Yoga Growing as Treatment for Addiction

Addictions are rooted in the belief that you are fundamentally unsafe, unworthy, unloved, and alone. The addict feels this deeply. Whenever he feels relief—whether from drugs, food, sex, or yoga—he clings to it. The addict believes the only way to satisfy his need is to fight for it and, when he gets it, to never let it go. Many addictions begin as a coping mechanism or a way of filling a spiritual void. As a result, people in treatment for addiction must learn to deal with their emotions and environment in healthier ways. Practicing yoga is an excellent complement to conventional chemical dependency treatment. Path of yoga both emphasize truth, meditation, surrendering to a higher power, and developing self-awareness, while healing body, mind, and spirit.


Addictions hijack spiritual impulses
The problem is that addictions hijack real spiritual impulses. Spiritual impulses are simply the urge to return to self—the state of Love. You could say that all spiritual impulses are the urge to go to God. They are yearnings to answer our only problem: our apparent separation from self, the divine, from God. The source of all addictions is the belief that we are separated from self, from God. Addictions are all lined up, alert and ready to hijack our journey back to God. Addictions try to replace God. The addiction, in fact, becomes god, and we defend it as if it really is our god.

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This is the ego’s best way to perpetuate itself. In an authentic return to God, ego would fade to nothingness, no longer meaningful in the full experience of Love, where all spiritual impulses are wholly answered. The addiction isolates the addict. This is, in fact, the opposite of spiritual awakening, which could be described as opening to everything, everywhere, all the time.

Recovering from drug or alcohol addiction is a delicate time for one’s mind and body. The beginning of a dependency-free life is usually what determines success, and for any addiction, the mind is a powerful tool either for or against healing. Recovering addicts must control the mental aspect of recovery while conquering the often physical manifestations of detoxification and withdrawal. Many recovering addicts have found that beginning a yoga program helps tame the mental and physical manifestations of substance dependency. 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 is an excellent holistic tool to support clinical services when treating addiction. Yoga is a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices, techniques or disciplines, originating in ancient India, that are engaged in with the ultimate goal being “moksha” (liberation). Practicing yoga include breath control, meditation and the adoption of specific body postures. Yoga is a well-known and often utilized practice in current society for health, relation and well-being.

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Addiction treatment is typically the first step in the process of recovery. Patients in treatment do not feel well. Their bodies hurt. They haven’t been sleeping. Their appetite is impacted. Their minds race. They are filled with guilt, shame, remorse, resentment, anger and self-pity. It is difficult in getting through these issues to enter into a journey of recovery. Therefore, when used in conjunction with comprehensive and individualized clinical services, yoga acts as a useful tool in allowing the person in treatment to find quiet, peace and serenity. It allows them to be in the moment, to get into their body, to listen to what it is telling them. It allows the patient the ability to connect the physical, mental and spiritual. Yoga is a vital tool that can add numerous benefits to patients in addiction treatment.
Spiritual Community
Yoga provides a spiritual environment, no matter your religious beliefs. Learning to slow down, mindfulness and acceptance are central to yoga and a healthy spirit. Regularly setting aside time for growth will help you focus on recovery and a healthy lifestyle. In addition, yoga communities will help you build sangha- a healthy community of friends.

Recovery is a long – often very difficult – process. By incorporating yoga into their recovery practice, people can learn new tools to release stress and connect into their inner strengths. Your yoga practice can be a part of an organization, or a daily 5 minute routine. Whatever works best for you, incorporating yoga into your practice will heal body, mind, and spirit.

Why Yoga Helps Recovering Addicts
The great part about yoga is that anyone can start it, regardless of athletic ability or body type. All elements of the practice begin at the starting point of the user, not at a point that would be inaccessible to some. Engaging in a practice that balances the body will also help balance the mind, which are crucial components of recovery from addiction. The practice of yoga is widely used across the globe, but the practice is Hindu in origin. Yoga was designed to not only help the physical condition of the body, but to also heal the spirit and mind. Thousands of people turn to this practice when healing from addiction, and there are many reasons why.

A major benefit to utilizing yoga in addiction treatment and early recovery is that no one need to be an expert in the practice to participate on yoga, nor must that possess any specific body type, talent, ability or fitness requirements. Yoga, like addiction treatment should, meets the individual where they are at and allows them to move forward at their own pace. Yoga is more than simply a physical practice, but is an activity meant to aid in healing the body, mind, soul and spirit of a person. This is why the practice of yoga works so well in conjunction with traditional treatment for addiction. Addiction is a disease that ravages a person’s body and negatively impacts their mental health, emotional well-being and spiritual perspective. Yoga is a tool that addresses each and every one of these areas.

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.

Yoga Strengthens Physically
Most people with substance abuse problems aren’t in ideal shape. Certain drugs cause weight gain, whereas others cause muscle loss. A long period of chemical imbalances will begin to show in users’ outward conditions. Yoga allows you to build new muscle, strengthen breathing and improve flexibility.

Yoga Makes You Mentally Stronger, Too
One of the tenets of yoga is that your mind and your body are connected: What affects one affects the other. Routinely participating in yoga is a form of meditation. It can help make room for self-awareness, productive thoughts and a sense of relaxation.

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.

When someone enters into addiction treatment and then into early recovery, they are broken. They are broken mentally. They are broken emotionally. They are broken spiritually. Their bodies are worn down and damaged from drugs and alcohol. Yoga as a practice begins the individual to on a journey of healing. Yoga aids in strengthening the body, strengthening the mind and strengthening the spirit. Additionally, the physical practice of yoga actually can release dopamine and endorphins which is vital for the body to replace after the use and abuse of chemicals. Just as exercise can produce a “natural high” so can the practice of yoga. Therefore, yoga can be a great practice to reduce and relieve stress, help quiet the mind and aid the individual in finding a sense of comfort and peace at a time when their mind is typically running at a 1000 miles an hour.

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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.

Yoga Offers A Distraction
When in recovery, an idle mind can lead to relapse. Practicing yoga serves as a mental distraction to keep your mind from ruminating on old habits. What’s more, yoga can be done just about anywhere, and the only equipment you need is a willing mind and a ready body.

You Can Advance In Yoga
Aside from offering a helpful distraction, yoga can give recovering addicts a sense of ambition. There are all sorts of styles and difficulties in the world of yoga. With diligence and dedication, one can always improve his or her technique and try new methods. Jumping into yoga gives recovering addicts something to challenge themselves with and look forward to accomplishing.

Yoga Can Also Be Used To Help Others
It’s not uncommon for people to practice yoga for a while and then fall so in love with it that they want to become an instructor. Learning how to teach yoga can be an incredible way to give back to the community and maybe even help out other former addicts along the way.

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.

Practicing with others can be a step toward finding a new avenue for friendships with people who won’t encourage a relapse into substance abuse.

Yoga Poses You Can Use In Recovery
Although any yoga poses are beneficial to your recovery, this particular sequence is good for beginners. It will challenge your body and mind and give you the relaxation you need to recover from addiction:

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Mountain Pose – Start every yoga routine with this pose to give it a nice circular feel. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and press your palms together in front of your chest. Close your eyes and breathe slowly, calming your mind, before moving into the next pose.

Triangle Pose – Slowly move your legs apart until they are in a reverse V-shape. Pull your arms up parallel to the ground and turn your head to look out past your right fingertips. Bend right at your waist and draw your right hand down, while twisting your waist forward. Pull your left hand in the air and hold in a “triangle” shape for 15-30 seconds. Release, come back to the original pose, switch to the left, and repeat. Once you’re done, come back to mountain pose.

Leg Wall Pose – Move from a standing position to sitting and lie back with both of your legs pressed up against the wall. Pull up so that your behind touches the wall and let your legs relax. Straighten your legs to get the full effect.

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Spinal Twist – Just before finishing your routine, end with this pose by lying on your back and pulling your knees close to your chest. Put your arms to your side, palms up, and move your knees left as far as you can, hold for five seconds, return to center, and go to the left.

Corpse Pose – Ends each round of yoga and lets you relax and feel the benefits of your practice. Simply lie down on your back with your feet and legs apart, close your eyes, and gently breathe.

Yoga is a powerful and beautiful way for you to ease your way through recovery and gain the peace of mind you need to beat addiction.

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