Are you struggling with addiction yourself or do you know someone who is? Addiction has complex causes and appears in many forms, but most addiction involves some form of disconnection from the present moment and originates as a response to a feeling that something is missing. Addiction doesn’t solve any problems; it just grows as the addict continues to feel that sense of lack. As part of a holistic treatment program, yoga can help provide a healthy path back to connection. Let’s look at how yoga helps with addiction recovery.
Addicts, in turning to their addiction, fail to develop healthy ways to handle stress. By learning new ways to handle stress, addicts increase their chance of successful recovery.
When we think of yoga, we might think of contortionist postures first, but breath control is a very important part of yoga. Our breath changes with our psychological state, and our psychological state changes with our breath. We know that panic brings rapid shallow breathing and that deep slow breathing restores calm, creating observable brainwave changes.
Beginning with an emphasis on the breath, yoga helps us let go of our stress. Yoga practice teaches us to have goals, but to hold them gently, with consideration for ourselves. When we practice yoga, we ask of ourselves to be present, to give our best effort, and to accept without judgement. All of these help with stress management and with the challenging process of recovery.
Repairing the Reward System – Brain Chemistry
The science of neurochemistry provides a window into addiction. Addiction typically involves distortions in dopamine and endorphin production. It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but you can think of dopamine as the brain’s tool for rewarding you for accomplishing something, a good feeling of success, whereas endorphins are the brain’s tool for encouraging to do things that make your body feel good, like eat and have sex.
Over time, the addict’s brain produces less and less dopamine and endorphins in response to normal stimuli and reserves more production for addiction-related stimuli. Roy King (PhD, MD) of Stanford University has shown that yoga can restore dopamine production over time. He also showed how yoga can yield immediate scientifically measurable benefits; yoga breathing practices can increase endorphin production during a single session.
You could say by learning yoga, you begin to learn how to replace an artificial high with a natural one.
Self Control and Self Awareness
Addiction is often accompanied by dwelling in the past or worrying about the future and addicts often become masters of denial. The practice of yoga helps bring the addict back to acceptance of the present moment. Yoga involves quieting the mind and focusing on the present. Self acceptance is a core tenant of yoga. You learn to accept you are where you are in terms of your ability to hold a difficult pose, and that acceptance is a transferable skill. The twelve step program requires you to develop self acceptance and self awareness too; they are essential to successful recovery. When you become more comfortable focusing on and accepting the present, you have more awareness your feelings. You become less reactive and more in control of your actions.
Physical Health & Sleep
Many types of addiction interfere with physical health and sleep patterns. Yoga is a gentle exercise that increases your strength, flexibility, endurance, and organ health, helping to restore you to your best self. Side effects of a healthy yoga practice including healthy eating may include better sleep, reduced fatigue, higher energy levels, increased self-confidence and improved self-image.
People turning away from addiction often realize that most of the social relationships they have are really all about addiction. Healthy social interaction help addicts stay clean, but it can be hard to develop new friends and a community that will support the struggle against addiction.
We recommend all addicts seek out and participate in 12 step programs. A community of supportive people who face similar challenges is immensely helpful to addicts seeking recovery. But there should be more to life than the program, and it’s healthy to seek and find human connection. Doing yoga with a group of people sharing an intention to be healthy and present can provide that healthy sense of connection.
Take The First Step
You’re reading this because you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction. There is hope! Why wait? Take the first small step today. Contact us at Seasons Bali and talk to one of our friendly experts today. Call (toll free Australia) 1800 288 348 or +61 398045757 or email us at [email protected] and we will call you.
At Seasons Bali, our addiction treatment and recovery program includes three yoga classes a week with our counselor and yoga instructor, Amanda Jane. We also offer a special Holistic Wellness Program for Addiction Recovery that includes more breath work, meditation, and nutritional consulting as well as NLP, Hypnosis, and Theta treatment options.