5 Ways Yoga Helps Addiction Recovery
Are you a recovering alcoholic or drug addict? Have you thought about incorporating yoga in your recovery?
Maybe you should give it a try.
That, for many people, yoga is an effective way to manage mental health issues like anxiety and depression is no secret; however, according to Jennifer Garam’s Sun Salutations in Sobriety, people also use yoga to break through the “spiritual wall” many recovering addicts hit and continue on their sobriety path.
Apparently, this isn’t a new or secret idea, either. Sarah, the nine-year sober New Yorker quoted in the article, started using yoga during her seventh year, and folks like Rolf Gates, Nikki Myers, and Tommy Rosen write about and teach yoga programs designed for people in recovery.
(Of course, you can Google just about any combination of “yoga and sobriety,” “yoga and recovery,” and “yoga and addiction” and you’ll find tons of related blogs, forums, and programs.)
So, why is yoga working so well for people in recovery?
1. Yoga stimulates prefrontal cortex growth.
Gates, who’s also an addiction counselor and a recovering addict himself, notes that the meditation aspect of yoga “directly stimulates the growth of the prefrontal cortex, and this directly relates to our ability to be calm in a crisis, to gain insight into our own mental processes, and to think something through.”
2. Yoga fosters imagination.
Gates also notes that yoga helps recovering alcoholics and addicts reconnect with their imaginations, which is a crucial skill in envisioning where their lives are going and keeping the momentum to get there.
3. Yoga highlights and heals anxiety triggers.
Sarah, the New Yorker who started using yoga as part of her recovery program at the advice of her counselor, says yoga helped her discover the connection between her thought patterns, her breathing, and her , and how to make that connection a healthy one.
4. Yoga supplements the 12 Steps.
Especially Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out
Rosen explains that yoga supplements this step by helping people not only speak to God, but also listen to him. Jenny, a yoga teacher who’s been sober for almost two decades, adds that yoga helps people learn the meditation necessary to work Step 11.
5. Yoga actually can help prevent relapse.
Myers explains that yoga and overall body awareness can help people identify triggers that often lead to relapse – such as anxiety and depression – and work to restore balance and prevent relapse.
Several years ago, I wrote Getting Started With Yoga In 3 Easy Steps for people who are interested in yoga but feel overwhelmed by all the information and options out there. Check it out, but if you’re interested in using yoga for recovery, consider checking out more recovery-specific literature and programs. Too, talk with your doctor or counselor about adding yoga to your recovery program.
Sparks, A. (2012). 5 Ways Yoga Helps Addiction Recovery. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 25, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/your-mind/2012/06/5-ways-yoga-helps-addiction-recovery/