Yoga, derived from the Sanskrit word yog, translates to union, and appropriately so, as yoga is all about connecting the mind, body and spirit. Yoga, through a series of poses called asanas, works to bring the individual into the present moment by – focusing on the breath as it moves in and out, the body as it flows from pose to pose, the mind as it remains rooted and focused on the task at hand such as deepening into a stretch or adjusting into a balance.
Yoga and Addiction
One of the key aspects of yoga is the requirement of the individual to remain focused on the present moment and maintain connectedness in body and mind.
One of the key aspects of addiction is the removal of the mind from this connection to the body, and consequently a removal of the individual from the realities of the present moment.
Practicing yoga during recovery from addiction can actively undo the damage of addiction by promoting this sense of connection once again. Yoga, in a way very different from other forms of exercise, demands the full presence of one’s body and mind. Therefore reminding an addicted brain of the importance of and need for remaining connected to the present moment.
Throughout a yoga practice, the flow from one pose to the next is done through the gentle inhale and exhale of the breath. Therefore, everything you do in yoga is guided by your breathing. In order to properly perform each pose, you need to learn to regulate your breathing, to keep it steady and constant as you inhale into one pose and exhale through the next.
Taking deep breaths alone is a way to lower stress and anxiety, and yoga can be a long period of time where you are focused on this gentle breathing. It leads to a reduction of stress and anxiety, two potential triggers for substance addiction. Using yoga as a means of training your body to calm itself down through breathing exercises can help in minimizing the temptation to turn to behaviors motivated by addiction.
Additionally, yoga has been proven to increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, a natural chemical the brain releases to promote a reduction of anxiety and a feeling of calm and wellbeing.
Mindfulness is a practice whereby one learns to become fully present to the sounds, smells and physical feelings around them. Subsequently recognizes and acknowledge them, allowing them to pass along without becoming paralyzed, stuck on or otherwise inhibited by them. Mindfulness also encourages the practice of recognizing how you feel in that particular moment when a new feeling or experience crosses your path. It allows you to recognize that something was painful, something was pleasant or something was neutral in a matter-of-fact way, not a judgemental or condemning day.
Yoga encourages this mindfulness during practice, by recognizing when a certain pose requires more physical stamina and breathing through the exertion put forward by the body. In turn, mindfulness can be extracted from yoga practice and utilized in all areas of life, but especially during substance recovery. It gives you the strength and wherewithal to recognize the temptation to return to addictive behaviors, and consequently decide how you’re going to respond to that temptation.
Yoga is a time every day where you can focus on your spirituality, step away from the demands of everyday life and challenge your body and mind in a healthy, growth-promoting way. Yoga is a challenge, but one which offers so many good benefits to your mind and body. When you choose yoga as part of your recovery treatment or just part of your daily routine, you give yourself the chance to rejuvenate, rest and build your mental and physical strength all at once.
Challenges the body
Addiction can be incredibly damaging to the physical body. Yoga is a way in which you can build endurance, strength and flexibility in a gentle, peaceful way. Whereas weight lifting or CrossFit requires a whole new kind of determination, yoga simply asks you to step onto the mat and let your breathing carry you through the flow.
However, depending on the difficulty level, yoga still can challenge the body. This is beneficial to a body weakened by addiction and a spirit reluctant to jump right into demanding strength training. Plus, yoga has the added benefit of reducing stress and anxiety, so while you’re building strength in your body, you can find rest in the mind. It seems counterintuitive, but it is in fact an important aspect of yoga’s effectiveness in addiction recovery.
Addiction treatment and yoga
Many treatment centers have recognized the benefits of yoga in treating addiction and have accordingly integrated yoga and meditation into their treatment programs. If you want to learn more about the benefits of yoga on substance abuse treatment or learn more about Silvermist Recovery’s mental health treatment programs, contact us today at 724-268-4858.