Addiction rehab often incorporates holistic therapies alongside traditional therapies. Holistic therapies are aimed at treating the person as a whole by addressing the underlying issues that could potentially lead to substance abuse. Yoga is one of the more popular holistic healing modalities that should be incorporated into treatment programs.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a spiritual, physical, and mental practice consisting of different posture sequences and breathwork. Although yoga originated in ancient India, it has gained popularity in the west over the last few decades for its health and relaxation benefits. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of yoga with its large variety of styles and types, but the word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root “Yuj” meaning “union”.
Yoga is meant to bring conscious awareness to individuals and the collective, helping to harmonize and balance one’s life. These positive attributes can be of extreme benefit to those struggling with addiction or trying to maintain their sobriety.
How Does Addiction Affect the Mind and Body?
It is common knowledge that addiction has negative effects on the mind and body. While it weakens the immune system and limits the functionality of most of the major organs, its negative impact goes far beyond that.
Addiction takes individuals into a state of having no control. Everyone has habits that don’t necessarily benefit them, but addiction takes it a step further where the individual no longer feels they have the choice to stop. Their mental and physical cravings for a substance are so strong that they overpower even the most basic needs like eating, sleeping, and maintaining relationships.
Taking a holistic approach to a person’s addiction means looking at all of the aspects of the person’s life in order to understand why they are struggling with substance abuse. Holistic approaches address that it’s not just about the substance itself, but rather what someone is trying to cope with. This could be anything from mental illness to traumatic or stressful life events. Individuals who suffer from addiction may actually be trying to emotionally escape from difficult situations in their lives. Therapy works to acknowledge and address this.
More and more studies are showing a direct link between an individual’s mindset and their levels of health and happiness. A common quote we often see is “what you think, you become”. In relation to addiction, a mind on drugs is a mind out of control and in a state of desperation for drugs. When one area is struggling with control, this will carry to other areas of life as well. Subconsciously, the individual feels they don’t have control over anything. Yoga helps to bring the individual back to the present moment by opening a space to focus on internal feelings instead of the stress of the outside world.
Stress is a leading cause of health concern across the globe, and a leading cause for addiction. Even if someone wants to stop using, if they are overwhelmed with stress in life they may feel drugs are the only escape. Yoga can help clear the mind of excess worry and decrease the need for external remedies. Its main teaching principle is that everything you need to live a healthy and fulfilling life is already within you.
8 Principles of Yoga
One of the great things about yoga is that there is no one-size-fits-all. Since its origin in ancient India, yoga has expanded into many different styles and types all around the world. The type of yoga you engage in is totally up to you, and it’s common to mix multiple styles in a session. Although yoga is inherently physical, its underlying intention is focused on the individual’s mental state. There are 8 “limbs” or principles of yoga that are the foundation of every practice. These principles help explain yoga’s healing nature and include:
- Union (Samadhi)
- External Disciplines (Yamas)
- Internal Disciplines (Niyamas)
- Postures (Asanas)
- Breathwork (Pranayama)
- Withdrawal of Senses (Pratyahara)
- Concentration (Dharana)
- Meditative Absorption (Dhyana)
Even if a person isn’t consciously paying attention to these concepts, the act of focusing on movement and its alignment with breathing will ignite these 8 healing intentions within the individual.
Types of Yoga for Addiction Therapy
When most people think of yoga, they think of quiet slow movement with meditative music and chanting. While that is one type of yoga still used heavily today, there is a much wider range of yoga styles that can offer something for everyone. Yoga for addiction is aimed at relaxing the mind, focusing on the moment, and being able to turn your attention inwards when you are triggered by negative emotions. Some popular types of yoga for addiction recovery include:
The Sanskrit term “Hatha” translates to “posture”. The focus of hatha yoga is bringing attention to each physical posture and sequence. Breathwork is important, but the meditative aspect of this style is the act of bringing all of your attention to the current position of your body and tuning out the rest of the world. Hatha is sort of an umbrella term for many types of yoga and is the most popular for healing and introduction to yoga.
Vinyasa translates to “to place in a specific way”. This method focuses heavily on sequences of postures and grouping together different postures repeatedly. Vinyasa yoga is one of the more athletic styles that will definitely have you sweating by the end of the class. It’s helpful for addiction recovery because it encourages meditation as it requires heavy concentration. It also helps build a stronger body. Vinyasa yoga can be done in a group setting or alone.
Iyengar Yoga focuses on the alignment of the body and specific breathwork. Typically, poses are held for a long duration of time in this practice. This style of holding poses for extended breaths helps to improve both mental and physical endurance. It teaches you to shift your focus away from physical discomfort and focus on the mental state. Iyengar can be an amazing tool for those struggling with emotional or physical triggers of addiction.
Kundalini Yoga is heavily rooted in spirituality. It is based on the belief that there is energy resting at the base of the spine that needs to be awakened in order to experience full consciousness. It involves a combination of physical postures, breathwork, and chanting/sound making. Even if you don’t believe in the spiritual ideas of this practice, kundalini yoga works through emotional blocks which can be beneficial to anyone.
These are only a few types of yoga that can be practiced for addiction therapy. Detox and rehabilitation centers often offer yoga classes to help introduce you to the practice. Yoga is amazing for addiction therapy because it requires no equipment and can be done anywhere once you know the basics. The most important thing when choosing a style is to keep an open mind and let your body guide you to what you need
Exploring the Benefits of Yoga for Addiction Recovery
The most significant benefit of yoga is the inner awareness it brings. A big part of addiction is the act of relying on external things for internal satisfaction. People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol only feel positive emotions and feelings when they are using them. When they stop using, they are desperate for more. Yoga teaches you that you can create a state of peace and tranquility using your own body and mind even if your external world is chaotic. Yoga can be used during detox, extended rehabilitation, and after treatment has ended. Some of the benefits include:
- Enhanced fitness
- Weight control
- Balanced hormones
- Enhanced lung capacity
- Improved concentration
- Improved sleeping habits
- Healthier mood and mindset
- Increased mental endurance
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved self-image/body image
- Decrease in depression and anxiety
- Improved reaction to emotional triggers
Incorporating Yoga Into an Addiction Treatment Plan
Even if you’ve never done yoga before, incorporating it into your addiction rehabilitation plan is easy and doable for anyone. Most rehabilitation centers offer classes taught by professional teachers. These group classes are a great introduction for beginners. They usually incorporate all levels so it’s suitable for those looking to deepen their practice as well.
Once you know the basics of yoga, you can do it anytime you need. Sometimes it’s as simple as sitting with your breath. Other times, you will want a full hour-long intense flow. Addiction recovery centers can provide both the introduction to this practice as well as resources to teachers, yoga groups, and courses that extend beyond rehab.
There are even programs similar to the 12-Step Recovery Program that focus on helping people develop relapse prevention skills and maintain long-term sobriety. These programs focus on integrating addiction recovery principles into the yogic practice so you can be a part of an integrative healing process with like-minded people.
Recovering from addiction is about forming lifelong habits that will get you through tough times for the rest of your life. Yoga can be intense or light, long or short, breathing or sweating-making it perfect for people of any age and health level.
Yoga for Addiction at Harmony Place
Harmony Place specializes in addiction rehabilitation, focusing on individual therapy and aftercare. The staff at our drug rehab in Los Angeles provides a warm and welcoming place for anyone struggling with addiction to begin their healing journey. Taking a holistic view for each of our clients, we incorporate various types of therapies to ensure each part of the individual is addressed in their personal recovery program.
Our holistic treatments have been proven to enhance success in recovery programs and will help heal clients beyond their addiction to substances. For more information about our holistic treatments and our addiction rehab services, contact us anytime.