One reason for yoga’s appeal in addiction treatment at Legacy is its emphasis on focus, concentration, and impulse control. Individuals who suffer from mental health issues, abuse drugs and alcohol, or engage in other addictive behaviors often feel compelled to follow their urges and let their thoughts and emotions dictate their actions. Yoga, which teaches slow, controlled movements, helps to eliminate reactive and negative automatic behaviors. It allows you to become more aware of self-defeating thoughts and triggers and achieve greater self-mastery and self-control. As an individual becomes more adept in the art of yoga, these skills spill over into every area of life, encouraging moderation rather than extreme or compulsive behaviors.
By becoming more aware of our bodies and the sensations of movement, we can become more mindful of the present moment, more skilled at resisting temptations, more appreciative of our aliveness, and more willing to endure pain and discomfort for the benefit of our well-being. Rather than misinterpreting their body’s cues as a need for drugs, alcohol, food, or sex that must be instantly satisfied; yoga trains your brain to interpret those cues as an emotional need that can be satisfied in other, healthier ways.
Addiction is about much more than willpower. Developing healthy coping mechanisms like deep breathing, yoga, and physical activity can build an addict’s strength to fight their disease while balancing self-forgiveness with continued growth - keys to good mental health. When a person is confident in her abilities to manage her own thoughts and behaviors, she regains power over her mental health issues and/or addiction improving her ability to control her own happiness. By counteracting the habitual, negative thoughts that led to the abuse of drugs and alcohol, yoga can help addicts slow down their thoughts and put an end to obsessive, dysfunctional behavior patterns. The same is held true for mental health issues such as depression and PTSD.
Yoga is unique in its ability to treat body and mind simultaneously. Yoga represents the union of the organ systems in the body and the consciousness of the mind to bring about a state of stillness and calm. This state of calmness or serenity comes from the practice of moderate, conscious, gentle yoga exercises that counteract the imbalances in the body caused by drug and alcohol abuse. Deep breathing techniques, which can be practiced anywhere, help balance and soothe the mind and increase mental awareness. The conscious relaxation exercises in yoga, such as tensing and relaxing every muscle of the body from head to toe, and repeating positive affirmations to oneself can stabilize both mind and body helping to eliminate addictive behaviors.
For purposes of detoxification of the body, stretching and strengthening poses in yoga help cleanse the body and make the process of detoxification more comfortable by stimulating the pineal and pituitary glands in the brain, which in turn stimulate the endocrine, metabolic, digestive, circulatory, and lymphatic systems to cleanse the body of toxins more efficiently and effectively. At the same time, yoga build strength, decreases stress levels, and boosts the body’s natural systems of detoxification. Furthermore, practicing yoga may elevate brain gamma-amino butyric or GABA levels, the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. This suggests that the practice of yoga may be effective in treating depression, anxiety, and other disorders associated with low GABA levels. Yoga can also help regulate levels of the “feel good” neurotransmitter, dopamine, in the brain and can trigger the release of endorphins, producing a “natural high.”
In the process of recovery, the company of a new social network of well-adjusted, like-minded people is critical. Being surrounded by people who are content, optimistic, and compassionate and who can offer unconditional support can make the path to sobriety a smoother one. For many who have been dependent on drugs and/ or alcohol, returning to the former and sometimes negative peer group can debilitate progress. It can be difficult to meet new people in a completely unfamiliar social circle. Yoga classes and other activities that aren’t centered on bars, parties, or staying home alone can be a healthy social outlet.
Other medical conditions commonly relieved by yoga include back pain, arthritis, and symptoms of asthma. You do not have to be an advanced practitioner to enjoy the benefits of yoga. You are never too old, too out of shape, or too “tight” to do yoga.
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If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues and/or drug or alcohol abuse, please contact our addiction treatment center.