When was the last time you breathed — really breathed? I’m talking deep into your diaphragm, expanding the rib cage and filling your lungs with air. If you’re like most people, it’s probably been awhile, and that’s not a good thing. Why? Because in the body’s hierarchy of needs, breath is right there at the top. We can survive days without water, weeks without food, but breath? Kinda important. It controls the mind, body, and emotions and is the essence of yoga, a practice that could help you on your journey towards recovery.
What comes to mind when you hear the word, “yoga?” Is it difficult poses, New Age hippies, or fashion leggings? Do you cringe at the thought of a Downward Dog or scoff at the idea of Proud Warrior? There’s much more to it than that! Yoga has been around for thousands of years (so it must be doing something right). The word itself means “union:” union of mind, body, and spirit. In active addiction, we lose connection to our bodies and ourselves. Our substance abuse overrides our systems and subverts that basic drive to survive. Yoga is a practice that redirects the mind and brings us back into contact with our bodies, unifying and uplifting the spirit in the process.
Sure, it’s hard to conceptualize how deep breathing and stretching can help you beat addiction. But it’s true! Yoga is a fantastic skill that offers many benefits – physical, emotional, and spiritual – to help you on your journey towards recovery. Poses will strengthen your body, improve circulation and oxygen flow to the brain, and relieve the aches and pains of withdrawal. Breathwork will lower stress, calm your nerves, and reduce cravings. The meditative aspects will bring peace to your mind and allow access to healthier coping mechanisms. You’ll have more energy, more stamina, and an overall improved health. Committing to a practice of yoga gives you self-discipline that will carry into your regular life, allowing you to say “no” to relapse.
Remember how crazy your brain was in the throes of addiction? Thoughts, impulses, and emotions were all tangled together into one incoherent mess. Yoga can fix that. It calms fluctuations of the mind and challenges the negative disturbances that seek to derail our everyday lives, reintegrating mind, body, and reality. Need scientific proof? Multiple scientific studies have found that yoga is extremely effective at regulating cortisol and adrenaline, two stress hormones that activate the body in unpleasant ways and are toxic to the central nervous system. Too much stress and an individual may seek reprieve through substance abuse. Less stress, and the individual is able to make smarter decisions to cope. Properly performed, yoga exercises your body, calms your mind, and realigns your spiritual center. It’s nondenominational and completely accessible – you don’t need expensive equipment or a special location, all you need is a floor! And anyone can do it. It may seem difficult and time-consuming, but with practice you’ll ease into poses instead of toppling over in frustration.
Addiction takes you out of your body. Yoga puts you back in it. It’s an invaluable tool to combat the anxiety, stress, and depression that come with detox, helping individuals stay grounded and calm. Focusing your attention inward can be daunting. After all, it was our innermost thoughts that we were trying to escape when we turned to drugs or alcohol in the first place! But the self- reflection inherent in the practice of yoga provides space to examine one’s life, a reintroduction to the self, and compassion for the mistakes and choices made. Yoga is an alternative, positive way to change your consciousness that doesn’t require substance abuse. Instead of providing escape, it allows access to a restorative inner state that brings greater awareness to the mind and body. And is there anything more beautiful than starting the day with a Sun Salutation?
So go ahead. Detoxify your body and mind. Get into the relaxation zone. Your recovery will thank you!