Yoga therapy has countless benefits for people in addiction recovery, as well as for people who are contemplating a life based around a healthier lifestyle.
As of 2019, an estimated 8.7% of Americans, which equates to roughly 20.4 million people, have said they practice yoga. There are many sober living homes and mental health and substance abuse treatment centers, including Nexus Recovery, that offer yoga as part of treatment in the facility.
What is Yoga?
Yoga therapy is a form of relaxation exercise that promotes a meditation of mind within body connection for the participant’s overall wellbeing.
At its core, yoga combines rhythmic breathwork with a series of bodily postures called asanas. During a yoga session, people learn how to strengthen their mind and body simultaneously, while releasing negative energy and tapping into their inner spirituality.
There are several different types of yoga to experience and they each have their own unique goals directed towards the people who wish to practice various methods. Some of the most popular forms of yoga are:
- Ashtanga: Ashtanga yoga is rooted in ancient yoga techniques and teachings. In Ashtanga yoga, people follow six sequences that are linked to breathwork. Ashtanga yoga is usually taught in longer classes lasting two hours.
- Vinyasa: Vinyasa yoga is one of the most popular types of modern yoga. It’s a slower style of yoga that involves constant movement and breathwork. Vinyasa yoga is suitable for people of all abilities
- Bikram: Bikram yoga is commonly referred to as “hot yoga.” Bikram yoga takes place in a heated environment that is at least 105 degrees Fahrenheit. It involves 26 postures linked with two breathing techniques and is usually practiced for 90 minutes.
- Kundalini: Kundalini yoga is a great practice for improving positive thinking. The postures in Kundalini yoga are designed to release negativity, heighten spiritual awareness and improve overall well-being.
- Iyengar: Iyengar yoga focuses on physical alignment. This type of yoga often employs props, like blocks, straps, blankets, and bolsters. Iyengar yoga moves slower than other forms of yoga, but it is still physically challenging for yoga enthusiasts.
The beauty of yoga is that it can be practiced any time or anywhere. You don’t need to pay for classes or find a certified studio to practice various techniques. Yoga can be practiced within your home while lying in bed, or sitting on the couch. There are thousands of free yoga videos available on the internet that vary in terms of time length and skill level.
History of Yoga
Yoga has been around for nearly 5,000 years and originated in Northern India.
It is believed that Shiva was the original creator of yoga and was responsible for the early oral teachings of yoga methods. Thousands of years ago, the Indian sage Patanjali transcribed the oral history of Yoga into a manifesto called the Yoga Sutra. The Yoga Sutra details the yogic philosophy and provided the framework for modern-day yoga practices as we know them today.
Over time, the practice of yoga has changed here and there. However, the core principles of yoga remain the same. Modern-day yoga practices continue to focus on the mind-body connection, breathwork, relaxation, revitalization, and spiritual awakening. But today, yoga practices focus more on physical postures and strength, and less on the yogic lifestyle that was instructed in the Yoga Sutra.
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What is Yoga for Addiction?
Anyone can experience the benefits of yoga.
However, the practice can be especially beneficial for people in addiction recovery. Many people find that yoga helps them stay committed to their sobriety and overcome challenges during the recovery process.
Yoga is a form of exercise and this process has been shown to dramatically improve recovery outcomes. During exercise, the body releases feel-good hormones, called endorphins, that can improve mood, sleep patterns, and reduce unnecessary cravings. Even light exercise, like restorative yoga and stretching, has proven benefits for people in addiction recovery.
When the body is recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction, staying healthy is extremely important. Exercise boosts the immune system and reduces the risk of chronic disorders like heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Additionally, exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight, that keeps other health problems in check.
Yoga has the power to change people’s reality. When someone has been living in a state of negativity, toxicity, and poor habits, yoga can give them the power to transform their lifestyle, change their mindset, and improve their state of being.
In addition to physical cravings, someone with an addiction issue will also spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about their drug of choice. These thoughts become a compulsion and impossible to control, which leads to drug-seeking behavior that can sometimes be criminal.
Feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, despair, and the like are often at the root of substance abuse. The substance might temporarily mask these feelings, but they return once the high wears off, creating a vicious circle of drug abuse.
Taking a substance will temporarily stop the cravings and compulsion for it, but soon the same feelings return. In time, it takes more and more of the same substance to achieve the same effect it once had.
People addicted to drugs and alcohol may feel like they have no control over their drug use. Refraining from using or stopping seems to be an impossibility for them. The substance controls them, rather than the other way around.
Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue to seek them out even if their addiction has made them lose friends, family, spouses, and jobs. Drug-seeking behavior can even lead to diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.
Yoga for Mental Health Treatment
Yoga has also been shown to be an effective holistic therapy for mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, OCD, trauma, and behavioral disorders.
Practicing yoga regularly can rewire the brain to help focus on more positive thoughts while releasing limiting or negative beliefs.
Yoga has also been known to improve energy and reduce stress in people who suffer from mental health disorders. For people who experience chronic pain related to mental disorders, practicing yoga can help ease aches and pains while at the same time, improve pain tolerance. Yoga is all-natural and a free mental health treatment that makes it easy for people to employ on their own.
Another benefit of yoga is that it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. People who struggle with anxiety and feel like they are constantly in “fight or flight” mode may find that yoga helps relax their mind and body as well as calm their nervous system. This switch can help lower blood pressure, ease heart palpitations, and eliminate racing thoughts.
If you or someone you love is suffering from a substance abuse disorder, help is available. Contact our recovery team at (310) 881-9151 to learn about the programs at Nexus Recovery.
If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.