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Namaste (in Recovery)

Think about your darkest day in your addiction struggle. Numb to feeling, disconnected from mind, body, relationships. Trying desperately to remain present, and yet the only thing you can feel is your desire for your drug of choice. Sometimes the weight of it all is so heavy, like a pit of despair where the only rescue is out of life altogether. Addiction is an obsessive reaction of the mind, always wanting more and more, even though parts of your inner self are begging for rescue and reprieve. Addiction causes you to feel so disconnected from actual life, that you feel trapped in isolation between who you were, who you are and a foreign image of that person you were supposed to be. It’s a dark, lonely, and disconnecting place. It is by staying in that place that the darkness wins.

Maybe in your treatment journey you have tried detox and failed. Maybe you have tried sober living and failed. Maybe you have tried all of the above, plus about 6 out of 12 steps and still could not experience success. You still struggled with reconnecting with life, failing to actually address all of the emotional pain, trauma and experiences that drove your need for emotional escape in the first place. Does this sound like your story?

There is hope – you can have a different story. You can come out of that darkness. The problem is, you’ve only been trying to heal parts of the person, when you should have been seeking to heal the whole person. When you change your strategy to not just go for sobriety, but for healing, the entire playing field changes. One method of changing your strategy for recovery is with the addition of practicing Yoga in your treatment plan.

Yoga is a mindfulness activity that, when coupled with various therapies, can assist in developing strong, mental coping mechanisms, especially for those battling addiction and seeking recovery. The practice uses both mental and physical technique to pinpoint areas of the brain affected by substance use disorders and built up emotional trauma. Through the use of body positions, breathing cadences and meditation, one can develop a set of physical, intellectual and spiritual disciplines – rooting the individual in overall awareness of wellbeing. In a sense, yoga can be the grounding connector you had been missing in your treatment plan to unlock untapped areas of necessary healing. Additionally, yoga can also play a part in your aftercare plan, helping to ease tension and empowering you to manage triggers.

Why is Practicing Yoga so Powerful in Treatment and Recovery?

The word “Yoga” essentially means “to unite”. Through practicing the postures of yoga at varying levels, one begins to become incredibly in tune with themselves – their own body, what it is capable of and how it has been held back through the behaviors in addiction. Where the disease of addiction previously had your spirit on lockdown, incapable of the slightest effort, Yoga reminds you of just how powerful your body can be.

Yoga helps reveal the effects of the destructive habits of addiction – both mentally and physically. For example, back-bending poses may be difficult because you’re asked to trust your self, when your mind and body are used to closing off in self-preservation. New positions and innovative techniques challenge you to believe in yourself again – eliminating your reactiveness and developing your control of mind over physical cravings and trauma triggers.

By the intentional activity of remaining present, Yoga can help bring damaging habits to light in a safe environment. Once revealed, you can then move toward acceptance, working toward new behaviors that will aid in addiction recovery.

Practicing Yoga as part of your recovery causes moments of both surrender and connection – reminding us that there is more beyond ourselves. It opens the door to processing grief and trauma, the years of abuse gently falling away as you strengthen in your capabilities. With the integration of yoga in your treatment, you can replace the artificial high for a natural one – celebrating life with each new capability mastered.

What Kind of Yoga is Best for My Treatment?

Just as your therapy plans are individualized, there is no “one size fits all” with Yoga either. You may have to test a few out to find the type that connects with your specific needs. While Bhakti focuses on meditation and spiritualism, Hatha yoga has exercises aimed to heal the body. Jnana yoga reflects on reflection and self-questioning, meanwhile Bikram heats things up with 26 postures in a 100-degree room, designed to cleanse and “sweat it out”.

Nirmala Raniga, Founder of the Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center and Vedic Educator from the Chopra Center writes about a few basic poses you can begin to try in combination with your therapy.

  • Child’s Pose (Balasana) – to reduce stress and fatigue
  • Corpse Pose (Savasana) – calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression, reducing headache, fatigue, and insomnia
  • Lying Down Twist (Natrajasana) – brings deep relaxation to the body and mind
  • Reclining-Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) – helps relieve the symptoms of stress and mild depression
  • Cobra (Bhujangasana) – elevates mood and Invigorates the heart

Whatever style you choose to practice, seek out a holistic treatment program that goes beyond just sobriety and focuses on healing. Feeling grounded, balanced and alive through yoga may just be the key to long-lasting, successful recovery.