Yoga and Addiction: Feel, Heal, Proceed

Words by Brittany Oliver

The benefits of yoga are far reaching, and because of this, it has become an increasingly strong presence in the world of addiction treatment. 

Yoga is commonly considered a natural form of medicine that can accompany a traditional treatment program. More and more treatment programs are expanding on their approach to addiction treatment by not just focusing on treating the addiction itself, but by using a more holistic approach that treats the person as a whole. Yoga in addiction treatment helps people develop the skills to overcome addiction and support sobriety in life after treatment.

Benefits of Yoga

Yoga has taken the world by storm, and millions of people now take part in the practice every day. There are numerous types of yoga, and depending on a person’s interest or desired intensity, it can range from a peaceful, meditative session to an intense, heart-pounding workout. All forms can be beneficial yoga in addiction treatment.

Yoga is an activity that can be done virtually anytime, anywhere, and at little to no cost. Many have found that through the practice, their physical and mental health has improved tremendously, and some have cited spiritual growth as well.

Yoga can provide a variety of different outcomes and benefits. Some of these include:

  • Stress relief
  • Pain relief
  • Increased energy levels
  • Emotional healing
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased stamina and strength
  • Improved confidence and self-image

How Yoga in Addiction Treatment Can Help Heal Addiction

The most commonly practiced form of yoga today focuses on posture and breathing techniques. This form of yoga is commonly used in addiction treatment because of its ability to help people relax, focus on their breathing, and let go of outside influences. Addiction often negatively impacts connections in the brain that regulate emotions, control impulses, and help make good decisions. Once drugs and alcohol are removed from the picture, the brain can begin to reform those connections to improve those areas of functioning. Yoga in addiction treatment can often assist with this process by helping to regulate stress levels and reduce anxiety.

For many, addiction is often a way to fill a void or cope with stress. Yoga and other forms of therapy must help those in recovery find new, healthier ways of coping with stress and other negative experiences. The process of recovery is stressful on its own, and without their usual means of coping, a patient can easily become overwhelmed. Doing yoga helps people develop ways to regain control of their bodies through practicing mindfulness and self-awareness. By regularly setting aside time to practice yoga, many find they develop new ways to relieve stress and strengthen themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. This also helps many fill the time previously spent acquiring and using drugs with healthier activities.

The Benefits of Meditation

Yoga works by unifying the mind and body to work together and achieve a sense of peace. Addiction can often make a person feel like they may be trapped in their own mind. Cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and negative experiences can cloud the mind and make it difficult to focus on anything else. Yoga also utilizes meditation to help calm the mind and release stress. Meditation can be done virtually anywhere and improves mental functioning. This can help those in recovery resist cravings and increase self-awareness to develop better impulse control. Meditation also has other numerous benefits that include:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Anxiety relief
  • Reduced stress
  • Better sleep
  • Reduced feelings associated with depression

Many who are introduced to yoga and meditation in treatment continue their practice after completing the program. There are numerous meditative exercises that can be used to help manage stress and improve mood. Breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and the use of mantras all provide benefits in their own ways. While yoga and meditation should not be used as a replacement for traditional treatment options, these practices can be used in conjunction with rehabilitation to enhance a person’s recovery experience. For many, the process of developing new, healthy habits improves outcomes in recovery and reduces the risk of relapse.

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Author: Caitlin Hegwood

I create healthy recipes, share natural self-care tips, provide mindfulness practices, offer private and group yoga classes, and health and wellness coaching to my amazing community of wellness seekers. I hope you'll join me on this journey to wellness by subscribing below!

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