When an individual develops an addiction, virtually every aspect of his or her life is affected. Many associate alcoholism and drug addiction with the health effects that one experiences when chemically dependent, including harm to many bodily organs and systems, increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, weakened immune system, and an overall decline in wellness. In addition the the physical effects, there are also a number of mental, social, and even spiritual effects that make addiction arguably the most dangerous disease there is. Being a chronic and progressive disease of the brain, addiction causes the altered structure and functioning of the brain, resulting in patterns of thought and behavior that can be irrational and even self-destructive. These irrational and harmful behaviors frequently harm or even destroy important relationships in an addict’s life while he or she pursues relationships that are predominantly with other substance abusers, which perpetuates further self-destructive behavior.
Additionally, the disease of addiction often affects individuals on a spiritual level. The founder of the original twelve-step group Alcoholics Anonymous once famously suggested that individuals became addicts because they were searching for spiritual fulfillment at the bottom of a bottle. While that may not be the most accurate explanation for why all individuals begin experimenting with substance abuse, the emphasis on spiritual recovery as part of the twelve-step method has recently been echoed in the more clinical addiction treatment programs, which more frequently incorporate twelve-step based methodology and even holistic or complementary treatments. In fact, some have suggested that programming that doesn’t address the spiritual needs of those in recovery is too limited in scope and, therefore, less effective. As such, more and more facilities are offering yoga and other holistic treatments as a means of addressing the varying needs of those with alcohol and drug addictions. The following will define yoga, highlighting some of its main benefits, and describe how it can be a helpful tool for one’s recovery from addiction.
The Art of Yoga: What Exactly Is It?
The actual term “yoga” has been used for thousands of years to refer to a very specific form of bodily movement and various adaptations or derivatives. The ancient forms of yoga, or the “eight limbs of yoga”, as well as the more contemporary form—while certainly related and similar—do differ in some key ways. In particular, modern yoga tends to be more physical than ancient forms, which put more emphasis on the mental and spiritual aspects than the physical. The modern, physical version was actually adapted from one of the eight original forms of yoga; as such, the yoga described here will refer to this more physical, modern iteration of yoga.
Still seen as a marriage of body, mind, and spirit, yoga has been alternately described as an exercise, artform, and even a type of moving meditation. Most are familiar with what yoga looks like having likely seen it on television or classes at the gym consisting of individuals in various lunging poses with arms outstretched, or lying in one of various positions on the floor. The purpose of yoga is to improve balance, circulation, flexibility, and strength through a variety of stretches, movements, poses, and controlled breathing. Meditation is sometimes used either before or after yoga as a means of quieting the mind or relaxing the body, respectively.
The Physical & Mental Benefits of Practicing Yoga
Yoga tends to be practiced slowly—although there are fast-paced forms of yoga in which the goal is to raise the body’s temperature and one’s heart rate—and usually entails very deliberate movements and assuming various poses, each of which has specific benefits such as to improve balance, flexibility, coordination, strength, and so on, both mentally and physically. In addition to the obvious physical and health benefits, part of what is so unique about yoga is that each individual’s “practice,” or the level of experience one has in practicing yoga, will evolve or progress at very different speeds and involves letting go of one’s ego, being humble while embracing the notion of equality and harmony. As such, a major benefit of practicing yoga is the mindset that it instills in practitioners. In a world where everyone is so concerned about what others think and judgement and consequence, practicing yoga is a way release the burdensome thoughts and worries that many individuals carry, focusing instead on one’s bodily movements, breathing, and practicing as part of a community of equals.
Why Incorporate Yoga Into Your Recovery?
There are many reasons why someone would want to include yoga into his or her treatment and recovery regimen. One of the most obvious benefits that yoga offers to recovery is as a means of low-intensity exercise. In this way, yoga is a very approachable and individualized form of physical activity with each person practicing and progressing in his or her own pace. Despite the high level of individualization, the benefits tend to be universal: those who practice yoga exhibit marked improvements in energy level, balance, circulation, strength, and flexibility. It’s an excellent form of low-impact exercise that is much different from running on a treadmill or lifting free weights. As such, despite the challenge posed by some of the more advanced poses, yoga tends to seem like an easier, slower-paced, and more accessible form of physical activity. Additionally, yoga helps individuals to cultivate a strong sense of awareness, fosters a sense of focus, allows individuals to better cope with daily stresses, and serves to almost detox the mind.
The mental benefits to one’s recovery could be considered even more valuable than the physical. To the extent of the mental and emotional benefits, yoga could be seen as similar to meditation in that it offers individuals an almost systematic way of achieving mental clarity and serenity. However, while meditation is all about focus and clearing the mind, individuals who are practicing yoga clear their minds so that they may focus their consciousness on their movements and form. While being low-impact and low intensity, yoga has been frequently described as both a great form of exercise as well as an effective way of ridding oneself of stress, which the body often stores in the form of tense muscles and joints. In essence, the practice of yoga is much like physically working the stress and tension out of the body. This makes makes yoga great for relapse prevention since individuals can practice yoga when they are feeling stressed or otherwise tempted to relapse.
Explore Your Recovery Options with the Palm Beach Institute
Just as there are numerous benefits to incorporating yoga into one’s recovery, addiction treatment has shown to give those suffering from chemical dependency a number of skills essential to achieving lasting sobriety. Additionally, since each individual will respond differently to each form of addiction treatment and therapy, the programming offered by alcohol and drug rehabs is highly customizable, ensuring that each patient receives treatments that address his or her specific recovery needs. If you or someone you love is suffering from alcoholism or addiction and would like to learn more about rehabilitative treatments, the Palm Beach Institute is here to help. Call us today to speak with a knowledgeable recovery specialist and receive a free consultation and assessment. We’ve helped countless individuals to return to lives of health, happiness, and sobriety; let us do the same for you or your loved one today.