Yoga for Addiction Recovery: How Yoga Strengthens Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Wellbeing
Yoga is one of the oldest spiritual disciplines humans have ever practiced. Yet yoga for addiction recovery is relatively new in a therapeutic application. Yoga practice brings about tremendous benefits physically, mentally and spiritually. By incorporating yoga into a 12-step program, you or your loved one will achieve a well-rounded recovery journey that addresses all the fundamentals required for growth and attaining true happiness.
Yoga combines physical exercise with mental and spiritual health through a series of intentional body poses and deep breathing techniques. The slow pace and relaxed nature of yoga is ideal for addiction recovery because it allows the person practicing to be mindful of the present by concentrating on breathing, thoughts and physical body sensations.
This mental and physical discipline trains the mind to consider our thoughts and feelings in the moment, which prevents destructive actions and stabilizes emotions. Addiction is typically the result of avoiding emotional emptiness. Yoga acts to counter this by teaching us to focus on the joy of the moment and the energy our body produces during and long after the practice.
The spiritual side of yoga allows us to:
- Consider the greater state of existence beyond ourselves.
- This awareness draws out our connection to a higher power, which is an especially important and peaceful feeling to obtain during addiction recovery.
Yoga has been used as a therapeutic practice to relieve many symptoms often associated with addiction. Such symptoms may include both physical and mental ailments, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trouble breathing, insomnia and various body aches and pains. These are common mind and body reactions that occur during addiction recovery.
Addiction is a condition that has impacted you or your loved one physically, mentally and spiritually. Yoga by its very nature addresses all of these elements in one single practice. Many students of yoga practice this form of exercise as a means of finding a spiritual path while being physically active.
Physical activity is important for a successful recovery as it supports health by improving the immune system, increasing blood flow, and improving your cardiovascular functions. Additionally, yoga restores your feeling of strength, allowing you or your loved one to pursue your recovery at a stable rate. Ultimately, yoga reconnects those suffering from addiction with the importance of taking care of their bodies and minds, which have been abused throughout addiction.
Benefits of Yoga for Addiction Recovery
There are countless benefits of practicing yoga throughout the addiction healing process. The benefits of regular yoga practice impact our body, mind and spirit, and are felt during our daily lives, even when we aren’t physically practicing. Here are some of the mental, physical and spiritual benefits of yoga for addiction recovery.
We tend to pass judgment on ourselves for things we’ve done or said. Yoga helps us to eliminate our churning, negative thoughts and focus on the positivity and gratitude of life in that moment.
Allows for Mindfulness
Practicing yoga provides you with a natural way to lay a spiritual foundation in your life. For recovering addicts in the 12-step program, this is an important basis for recovery. Yoga is a dedicated and intentional practice of being aware of your thoughts and emotions through the physical embodiment of its poses.
The combination of physical output with mental focus is a major stress reducer for yoga students. Practicing yoga offers plenty of mental and physical health benefits that are especially important for recovering addicts who may suffer from anxiety and depression as well as chronic pain.
Lowers Blood Pressure and Cortisol Levels
Yoga helps to reduce blood pressure by slowing down your body and mind and increasing consistent, healthy blood flow. It also leads to a reduction in cortisol levels. Cortisol is the “stress hormone” our bodies release when faced with a crisis. Chronically high levels of cortisol can lead to health problems and greater depression over time.
Enhances Feelings of Happiness
Consistent practice of yoga actually results in an increase in serotonin, the “happiness hormone” that causes us to feel like we’re in a good mood. This provides an overall greater level of health for your nervous system, helping you to breathe deeper and sleep better – key components to a life of well-being.
Improves Focus and Clarity
Yoga’s intent is to keep us connected with the moment. Over time, regular yoga practice helps us to improve our focus and attention spans in other areas of our lives, not just when practicing. As a recovering addict, maintaining concentration will help you or your loved to stay mentally strong and clear about the steps needed to take in order to reach recovery goals.
Increases Physical Strength
Exercise for recovering addicts is a fundamental element of a successful recovery. By stretching muscles through performing and holding yoga poses, we build up our body’s strength, which will assist in a strong journey of recovery. By practicing yoga regularly, we ensure a sustainable supply of energy to keep us healthy and functioning at optimal levels.
Apart from its physical and mental benefits, yoga for addiction recovery is also an important practice to establish a routine of self-care and personal transformation. This then leads to greater levels of self-esteem and confidence, providing further strength to propel you or your loved one through the recovery process.
Supports Personal Relationships
Yoga helps build personal emotional growth and self-acceptance. When we have the emotional stability to care for ourselves, then others around us are impacted positively as well. Your personal relationships with your friends and family will begin to thrive from the inner strength being developed through your dedication to yoga and mindfulness practices.
Provides a Space for Spiritual Practice
The peace and calm felt when practicing yoga provides a space to connect our emotions and thoughts with a higher power. This consistent practice builds up our spiritual foundation over time, allowing us to be open to guidance. Recovering from addiction requires an acceptance of the guidance felt from spiritual connectivity.
10 Yoga Poses for Addiction Recovery
There are many variations of yoga practices, but each involves a series of body poses, or Asanas, as they are traditionally called. These poses are designed to be practiced in a sequence while remaining focused on the pattern of slow, steady breathing and focusing on our body’s energy. Traditional yoga poses can be practiced alone or as a group exercise for addicts. Yoga is best practiced on a mat or towel to help cushion yourself from the hard floor or ground and support your spine and head.
Below are ten simple yoga poses recommended for recovering addicts to reduce stress, improve physical well-being, and increase mental and spiritual focus. When practiced regularly, these poses can help recovering addicts bring peace and calm to their daily lives.
Remember to begin slowly and draw your attention to your breath rather than to the pose itself. Notice your body’s reaction to certain poses and the different sensations felt when performing each one. At the beginning of your practice, it is recommended to set an intention you can continuously remind yourself of when your mind begins to wander. This is the basis of the discipline of yoga.
One: Seated Mountain Pose
Begin kneeling on the floor with knees in front and feet behind you. Sitting on your heels, straighten your back and breathe in deeply. Be sure to keep your shoulders back to allow your chest to open up.
Two: Seated Forward Bend
Bring your legs out from under you and stretch them in front. Raise your arms straight overhead and slowly bend at the waist, reaching your hands down toward your feet. Hold this stretch while breathing slowly and keeping your chin tucked under.
Three: Wind Relieving Pose
Lie backward with your back flat on the mat. Bring your right knee into your chest and clasp your hands together on your shin while gently pulling your knee in further. Breathe deeply, release and change sides.
Four: Cat/Cow Pose
Position yourself in the center of the mat on all fours, or tabletop position. While breathing in, arch your back, bring your gaze upward and curl your toes under. Breathing out, round your back, tuck your chin to your chest and release the tops of your feet flat on the mat. Repeat for at least five breaths in a smooth, fluid motion.
Five: Camel Pose
In a kneeling position, begin to slowly bend backward until you are gazing behind you. Support your back bend with your hands placed firmly on your feet behind you and your arms straightened. Breathe in deeply and slowly release the pose forward while bringing your head down.
Six: Child’s Pose
Sit on bent knees and release your body forward while lowering your head slowly to the floor. Place your arms alongside you with your hands next to your feet and palms facing up. Continue to breathe deeply in this pose while relaxing your muscles.
Seven: Downward Dog Pose
Place your palms flat on the mat in front of you. Using the strength of your arms, lift your body up and backward with your legs stretched and feet still on the floor, forming an upside down V shape. You will feel a deep stretch down the back of your legs, but remember to continue your deep, steady breathing.
Eight: Tree Pose
While still in downward dog, walk your feet up toward your hands and slowly curl yourself up to a standing position. Bring the bottom of your right foot in to rest on the inside of your left calf, pushing your right thigh outward. Bring your hands together at the center of your chest with palms touching. Breathe slowly, release your leg and switch sides.
Nine: Dancer’s Pose
Standing with hands at your sides, bring your right foot back behind you and grab the inside of your foot with your right hand. Kick your right leg back while extending your upper body and left arm forward. Hold the pose while breathing deeply before releasing and switching sides.
Ten: Corpse Pose
Slowly lower yourself down to the mat and lie on your back for this final resting pose. Open your legs and hips slightly, and rest your arms alongside you, palms facing upward. Breathe slowly while clearing your mind of all thoughts and releasing your muscles of any tension.
Rest on your mat for as long as needed and begin to actively clear your mind of all negative thoughts that may have entered during your body’s stillness. Seek to practice non-judgment in this moment and bring awareness to each part of your body. You will feel noticeable emotions and bodily sensations. Take note of these and how they make you feel. Come back to this moment as often as needed to restore calm and peace to your regular yoga practice.
Impacting Mental, Physical and Spiritual Well-Being
By practicing these basic yoga poses regularly and in sequence, you can begin to bring a sense of balance and harmony to your daily life. In slowing down your thoughts and physical movements, you begin to train your mind to appreciate the moment you’re in and notice your own feelings and reactions.
This awareness helps us to connect our spirit to the higher power that provides us with answers to our emotional struggles. The impact yoga has on our physical, mental and spiritual states can be seen as a circuit. Each element is dependent on the other to create a holistic addiction recovery process.
Integrating Yoga into the 12-Step Program
By integrating yoga into the traditional 12-step program, you or your loved one will benefit from a well-rounded and highly proven course to healing and regaining inner and outer strength. Yoga’s spiritual foundation provides the perfect complement to the 12-step program, which is based on one’s acceptance of the importance of a higher power in treating addiction.
With yoga we’re taught to trust ourselves in the moment and to be open to the spiritual guidance that comes to us through physical dedication and mental discipline. In fact, therapeutic yoga helps us to focus on the spiritual appreciation of clean, healthy living. The acceptance of a clean lifestyle is an integral element of the 12-step program of the recovery process.
If you or a loved one struggle with drug addiction and want to get help, contact us today to start your journey to a sober, more fulfilling life!