Yoga is an ancient form of meditation that involves the body and the mind and has proven to be quite effective as an aid for individuals recovering from addiction. To those who believe yoga to be a series of strange physical poses or a specifically Eastern religious exercise, this may seem far-fetched. The truth is, however, that yoga provides several intellectual, emotional and physical benefits that apply to all types of people from all types of faiths.
The Physical Benefits of Yoga
Carefully practiced yoga is a serious workout. Though it is accessible for people of all levels of fitness, these poses provide all of the following physiological benefits under the guidance of an expert:
- Elevated heart rate and respiration, which is good for cleansing and stimulating endorphins
- Improved balance and overall connection to one’s body
- Perspiration, which cleanses toxins from the body
- Improved muscle tone, which relieves pain and other symptoms of physical weakness
- Improved flexibility
- Joint and back pain relief
Although scientific evidence is difficult to find, many yoga experts emphatically believe that certain poses actually stimulate improved organ function and aid in the purification of the blood from toxins.
The Cognitive Benefits of Yoga
Yoga also provides several cognitive or intellectual benefits for an individual in the process of recovering from addiction. One of the most serious challenges of recovery is developing an ability to mentally understand the patterns of abuse, to identify various triggers and to choose to place oneself in the best environment for continued sobriety.
Yoga aids in that process by clearing the mind of needless distractions and cultivating a healthy focus on the body, the emotions and the environment. Although these skills take time develop, many regular yoga devotees report that the practice helps them become better listeners, better caregivers to those around them and more mindful of the emotions they themselves experience on a day-to-day basis. This mindfulness is a huge asset in the ongoing recovery process.
The Psychological Benefits of Yoga
Possibly the most important aspect of addiction recovery, and one of the hardest to accomplish, is healing the psychological damage caused by the disease. Addicts suffer from impulse control deficiencies and emotion regulation challenges that cause them to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
Yoga offers many emotional benefits for these people, including the following:
- Improved relaxation and peacefulness
- Breathing exercises to calm the mind
- Improved self-esteem and personal pride
- Spiritual connection to one’s “higher power” (whatever that power may be)
- Endorphins released during yoga that spur increased feelings of happiness and pleasure
- Valuable social connections established with other yoga practitioners
- The physical and emotional release of stress and anxiety
Simply put, regular practitioners of yoga report greater feelings of happiness and joy and decreased feelings of anxiety or stress. This is an enormous advantage for people working to break the harmful patterns addiction has created in their body and mind.