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How Yoga Helps (Peacefully) Fight Addictions

Posted by on Oct 4, 2012

Breaking Addictions With Yoga

This article is offered by Paige Taylor of Forever Recovery

An earlier blog post got me thinking about breaking habits, and I started to wonder if yoga could go a step further and help break addictions, which I suppose could be looked at as really intense bad habits. Addictions are damaging to both our physical and spiritual health. Since the mind-body connection rejuvenates the spirit through the practice of yoga, it seems like a good way for addicts to find hope with their rehabilitation. Finding a good addiction recovery program is key, but yoga can help to augment that treatment.

Yoga is known for reducing cortisol levels and relieving stress, among a variety of other health benefit, but it’s yoga’s attention to mindfulness that is important when considering it as treatment with addictions. During practice, yoga fosters the kind of discipline and self-peace that substance abusers typically need when undergoing a rehabilitation program.

Individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol or engage in other addictive behaviors often feel compelled to follow their urges. Through the practice of yoga, addicts are taught slow and controlled movements, which helps decrease reactive and automatic behaviors. These are often associated with people who have dependencies. Yoga followers become more aware of their thought process and their body sensations. Rather than simply reacting to an emotion, yoga teaches mindfulness. Instead of misinterpreting the body’s cues for drugs, alcohol, etc., yoga trains the brain to interpret those cues as an emotional need that can be satisfied in healthy ways.

Addiction specialists are starting to recognize the impact of yoga in rehabilitation, but it is certainly not part of mainstream therapy. A Forever Recovery includes a holistic track, which includes yoga as a method of enhancing the healing process for people with addictions. Although addiction is about much more than willpower, development of healthy coping mechanisms like deep breathing, physical activity, and yoga can build an addict’s physical and mental strength.

Yoga for Addiction Recovery

The aspect of sangha, the company of a spiritual community, plays a role in recovery by providing a supportive setting for people trying to overcome addictions. But the type of yoga that an addict practices might come into play. Allison Sackin, a yoga instructor at a treatment center in Malibu, believes poses that stimulate the lymph nodes underneath the arms and around the chest enhances the body’s natural systems of detoxification. She incorporates sets of Kundalini yoga, which focus on the untapped energy at the base of the spine that can be drawn up through the body. Kriyas often consist of repetitive movements to perfectly balance the aura and turn the mind inward. Yoga Abode also lists several asanas specifically for addiction:

• Paschimottanasana – seated forward bend
• Balasana – child’s pose
• Adho Mukha Svasana – downward facing dog
• Ustrasana – camel pose – back bend
• Apanasana – knees to chest or wind producing pose
• Seated or lying twists.
• Viparita karani – shoulder stand variation (supported)
• Savasana – corpse pose

An article posted on Yoga Journal gives an account of a female smoker who practiced hatha yoga. She would smoke a pack a day, and even smoked after finishing her yoga class. It wasn’t until she decided to try Kundalini Yoga that she started to give up the cigarettes. Once her body and mind strengthened through practice, she realized that smoking “no longer made sense.”

About the Author

Paige Taylor is a creative writer from Michigan who works closely with A Forever Recovery to help raise awareness of the dangers of addiction. She has helped many Americans battle addiction and strives to provide treatment options for those in need.

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