How Yoga Aids in Substance Abuse Recovery

Woman doing yoga on rock beach

Cassidy Webb |

Yoga Benefits: Physical, Spiritual, Mental and More

Friends in yoga pose on beach

The first time I tried yoga, I was in a treatment facility for drug and alcohol abuse. While detoxing, my thoughts were racing nonstop, every part of my body was aching, and I was very depressed. When the yoga instructor told us to sit upright on our mat and begin focusing on our breathing, the racing thoughts in my head began to subside. Quickly, after shifting from one posture to the next, the stiffness in my body started to disappear and the aching in my bones became manageable. At the end of the session, the instructor took us through a 5 minute guided meditation, where we focused on the energy in our bodies as well as the feeling breath as we inhaled and exhaled. When I opened my eyes, I felt lighter. I felt stronger. I felt happier.

How Yoga Helps us Recover Physically

I continued doing yoga multiple times a week. I began to feel stronger as with each session the poses got easier. My balance began to return, and I stopped feeling so fragile and weak, for I had done a lot of damage to my body while abusing substances. Learning how to focus on my breath allowed my body to let go of all the tension I was holding onto in my neck, jaw, and shoulders. Yoga was the first activity that allowed my body to relax while sober. Feeling more relaxed, the pain from drug and alcohol withdrawal began to dissipate. I was finally able to sleep through the night. I now had less stress, less pain, and more energy. I found myself developing healthier eating habits as well. It is common for people in early recovery to obsessively crave sweets, but the effects that yoga was having on my body caused me to crave healthy foods which helped in my body’s healing process.

How Yoga Helps us Recover Mentally 

There is a saying in recovery that if you “bring the body, the mind will follow.” This was especially true for me. As yoga became a more important part of my routine, my mind began to be clearer. I learned how to take deep, counting breaths. When focusing on your breath, it is near impossible to focus on your thoughts or worries. As a result, my obsessive thoughts became something I could easily identify and control. These mindfulness techniques can be used to control stress and anxiety at any time. Once I was in better physical shape, and was able to better control of my emotions, I became a more confident individual. Regardless of my past struggles, I now had faith that I could recover from substance abuse.

 Friends on beach yoga pose

How Yoga Helps us Recover Spiritually

Spirituality is an aspect of recovery that is essential for long term sobriety. When doing yoga and holistic treatment, I am instructed to set an intention for my practice. The intention can be any kind of idea or goal. Generally, my intentions range from letting go of stress to feeling the energy of my body. The awareness of my energy allows me to focus inward, to connect with myself, and distance myself from any negative energy. By pushing my body to hold challenging, new postures, I am focusing on the energy within every part of my body-my muscles, my joints, my core, and my breath. When I am able to connect to this energy, it allows me to have a grateful spirit. I can be grateful for a healthy body and a healthy lifestyle. It allows me to exhale worries and negativity and inhale gratitude. Yoga truly helped me find peace.

Other Benefits of Yoga

After experiencing how yoga positively impacts my recovery, have become a firm believer that yoga can benefit people from all walks of life. Some of these benefits include:

  • Improved flexibility
  • Improved posture
  • Strengthening of the spine
  • Improved focus
  • Improved bone health
  • Increased blood flow
  • Decreased blood sugar
  • Improved digestion
  • Balanced metabolism
I encourage everyone to give yoga a shot, even for those who don’t enjoy exercise or aren’t physically active. The mental, physical, and spiritual benefits are endless!  Take the first step on this wonderful journey by getting yourself a beautiful mat without breaking the bank.

 

Sources:

https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/count-yoga-38-ways-yoga-keeps-fit

https://osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/benefits-of-yoga/

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