While there are many effective traditional treatments for addiction, there are a number of non-traditional therapeutic activities that can be incorporated to complement traditional methods. Addiction treatment programs have evolved over the years to treat more than just the addiction itself. Instead, new approaches focus on treating the whole person by utilizing holistic tactics to help people achieve and maintain sobriety. The health benefits of yoga in addiction treatment are too plentiful to be ignored.
Yoga is one of the most popularly utilized activities that enhances the recovery experience. Used in conjunction with traditional treatment approaches, yoga engages individuals on an emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual level. Yoga encourages participants to focus inward and become more self-aware. For many, yoga becomes an effective method of coping with stressors and is a healthy outlet throughout recovery.
Benefits of Yoga in Addiction Treatment
Yoga has numerous health benefits that include:
- Reduced levels of stress
- Increased energy
- Increased physical strength
- Improved stamina
- Higher levels of self-awareness
- Better self-image
- Improved sleep
- Emotional healing
- Overall improved wellness and health
Helping to Heal Mind, Body & Spirit
One of the best aspects of yoga is its ability to be performed anywhere without the need to purchase expensive equipment. Yoga instructors guide students through a variety of moves, poses, and breathing exercises designed to bring the mind and body closer together. Focusing energy inward, students learn proper posture and muscle engagement coupled with breathing techniques to bring alignment and balance throughout the body. While yoga is not associated with a religion, many who engage in the activity experience spiritual growth through regular practice.
Yoga’s Effect on Mental Health
Many who struggle with addiction also struggle with mental health and those in early recovery often do not have outlets outside of substance abuse to deal with difficult emotions. Drugs and alcohol fundamentally change the way the brain and body respond to stimuli. Addiction manipulates a person’s ability to regulate their emotions, control impulses, and make decisions. Over the course of recovery, the brain and body begin to heal and rewire connections. Yoga can help strengthen this process because of its ability to provide regulation and balance to vital processes.
Studies show that yoga increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical in the brain that helps a person manage anxiety and stress responses. Higher levels of GABA result in reduced levels of anxiety and stress which are commonly experienced side effects of substance withdrawal. Yoga in recovery can actually reduce the effects of these symptoms and improve the recovery process. Many who regularly engage in the practice report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression while also feeling an improved overall sense of wellbeing.
The Impact of Yoga in Addiction Recovery
Yoga provides natural, therapeutic benefits to those in recovery. In addition to the physical benefits that increase self-confidence, yoga provides numerous emotional benefits as well. Yoga encourages participants to focus their energy inward, allowing them to take ownership of their feelings and gain control over their minds and bodies. Learning how to regulate breathing and listen to their bodies allows them to better manage experiences such as cravings. This awareness allows people to become more physically aware of cravings and triggers so that they can respond to them appropriately. Rather than give in, they develop the ability to separate themselves from those experiences and better manage their responses to them.
Those who struggle with addiction often struggle with poor health and a lack of emotional clarity. Practicing yoga can increase a person’s energy levels, improve their quality of sleep, and encourage them to eat better. With better sleep comes a clearer mind and lower levels of irritability. Yoga is also a physical exercise that provides an outlet which can positively improve a person’s self-imleadIt encourages the development of healthy habits that often leads to improvements in a person’s physical appearance as well. The combination of these factors is incredibly encouraging for those in recovery and provides incentive and motivation to keep growing in the practice.
Yoga encourages mindfulness and helps many find a sense of inner peace. Through self-reflection, yoga helps many come to terms with what must take place in order to improve their quality of life. The practice can be done in group settings and independently, and because of how easy it is to access, many continue using yoga throughout their lives to achieve clarity and calmness.
Yoga as a component of addiction recovery is effective because of its ability to reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms and cravings as well as reduce the risk of relapse. It evolves into a healthy outlet to cope with triggers and stressors that may threaten sobriety. As a component of recovery, yoga provides therapeutic benefits in non-traditional settings, allowing those who practice it to easily see how it can continue to help them over the course of their lives.