Addiction recovery takes enormous strength and the more tools you have in your arsenal to keep you sober, the better. One hammer to add to your kit is physical activity, and yoga fits the bill for many reasons.
This ancient practice encompasses both mind and body. Therefore, it’s the ideal therapeutic tool for a disease that affects all aspects of your life. Here are four benefits of yoga for addiction recovery.
1. Lessens Withdrawal Symptoms
Quitting alcohol or drugs isn’t as easy as saying “no more.” Excess substance use causes physiological changes in your body and brain that don’t reverse themselves overnight. For example, imaging scans of those with alcohol addiction show significant brain shrinkage. Such individuals also often suffer thiamine deficiencies that further reduce mental power.
Yoga helps to increase your volume of gray matter while improving connections among white matter in your brain. Much like dance, it can help increase your neuroplasticity. It also hastens your mind’s physiological healing from the damage done by alcohol and drugs.
Just like your mental state influences your physiology, the opposite effect also occurs. Healing your body can lead to lasting mental changes in your attitudes toward drug and alcohol use.
2. Serves as a Replacement Activity
If your former life revolved around acquiring and using various substances, you could find yourself with a lot of time on your hands. That empty mental space lets in rumination about how good it would feel to indulge just once — and can become a slippery slope toward relapse.
Yoga makes the ideal replacement activity. The various styles allow you to find a form that fits your mood and keeps you active regardless of how you feel physically.
For example, many people with chronic pain turn to alcohol and drugs to ease their aches. If a rheumatoid arthritis flare makes you miserable, attending a vigorous ashtanga class is probably a no-go. However, yin yoga is so gentle that you can even do it in bed, keeping you active on days when you wonder where the truck that hit you went.
3. Helps You Meet a Positive Support Circle
Another problem many people in recovery face is loneliness. If going to the pub was your only social outlet, you could find yourself lost without your old drinking buddies. The problem compounds if you feel alienated from friends and family members who might otherwise lend support.
Walking into the right yoga studio is like being enfolded in a big embrace of acceptance. While many yogis may seem quiet, they’re among the friendliest folks in the world, given the emphasis that the practice places on spiritual growth. You’ll quickly connect with other people who share similar interests, eliminating the need to have a drink in hand to feel outgoing and wanted.
4. Eases the Trauma That Drives Urges
Yoga isn’t just a physical exercise. It’s a way of helping your body heal from trauma. Better yet, it offers genuine recovery, not a temporary mask for your pain, like alcohol and drugs.
If you have severe issues related to past abuse, you might want to seek a teacher who specializes in yoga for trauma recovery. For example, many victims of sexual abuse find it challenging to do poses like Happy Baby or Crouching Puppy.
The right yoga guide will let you enter these poses at your pace or modify them. They’ll cue you in on working through the emotions these poses evoke and process them instead of burying them under bad habits. Moving through this journey can transform your relationship with your body, restoring your sense of agency over yourself and easing your need to escape.
Reaping the Benefits of Yoga for Your Addiction Recovery
Overcoming unhealthy misuse of drugs and alcohol takes tremendous courage, strength and the right tools. Consider using yoga to help you power through your addiction recovery.