How Yoga Helps with Healing from Addiction

woman practicing yoga

Addiction is a chronic disease affecting the brain and how it functions. Those in recovery need to adopt strategies that will help to rewire the brain to adjust to a chemical-free lifestyle. Taking up yoga can help you learn to calm your body and minds, handle stress, and learn new coping methods.

Addiction and the Numbing of Emotion

The heart of addiction is the drive to numb emotion. Addicts may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with past traumas. They could also start using substances as a means to deal with mental health issues. This type of self-medicating is quite common among people living with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.

Someone may not immediately recognize these mood or mental health issues when symptoms first start. Instead of seeking medical attention, they may use alcohol or drugs as a way to control their symptoms. Chemicals only mask the symptoms of the mental illness and can even make them worse over time.

With repeated exposure, a person can develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol (or both), and have a mental illness as well. A person in this situation has a co-occurring disorder; they have two concerns that require treatment.

Yoga Forces Participants to Slow Down and Become Self-Aware

When someone is in the midst of an addictive lifestyle, much of their time is spent acquiring their drug of choice, consuming it and experiencing the altered state the drug creates. The addict comes down from the “high” and has to find more of the drug. The cycle continues. The addict has to be constantly active in feeding their addiction, to keep it going.

Once a client enters a drug rehabilitation facility and starts doing the work needed to stay sober, the atmosphere is different. There is no more moving quickly to get high and push emotions away.

Practicing yoga helps people slow down so that they can get in tune with their bodies, perhaps for the first time. The movements are not meant to be performed quickly, but rather in a slow, controlled manner. Even breathing is controlled, and participants learn to listen to the sound of their breath while holding a pose.

Yoga Encourages Relaxation

People in addiction recovery, no matter how long they have been sober, can always benefit from stress relief. Practicing yoga helps those in recovery learn how to better handle their stress so that it doesn’t trigger a slip-up or relapse. A relaxed body also heals more quickly from physical, emotional, or mental illness.

Yoga Creates a State of Mind Favorable for Mindfulness

Mindfulness is paying attention to what is happening in the present. When someone is being mindful, they aren’t focused on the past (these events are finished) or the future (it hasn’t come to pass). Any thoughts are observed, without judgment.

This state of mind is something that anyone can do. It is a way to cut down on focusing on irritations and stressors that happen throughout the day. It keeps stress levels down, which is one of the key factors in helping to combat cravings and urges to start drinking or using again.

Yoga Workouts are Easily Accessible

Most communities have at least one yoga studio led by a licensed yoga teacher. But yoga videos are also online and on certain cable channels. Yoga can be learned from books and DVDs as well. If you’re new to yoga, and if your doctor approves your practice of yoga, it will be helpful to learn from a teacher until you feel comfortable enough to practice independently.

By Jodee Redmond

Source: Integral Yoga Magazine