How yoga can help support/promote healing from addiction

yoga on shore

There’s a reason yoga and pranayama (breath control) is often recommended for those going through the recovery process. In addiction recovery, it’s more learning a lifelong means of management rather than finding a “cure.” The entire body including the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and even social becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol. You can’t treat just one part of the body, such as the physical symptoms, and ignore the rest. That means treating a tiny part of the machine when the entire system is in trouble.

Rather, holistic addiction treatment offers a healthier, safer, and longer-lasting means of addiction recovery. It equips addicts with the tools necessary to keep running diagnostics checks on the whole body. Why is yoga recommended so much more often than other forms of exercise? It begins with the fact that yoga isn’t pure exercise, at least not in the modern definition.

“Yoga,” which means to yolk or union in Sanskrit, was once one of three divine pathways to escaping the cycle of reincarnation. In Hindu tradition, the ultimate goal was to ascend to Nirvana, but there were only three possible paths. Yoga was one of them, and it requires the asanas (or postures) as well as the pranayama (breath control) of yoga practices in order to reach a meditative state. Today, that meditative state is savasana, or the final resting pose, in yoga.

You don’t need to be Hindu or believe in the origin of yoga to reap its benefits. Today’s yoga practice still treats and “works out” the entire body. The physical benefits are clear, with the increase in balance, strength, flexibility, and elasticity of the body from asanas. The physical, mental, and emotional body benefit from pranayama. There are countless approaches which can energize, cleanse, or relax you. However, it’s the blend of asana and pranayama, while practicing meditation, that taps into the spiritual health aspect. Again, no form of faith is required. Simply pursuing quiet and stillness, and being comfortable in this state, is a type of healing that few of us achieve in modern society.

Yoga supports addiction recovery and sobriety better than spin classes or weight lifting because it’s kind to the body’s entire system. For many, sitting in quiet meditation first thing in the morning sets the stage for the rest of the day. That is yoga. You don’t need 90 minutes of chatturangas to consider yourself a yogi. Don’t have time for meditation in the morning? Work it in when you can. Take a break every twenty minutes for some deep pranayama breathing or simple and accessible asanas.

Yoga is a way of life, and it has the capacity to grow with you throughout various life stages. It complements every other type of workout, and it reinforces healthy posture. Yoga can counteract the physical symptoms of addiction and help ease the pain of withdrawals. It’s a healthy type of distraction. While you focus on balance in a certain asana, that concentration extends to balance in other parts of your life.

However, not all yoga styles, studios, and teachers are created equally. You may need to try a few before you find the right fit for you. Some are high-intensity, such as vinyasa bootcamps. Others are heated, which some in recovery find cleansing and refreshing. Others are gentle and restorative, a fantastic way to be kind to yourself and re-learn the importance of pampering. You can do yoga anywhere, and there’s no need for expensive pants or a fancy mat. For those in recovery, it might be the secret weapon.

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