Yoga for Addiction Recovery

Just like mental illness, addiction has a chronic relapsing course. Drug dependence has a relapse rate of around 40 to 60 percent. One method is yoga for addiction recovery. This can be used to aid in the recovery process and fight relapse. Yoga is a form of practice that focuses on the connection between the mind and body. It originated in India and has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety as well as improve mental and physical health.

Yoga has many proven health benefits. It can help improve a person’s general wellness through relieving stress, supporting good health habits, and improving mental and emotional health, sleep, and balance. It can help people who suffer from anxiety or depression manage their symptoms. Yoga can help people quit smoking as well as help people who are afflicted with a chronic disease such as addiction manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Using Yoga in Recovery

Healing addiction with the help of yoga is considered a holistic intervention that leads to long-term benefits in the management of addictive behaviors. The idea behind yoga and addiction recovery is that addiction is created as a result of a mindless state that involves escaped attitudes, automatic thinking, emotional reactivity, and social isolation. The sense of loss and emptiness that occurs with addiction is often filled with drugs or alcohol. Yoga is thought to take a person from a state of mindlessness that is characterized by having scattered attention, automatic actions, reactivity, a lack of awareness, escaped the present, habitual actions, harsh judgments on oneself, and isolation to a state of mindfulness. Once a person is in a state of mindfulness they will have developed more focused attention, deliberate intentions, they will be rooted in awareness, as well as more compassionate and connected to themselves and the world around them.

When simply using breathing or yoga poses for addiction recovery a person’s stress can be reduced and it can help unhook people from substance use impulses at the moment. Yoga is thought to enhance recovery from addiction through targeting stress-related cognitions, emotions, and behavioral urges such as cravings.

Specifics of Yoga

The practice of yoga has eight different parts to connect a person with their body and the world around them. These eight parts include conduct within society, personal discipline, poses, breathing, concentration, contemplation, meditation, and stillness. Yoga is designed to bring the body and mind together through the use of exercise, poses, meditation, and breathing.

The best way to first learn yoga is to attend a local yoga class with a certified instructor. Depending on the type of class you attend they can last anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. One of the more popular types of yoga is Bikram (Hatha) yoga. Bikram yoga is typically taught by a trained instructor, in a heated room, with a set sequence of 26 poses and two breathing exercises. Classes start with deep breathing exercises, then follow with going through a series of poses, and finish with relaxation breathing. The health benefits of this style of yoga are increased physical fitness, psychological health, pulmonary function, sleep quality, bone density, and decreased risk for cardiovascular disease.

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Yoga’s Effects on the Brain

Asana Yoga which Bikram yoga is a part of has various effects on cognitive and neurological functions. A study published in the Complementary Therapies in Medicine Journal found that alpha waves were increased in a person’s brain after breathing and meditation exercises in yoga resulting in increased alpha brain waves. A surge in alpha brain waves is associated with increased feelings of calmness. There was also an increase in beta waves which are linked to task performance. Therefore, Asana yoga has a positive impact on the body and mind. It is proven to help relieve anxiety and depression symptoms, increase cognitive performance, and improve memory.

Another study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine discussed that people who practiced yoga experienced an increase in the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a naturally occurring chemical that works as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It helps to manage anxiety and stress. The more GABA a person produces the less likely they are to be stressed or anxious. Stress, anxiety, and depression are all often experienced by a person going through substance withdrawal. Therefore, the use of yoga can be extremely beneficial in reducing the painful symptoms of detox and aiding in the healing process.

The connection between Mind and Body

Have you ever heard the notion that “too much stress can make you sick?” This notion points to the connection between the mind and body. In the past, medicine has treated the issues related to the mind and body separately. Recently, this has changed because an article published in  EMBO Reports, stated that there is no real division between mind and body because of the networks of communication that exist between the brain and the body. Therefore, treatment should include focusing on both the mind and body in order to aid in the recovery process.

Yoga is one form of treatment that targets the mind and the body at the same time. Due to all the emotional benefits of yoga, practicing yoga might actually help to realign some of the parts of the brain that have been impacted by addiction. When you practice yoga, you become more in tune with yourself through learning to regulate breathing and let go of stress, anxiety, and judgmental thoughts towards yourself. The practice of yoga helps a person let go of everything going on in their environment and turn inward, focusing on oneself. Also, it has been proven to help people have more restful sleep, which is necessary for the body to recover from withdrawal.

Getting Help With Addiction

Hopefully, after reading this you see that yoga is so much deeper than just breathing and stretching. The art of yoga is able to calm the urges of addiction and refocus the body and mind into harmony.  When used with other treatment practices such as medication and behavioral therapy, yoga can be that extra ingredient in helping you or a loved one overcome addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, finding a high-quality rehab facility can help.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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