How Yoga Can Strengthen Your Mind and Body in Addiction Recovery
By: Becca Owens
For many people, early recovery is a time in which they begin to put into practice the commitments they made to themselves during treatment. They may have envisioned themselves with a new lease on life with new friends, hobbies and resolve for sobriety, and recovery is the time they must begin to start their new habits of becoming a better version of themselves.
Yoga is one exercise that has a plethora of benefits for people in recovery in more ways than you might imagine. Whatever your goals for your recovery are, practicing yoga can likely help you reach them.
Continuing to Fight Addiction With Yoga
Completing the treatment phase of addiction recovery is something to celebrate. It is a huge milestone, and it gives individuals a definitive goal that has been met successfully. However, leaving the safety of a treatment center can also bring about anxiety for how well you may handle the temptations and stressors of the real world.
Beginning to practice yoga can actually help you continue fighting your addiction through a new exercise. It can aid your addiction recovery in the following ways:
- Teaching you to appreciate natural highs – After a prolonged time of substance use, your brain and body must adapt to not having the artificial high you’re used to from your drug of choice. Yoga is one way to retrain your body to appreciate the natural highs that come from exercise and to know what actually feels good and provides benefit to your body and mind and what does not.
- Helping fight impulsivity – Practicing yoga engages all parts of the body in a unique way that helps strengthen people with addictive or impulsive personalities against those tendencies.
- Reinforcing therapy interventions – For patients continuing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP), yoga is a perfect complement to strengthen those new skills.1
Mental Health Benefits of Yoga
Yoga also has shown to provide great benefit to those who are seeking greater mental health as part of their recovery. Benefits include:
- Dealing with past trauma – Because yoga is an integrated exercise of the mind and body, it helps patients process through ongoing grief from trauma.
- Developing internal focus – As addiction trains people to pursue external stimuli and pleasures, yoga helps individuals turn inwardly for resolve and focus.
- Handling stress and anxiety – Yoga strengthens the part of the brain that fights stress and anxiety and retrains your brain to handle it differently than when you were addicted.
- Sleeping successfully – Many people find that practicing yoga helps them fight insomnia. They are able to fall asleep more quickly and sleep longer without the aid of medication.2
People who are in early recovery often need to rebuild their social circles. Their friends from their past life of addiction could potentially endanger their sobriety, so they must seek out healthy relationships in life-giving ways. Yoga is a fantastic way to build a community. Because yoga uniquely focuses on holistic health, the people you may meet in yoga may be good companions to walk with you through recovery.
How to Begin Practicing Yoga
For most people, trying new things — particularly during a vulnerable time like early recovery — can seem daunting. However, there are so many great ways to ease into yoga practice. The wonderful thing is that yoga is a perfect exercise for beginners as well as those who are already skilled in it. You don’t have to be perfectly fit to begin or to receive the mind-body benefits it offers.
Many local community and fitness centers offer yoga classes for free with a membership or a low per-class fee. Bigger cities often have dedicated yoga studios as well. If beginning yoga in public seems a bit too overwhelming, classes are also easily accessible through DVDs and streaming services online, too. No matter where you are, there is a way to try adding a new healing practice to your recovery today.
1 “How Yoga Can Help Recover From Drug Addiction.” YogaDigest.com, Accessed October 4, 2018.
2 Dore, Jessica, “How Yoga Can Help with Addiction Recovery.” Oprah.com, Accessed October 4, 2018.