Chances are you’ve tried yoga at least once in your lifetime. Whether you only flirt with this mind-body technique or are a regular devotee, you may not realize that it’s increasingly become a useful tool for people struggling with addiction. Read on to learn more about how common habit is, and how yoga may be a surprisingly effective technique for helping people in recovery.
Fighting Addiction: An Increasingly Common Issue
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about one in 12 American adults have a substance abuse disorder. That’s about 21.5 million people. Of this number, about 17 million have an alcohol use disorder; about 7.1 million have an illicit drug use disorder, and 2.6 million have both alcohol use and illegal drug use disorder.
While millions are struggling with substance abuse and addiction, new methods and treatment approaches are proving successful for many people. The focus at many treatment centers and programs is moving beyond traditional addiction treatment methods and using complementary and alternative strategies as well.
Another change? Developing a treatment plan that is geared to the individual, recognizing that no two people are alike. As treatment methods change and adapt, more inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are embracing a holistic approach, treating each person instead of just treating the addiction. Therapies such as meditation and mind-body techniques such as yoga can be particularly helpful for people who want to overcome their addictions for good.
Yoga: Uniting Mind and Body
When you think of yoga, you probably picture a group of people twisting themselves into positions on mats. However, yoga includes more than asanas or postures. Yoga originated with eight “limbs,” or ethical principles to live a meaningful, purposeful life. What we think of as modern-day yoga in the U.S., however, usually encompasses postures on mats while paying attention to the way you’re breathing. You stretch and strengthen different parts of your body, increasing blood flow and lubricating muscles, joints, and ligaments while maintaining steady, slow, focused breathing. The idea is to integrate the mind-body connection while growing physically and emotionally stronger and more flexible.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, yoga is associated with the following physical and emotional health benefits:
- Stress relief for both the short term and long term
- Improvement in sleep quality
- Reduction in the neck and lower back pain
- Relief of menopause symptoms
- Reduction in symptoms attributed to anxiety and depression
- Helping people quit smoking
- Assisting in weight-loss efforts
- Easing symptoms in people with chronic health conditions
In addition to these numerous health benefits, research has found that yoga may help people overcome drug and alcohol addiction. Because yoga targets different regions of the brain that are linked with addictive behaviors, it may help ease cravings and make it easier to resist them — as well as help people, develop alternative coping methods to using drugs or alcohol.
Why is it effective? First, yoga is known to aid stress management, which can help people handle day-to-day challenges, which in turn may help alleviate the urge to “use” in response to feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Yoga helps you “tune in” to your body and helps you learn to regulate your breathing as well as consciously relax tight or stiff muscles, which improves overall self-awareness. This kind of self-awareness can also help improve self-esteem and belief in one’s ability to handle stressors, both big and small.
Also, the physical impact of yoga cannot be discounted. Yoga makes you physically stronger, relieves day-to-day aches and pains, boosts energy, and helps sleep quality. It can also support other healthy lifestyle choices such as eating nutritiously. When someone feels better physically, is rested and is eating well, he or she is even more resilient, adaptable, and less likely to be waylaid by cravings. Finally, yoga can help improve not only your physical appearance but your body image as well.
Taken as a whole, yoga can be a useful tool in helping overcome addiction, whether you’re at the beginning of your recovery or further down the path. Developing a stronger, more flexible body and mind through yoga and greater awareness can be a step forward for the next stage of your life.
by Tony Goodman
Tony Goodman is the Executive Vice President of Marketing and Commercial Development at Symetria Recovery, an outpatient rehab center in Palos Heights, Houston, Dallas, and College Station. Goodman holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marshall University and has spent more than 23 years in the Pharma and biotech industries. He previously founded Keswick Group, LLC, a healthcare strategic commercial and business development advisory firm.