20 million Americans practice yoga.
How Can Yoga Help Addicts?
Yoga can provide several benefits for those who struggle with substance abuse.
First, yoga can improve overall mental health. Yoga increases GABA, a brain chemical that fights anxiety, and serotonin, a brain chemical that decreases depression. Because substance abuse has a strong connection to both depression and anxiety, the overall mental health boost can help an addicted person in their sobriety.
Second, yoga improves flexibility and can relieve bodily pain by encouraging the muscles to relax. Virtually all illicit drugs come with physical pain as a withdrawal symptom. Yoga provides a simple, safe, and drug-free way to relieve the pain. Yoga can also give addicted people a sense of connection to the body – a connection that may have been lost with repeated drug use.
Third, yoga can be a deeply meditative practice, providing a sense of calm and relaxation. The poses themselves help release tension, and the mental focus promotes a sense of peace. Addiction often comes with racing thoughts. A yoga practice can calm these thoughts as the addicted individual learns how to gently let them go.
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Breathing for Relaxation
Several different types of yoga exist, and virtually all of them emphasize the importance of breathing.
In a yoga class, the instructor would remind you when to inhale and exhale throughout the different poses. Some poses are especially beneficial for your lungs, encouraging deep breaths. For a deeply restorative and breathing-focused experience, try one or more of these poses:
- Easy pose
- Upward facing dog
- Staff pose
- Cat pose
- Gate pose
You have plenty of resources like yoga studios, books, and online videos to help you learn any of the poses mentioned in this article. If you’d like to try an example right now, start with easy pose. Sit down on a supportive surface with your legs outstretched. Bring your legs in so that you’re sitting in a cross-legged position. Keep your back straight, gently rest your hands on your knees, and focus on your breathing.
Finding Solid Ground
Yoga provides an excellent way to re-establish a sense of grounding and rootedness. When life seems out of control, yoga can help the addicted individual feel more connected and calm. People with substance use disorders often talk about embracing their recovery “one day at a time.” Yoga can help balance the daily changes with a deeper sense of permanence. The following yoga poses can help when you feel like your thoughts are spinning out of control:
- Mountain pose
- Downward facing dog
- Pigeon pose
- Tree pose
Mountain pose gives you a great place to start. Plant your feet solidly on the ground, keeping them next to each other as you evenly distribute your weight. Tuck your tailbone slightly, relax your shoulders, and lift the crown of your head. Breathe slowly and evenly.
Surrender and Rest
With all of the sleeplessness that can come from addiction and withdrawal, yoga can help you establish a sense of peace. Some types of yoga, such as Restorative Yoga, exist purely to help people unwind and rest. Yoga before bed can help you fall asleep. Some of these poses can help:
- Corpse pose
- Child’s pose
- Standing forward bend
- Banana pose
Most yoga teachers end their classes with corpse pose. Lie on your back with your hands by your sides. Allow yourself to relax completely. Release the tension from your back, hips, shoulders, and face. Focus inward and let your breath flow smoothly.
Want to Learn More?
Do you want to learn more about how yoga and other practices can benefit your recovery? Are you looking for a rehab facility that includes yoga as part of its treatment plan? Allow us to help. Rehab Info helps clients find the right detox, rehab, and other recovery choices.