Yoga in Addiction Recovery and its Benefits
Yoga in addiction recovery has many proven benefits. The main benefit of Yoga, which would likely appeal to you as someone in recovery, is that practicing it regularly, reduces your risk of addiction relapse.
If you are looking for a holistic intervention that can enrich every part of your being, yoga could be what is missing in your recovery. Yoga has the ability to treat the mind, body and soul. It can be an invaluable asset in anyones personal recovery toolkit.
Practicing yoga utilises physical and mental techniques that target parts of the brain that have been affected by substance abuse. Yoga can actually help to heal and reverse any damage you have sustained whilst in active addiction.
Furthermore, yoga offers the very attractive benefit of freeing your mind from cravings. This in turn frees you to focus on what is really important.
If you do not know anything about yoga, this doesn’t have to hold you back. With the help of a qualified instructor you can easily learn the basics. Everyone has to start somewhere and the more you practice, the easier it will become.
All types of yoga offer multiple benefits for the wellbeing of your mind. Yoga will help to regulate your breathing and give you more control. Regularly practicing yoga can also help to increase your focus, flexibility and strength. Who wouldn't want these amazing benefits of yoga in addiction recovery and life?
What is yoga?
Yoga is essentially a spiritual and mental based discipline that offers you scientifically proven benefits. If you choose to incorporate yoga into your own personal recovery, it can bring some much needed peace and harmony.
Interestingly, the word Yoga is derived from the ancient language of Indo-Ayran, Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’ which means to ‘to unit’ or ‘to join’. This is reflected in the practice which aims to unite your body with your mind.
In Yoga there are eight different components, referred to as ‘limbs’. These limbs are brought together for maximum efficiency.
Learning all of the eight limbs may well feel an overwhelming prospect if are just beginning to learn about yoga in addiction recovery. Thankfully, a qualified instructor can simplify this to your own level of understanding.
The eight limbs (components) of yoga are:
- Personal conduct
- Personal discipline
- Postures and poses (Asanas)
Regularly utilising this mind-body practice will help to reduce your levels of anxiety and stress, and increase your physical and mental health
There are various types of yoga, all offering you a variety of benefits. Which of the yoga practices will best suit you, will depend on your own individual needs and capabilities.
Yoga can be very challenging and enable huge personal growth, or you can simply use it as a way of relaxing and unwinding the mind. This is the beauty of yoga, it can be as easy or as challenging as you choose to make it.
Different types of yoga
Different types of yoga offer different benefits and have different disciplines. This is something worth considering when searching for the best type of yoga in addiction recovery to practice.
If you are just starting to learn yoga, or even just exploring it through this page, you may be thinking ‘Wow! I didn't think yoga could be this complicated!’.
The truth is yoga can be as easy or as hard as you make it.
The different types of yoga include:
- Ashtanga yoga
- Bikram yoga (aka hot yoga)
- Hatha yoga
- Iyengar yoga
- Kundalini yoga
- Raja yoga
- Vinyasa yoga
- Yin yoga
As well as being extremely beneficial for your addiction recovery, yoga has also been proven to help with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and PTSD
Hatha yoga is one of the most accessible forms of yoga and the most frequently practised. Hatha has amazing healing properties. Learning this practice will teach you how to combine physical postures with breathing exercises, mindfulness and meditation.
If you are wondering what ‘Asanas’ are, well, these are the physical postures, poses or stretches that are the physical part of the different yoga practices.
Through the use of Asanas (yoga poses) you can rejuvenate and strengthen different parts of your body. Your nervous system, joints, organs, muscles and ligaments will all benefit from practising asanas.
Whilst holding a yoga pose, a yoga instructor will encourage you to focus on being in the present, and on feeling the sensations within your body. This kind of present-focused awareness closely resembles the Buddhist philosophy of mindfulness and mindful meditation. This is a form of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or MBSR.
As you recover from your past, yoga’s mindfulness component can really boost the speed at which you recover. Practising mindfulness can really help to heal your body and brain at their optimum capacity.
Which types of yoga in addiction recovery are best?
Choosing to implement yoga in addiction recovery will provide you with a whole host of scientifically proven benefits. First and foremost, the type of yoga you choose needs to be enjoyable! You will have a much better chance of sustaining the practice and really reaping its mind-body benefits if actually look forward to it.
Many of us in addiction recovery look to grow and develop in our spirituality. Spirituality brings us a feeling of oneness and of wholeness.
Yoga is wonderful for spiritual growth and connection!
Some recovery programmes focus on spirituality as part of their programme. For these types of recovery programmes, we recommend trying Integrated yoga or Hatha yoga. Both of these forms of yoga contain substantial spiritual elements that you could really benefit from.
Hatha yoga is a type of yoga that focuses on improving your mental and physical well-being. Learning the techniques within Hatha yoga can help you to develop a deeper spiritual connection and understanding. Hatha yoga utilises conscious prolonged breath inhalation, retention and exhalation. It combines this effective breath work with poses to help facilitate a deep meditative state. Hatha yoga's physical poses (asanas) make it one of the more physically challenging types of yoga. Practising Hatha yoga in addiction recovery will strengthen your inner connection, develop body & mind awareness and strengthen your flexibility. Improved focus, self-discipline and self-awareness are just a few of the attractive benefits you can gain from practising this traditional and ancient form of yoga
Many of us in addiction recovery suffer from constant mental chatter and battle with “mind monkeys”. Raja yoga can really help in overcoming this! If regaining control of your mind is something you are after, Raja “yoga of the mind” teaches you effective methods to consciously check in with your mind and bring thinking back under control. . The breath work that Raja yoga incorporates can help to stop and keep in check a racing mind. Practising Raja yoga will provide benefits to your cardiovascular and respiratory systems, which will strengthen, as well as decrease symptoms of stress.
Integrated yoga traditionally combines exercise, meditation and spiritual teachings. It offers you physical, psychological and spiritual benefits that are unmatched by any other physical type of yoga. Practising integrated yoga can lower your cortisol levels (stress hormones) substantially if you practice it regularly. The benefits that Integrated yoga provides make it the most beneficial form of yoga for those who are in recovery from addiction.
Yoga can assist in drug and alcohol detoxification
Yoga has been proven to help your body and mind cope with substance detoxification. This is great news if you have a lingering habit or two you want to tackle.
Practising yoga can help to calm any overactivity in your body and mind and reduce cravings. These are symptoms you can commonly experience whilst your body and brain recalibrate during a detox.
Because yoga is so helpful in assisting your body and mind in adjusting throughout the detox process, many inpatient detox clinics have made yoga a staple part of their programmes.
The benefits of practising yoga in addiction recovery :
- Tensions in your muscles are released
- Your stress hormone level will be reduced
- Your organs are better oxygenated
- Muscles will be more relaxed
- Yoga helps to regulate breathing
- Your mental health will be improved
- Any substance cravings will be reduced.
- Dopamine levels in your brain will be increased
- Your thought process will be slowed and better controlled
- You will have more control over your emotions
Yoga has also been proven to increase your chances of a healthier long term outcome. This, along with its detox benefits, are just a few of the many reasons the addiction treatment world embraces yoga and uses it as an effective evidence-based treatment.
The benefits of yoga in preventing addiction relapse
There will undoubtedly be challenges in your life that can actually threaten your ongoing recovery from addiction, and this is where yoga really comes into its own. Regularly practising yoga in addiction recovery can actually reduce your risk of suffering a relapse.
With addiction relapse rates remaining as high as 80 to 95% in the first year of recovery, anything that can help you to avoid relapse is certainly worth serious consideration.
The 10th edition of ‘The International Classification of Diseases’ defines drug dependence as a “chronic medical illness”. An illness that is “characterised by a cluster of physiological, behavioural and cognitive phenomena”. Suffering from addiction, it is likely that it will have taken priority over everything else in your life.
This ‘priority’, you will have experienced as a compulsion to seek and take substances. To the point where it will have become very detrimental to your well-being, and a result your brain will have suffered untold damage. Well, yoga can actually help to heal this damage!
And, it is not only your recovery from addiction that will benefit from yoga, there are so many other benefits you can reap, improving your overall well-being.
The benefits of yoga in addiction recovery include:
- Your mood and mental health will be considerably improved
- It is very accessible and affordable
- Yoga assists spiritual discipline and growth
- Practising yoga in classes provides the opportunity to connect with like-minded others
- Yoga reduces cravings for substances and addictive behaviours
- Fosters a greater sense of awareness of the mind & body
- Yoga helps to create a healthier more virtuous lifestyle
- Helps to repair the mind, body and spirit from the damage caused by active addiction
- The practice encourages mindfulness, meditation and breath-work
- It brings a sense of peace and harmony to the mind and body
- Yoga does not conflict with any other evidence-based treatments or recovery programmes
- Regular practice provides you with a sense of control over the mind
- It can motivate you to make positive changes to other areas of your life in recovery
- Yoga helps to diminish your emotional reactivity, reducing stress levels and anxiety, whilst increasing your dopamine levels. All of which encourage a healthy recovery from addiction
How yoga works in treating addiction
If you are not already convinced that practising yoga in addiction recovery is something you can really benefit from, there is even more evidence to convince you
Yoga targets multiple areas of the brain that can be helpful in curbing addictive behaviours. As a holistic medicine, yoga has the potential to heal on a physical, psychological and spiritual level
Something that may be of interest to you is a condition known as Reward Deficiency Syndrome or RDS. RDS has been linked to chronic alcoholism and addiction and is also classed as a chronic brain disorder. With RDS the sufferer will have a clinically significant deficient amount of Dopamine in the brain's reward centre. Reward Deficiency Syndrome can be caused by long-term exposure to stress, or acquired through genetics. RDS is relevant to many chronic mental health illnesses, not just addiction
Whether you suffer from addiction, RDS, or both, Yoga is a healthy way of naturally boosting your dopamine levels. By naturally increasing your dopamine levels through healthy means, you will be less likely to crave substances or want to engage in unhealthy behaviours.
Yoga’s benefits in managing recovery from addiction are very real, and it can help prevent a new addiction from developing. This is something we all need to be very mindful of whilst continuing our recovery journey 21
Whilst yoga is not intended to be used as a stand-alone treatment, the general consensus is that practising yoga in addiction recovery can be extremely beneficial.
Where can I learn yoga?
If you want to learn more about how the benefits of yoga in addiction recovery can assist you, you are in the right place. Thanks to yoga’s popularity, it has made it a very accessible means of holistic treatment.
The great thing about yoga is that it can be practised on your own or with a yoga class. Most people enjoy the benefits of both.
At Recoverlution we firmly believe that yoga can really help you to live a better quality of life. We know it is a very powerful tool for supporting a healthy recovery from addiction. Because of its benefits, you will find a whole section dedicated to yoga within our Wellness hub platform.
Whether you just want to learn more about yoga, or you want to take part in some of our virtual yoga classes, it is all right here, at your fingertips!
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Further sources and reading
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