, hold for up to eight breaths.
  • Slowly exhale as you bring your arms and leg down.

Yoga has been proven to be an effective tool in addiction recovery. Yoga can be used to reduce stress, silence your mind and heal your body as you learn to walk this journey of recovery.

Want to learn more about the options you have when seeking help for addiction? Call or email us today.

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