Addiction fundamentally changes the way a person’s mind and body works. Priorities change and self-care is often neglected in favor of substance abuse. Recovery not only focuses on helping a person rid themselves of the mind and mood-altering effects of drugs and alcohol, but also prioritizes helping a person obtain a sense normal functioning. There are numerous tools utilized through the course of recovery to help achieve this, and yoga and meditation can be fundamental in achieving this both early in recovery and throughout the entire journey.
Addiction can be largely fueled by mental and emotional experiences. Self-medication is common and substances are often used as a means of escape from the stresses of daily life. Without the ability to use drugs and alcohol, a person in treatment must learn new, healthy ways to cope with the inevitable difficulties they will eventually face. Yoga and meditation provide an avenue for releasing tension and stress while strengthening the mind and body. The benefits of yoga and meditation improve recovery outcomes and help establish behaviors that support sobriety throughout life.
There are countless approaches to yoga that can suit anyone. Even beginners can find benefits through breathing exercises, movement sequences, and postures designed to stretch and strengthen the body. Some of the benefits of yoga many people experience include:
Yoga can help relieve pain from some chronic conditions including back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and headaches. It is also known to reduce blood pressure and insomnia. Many find that yoga can help relieve stress as well and improve mental clarity. Through focused breathing and concentration, body awareness improves helping many people become more aware of their physical and mental needs.
Yoga is often coupled with meditation because it helps relax the mind and encourages participants to redirect their thoughts. In recovery, especially early on, the experience of withdrawal and learning to come to terms with sobriety can leave many struggling with mental and emotional difficulty. By focusing inward, calming the mind, and become more aware of oneself, meditation can help improve mood and reduce stress levels.Meditation has numerous benefits that helps many overcome stressors and triggers that can cause relapse. Some of these benefits include:
Specifically, in addiction recovery, meditation can improve control over impulses and thoughts that trigger addictive behaviors. Meditation can help strengthen willpower, control compulsions, and allow people to have a better understanding about how their thoughts and emotions can drive addiction. Because meditation requires a person to redirect their thoughts, many find that they are able to reduce the impulses that drive dependencies and habits.
While yoga and meditation alone will not stop addiction, it can provide many with the tools needed to strengthen their experiences in recovery. Many people find early in recovery that they have much more time on their hands. Cutting off relationships with substance-abusing peers and no longer having substance abuse as a means of occupying their time can leave many people experiencing boredom, anxiety, and other emotions that can trigger relapse. The development of healthy interests and activities can help pass the time and motivate those in treatment.Yoga and meditation promote physical and mental health in a way that improves recovery outcomes. Not only does it help restore a person’s connection with their inner self, but it also helps them restore relationships with others. Improved mental and physical functioning can help provide the clarity of mind needed to focus on the most important aspects of recovery. It can help restore a sense of identity that enables a person to move forward in developing a life not dependent on the use of substances to feel normal. Best of all, it can be practiced anywhere at any time, alone or in groups, allowing a person to make time to self-reflect and become part of a supportive community.The word “yoga” comes from a Sanskrit root “yuj” which means union, or yoke, to join, and to direct and concentrate one's attention.[2,3] Regular practice of yoga promotes strength, endurance, flexibility and facilitates characteristics of friendliness, compassion, and greater self-control, while cultivating a sense of calmness and well-being.[4,5] Sustained practice also leads to important outcomes such as changes in life perspective, self-awareness and an improved sense of energy to live life fully and with genuine enjoyment.[6–8] The practice of yoga produces a physiological state opposite to that of the flight-or-fight stress response and with that interruption in the stress response, a sense of balance and union between the mind and body can be achieved.