How To Use Yoga For Addiction Treatment

Yoga For Addiction Treatment

Practicing yoga for addiction treatment turned out to be quite successful, and here we will elaborate all benefits yoga offers for fighting substance abuse.

There are many methods and programs available to treat substance abuse and addiction, from traditional, through alternative, to complementary.

Today, more and more programs are focusing on a holistic approach that encompasses a variety of methods and tools to help achieve, maintain, and enhance recovery.

Yoga happens to be a complementary health practice that is often considered as a natural form of medicine, and is highly beneficial when paired with other traditional substance abuse treatment methods.

In 2014, it was estimated that 21.4 million people in the United States who were 12 years old or older, battled a substance use disorder, which equates to about 1 in every 12 American adults, according to  National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The Yoga Journal describes modern yoga as the use of physical postures to learn how to connect with your mind, body and soul, and to gain higher level of self-awareness, focusing on attention inward.

As already proved, yoga has many potential benefits, such as:

  • Stress relief
  • Increased physical strength
  • Healthier exercise and eating habits
  • Self-reflection and increased self-awareness
  • Better self-confidence and improved self-image
  • Pain relief
  • Better sleep
  • Reduction in fatigue
  • Emotional healing
  • Increased energy levels

One of the great things about yoga is that it doesn’t require expensive equipment or a special location.

It can be practiced pretty much anywhere at any time as needed.

You just need to find the time and place to do it.

As you probably know, yoga is defined as an ancient technique designed to bring mind and body closer together with the use of exercise, meditation, and breathing.

Therefore, its healing abilities are spread throughout the body as “whole”.

Yoga For Addiction Treatment

The most common form of yoga practiced in US today is  hatha yoga, which focuses on physical postures and breathing techniques, according to American Yoga Association.

When you decide to learn yoga, it is recommended to attend a class, or find a trained yoga instructor.

Classes are somewhere between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, and focus on achieving specific postures, while controlling breathing in certain ways.

By posing the body in a specific way, the flow of energy is opening the spine, while other body parts are being properly aligned.

This allows the mind to open up, creating balance between your mind and body.

While yoga is not a religion, it can become highly spiritual as individuals may experience spiritual growth through practicing yoga regularly.

Yoga Effects On The Brain

When someone abuses drugs or alcohol on a regular basis, some of the pathways in the brain are altered, and the pathways related to feeling pleasure, regulating emotions, making sound decisions, and controlling impulses, may be negatively affected.

After a period of time without the influence of drugs or alcohol, brain chemistry and circuitry can heal and rebuild itself.

Yoga may be able to help with this as well.

A scientific evidence has provided a link between practicing yoga and the reduction of stress, by modulation of the stress response, according to Harvard Health.

Yoga may actually act by regulating and balancing some of the stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, according Yoga Journal.

Nevertheless, grey matter and regions of the brain active in stress controlling process, may also be enlarged with the regular practice of yoga, according to Scientific American.

As stress and anxiety are always present in drug rehab process, practicing the right yoga techniques can most certainly influence.

A study from Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported an increase in the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) with the practice of yoga techniques.

GABA is a kind of natural tranquilizer produced by the brain to help manage anxiety and the stress response.

Higher levels of GABA usually mean less anxiety and less stress, and this is the part when yoga for addiction treatment comes along.

Do you know that over 80 % of the people practicing yoga in the United States, according to a National Health Interview Study (NHIS) in 2012 published by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), reported a reduction in their stress levels as a result?

Don’t underestimate the power of yoga.

According to Annalisa Cunningham, the author of Healing Addiction With Yogashe created a comprehensive wellness guide which describes how yoga can stimulate recovery from addiction, by bringing the mind and body closer together.

The supportive and understanding text presents a 21-day yoga regimen using dynamic affirmations, relaxation techniques, nutrition and lifestyle suggestions, aerobic activities, and journal writing, all of which are geared to incorporate the 12-step philosophy into yoga practice.

The featured poses are drawn from the popular hatha yoga tradition, while the complementary contemplation are applicable not only to addicts, but to anyone seeking physical and spiritual enrichment.

Newly updated and revised, the guide includes beautiful, professional photographs throughout to demonstrate the wide variety of asanas.

Yoga Poses For Addiction Recovery

People who are substance abusers are not “typical” yoga students.

Many of them are annoyed that they have to attend class. Some of them have very real physical ailments that make some poses impossible, even if they had to work 10 years on them.

Some participate actively, while others sit on the sidelines sleeping, reading, or texting their friends.

Sometimes they can be noisy, restless, dramatic, closed and afraid, or comment that yoga exercise is ment for girls.

Most of them are completely disconnected from their bodies: bending, stretching, and breathing are completely foreign actions to them.

Still,each of these brave souls have a story to tell.

Many of these stories will make you wonder how they ever survived long enough and come to practice yoga for addiction treatment in the first place!

1. Vajrasana (Sitting Mountain), variation

yoga for addicition treatment


Benefits: Opens up the heart and invites stillness into the body.

Affirmation: Serenity comes when I surrender.

  • Kneel on the floor, with your knees pointed forward and your feet stretched behind you
  • Sit back on your heels and make sure your back is upright. You can put a pillow under your buttocks or knees for padding, to be comfortable in the position.
  • If you cannot kneel, sit on a chair so that your spine remains straight, rather than hunched over
  • Relax your shoulders
  • Keep your chest open
  • Breathe deeply and slowly and relax the body and mind
  • Imagine that you are firmly planted like a mountain, energy going up your spine, feeling strong and serene

2. Balasana (Child’s Pose)

yoga for addiction treatment


Benefits: Releases tension in the shoulders and spine, and relieves mental fatigue. Encourages feelings of safety and protection, as though you were in a womb of healing energy.

Affirmation: I rest in trust and patience.

Begin in Sitting Mountain Pose, sitting on your feet with your toes touching and your heels separated

  • Inhale
  • As you exhale, gently lower your head to the floor in front of your knees
  • Place your hands palms up, next to your feet
  • Completely relax your neck and shoulders
  • Hold this position while breathing for 5 minutes, or as long as you are comfortable
  • Use pillows or bolsters for support under your torso or forehead, if you have a tight lower back or stiff hips, knees, or ankles.

3. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

yoga for addiction recovery


Benefits: Helps stretch the hamstrings and lower back. It also fosters a sense of calm and letting go, while gently stretching the spine.

Affirmation: I move forward with patience.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you
  • Sit up straight and rotate your ankles, flexing and stretching them
  • Keeping your feet flexed, inhale and lift your arms above your head. As you exhale, bend at the hips and lower your chest toward your knees.
  • Keep your spine straight as you do this
  • Place your hands on your calves, ankles, or feet, wherever you can comfortably reach
  • Hold the pose for 10 breaths

4. Baddha Konasana (Butterfly)


yoga for addiction treatment


Benefits: Gently opens the pelvis and hips.

Affirmation: My spirit is as gentle as a butterfly.

  • Sit up straight
  • Bring the bottoms of your feet together, pulling them in toward your groin
  • Your knees should be out to the sides so your legs are like a butterfly’s wings
  • Inhale
  • As you exhale, lean forward
  • Clasp your feet and begin pressing your forearms into your upper thighs, gently inviting your legs toward the floor
  • Breathe
  • You can also lie back in the supine variation
  • Bring your arms out to the sides, and relax as you breathe deeply

5. Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)

yoga for addiction treatment

Benefits: Relaxes the legs and feet by relieving pressure.

Affirmation: As I relax, I gain insight, clarity, and ease.

  • Sit on the floor next to a wall, with your knees bent and your left hip and side barely touching the wall
  • Using your hands for support, slowly lie back and swivel your hips so that you can slide both legs up the wall and your buttocks press against it
  • You can let your arms relax either at your sides or on your belly
  • Straighten your legs
  • If you have tight hamstrings, bend your knees or move your buttocks farther away from the wall
  • Hold the pose and breathe
  • You can place a pillow under your head or lower back for more support

6. Apanasana (Little Boat Hugging Knees)

yoga for addiction treatment


Benefits: Releases the lower back and lengthens the spine.

Affirmation: I hold myself with compassion.

  • Lie on your back and bring your knees in toward your chest
  • Wrap your arms around your knees and legs, hugging them toward you
  • Keep your chin slightly tucked so your neck stays long on the floor
  • Hold the position and breathe

7. Jathara Parivartanasana (Knee-Hug Spinal Twist)


yoga for drug rehab


Benefits: Releases the lower back and lengthens the spine. Increases flexibility of the spine, back, and ribs.

Affirmation: Everywhere I turn I see beauty.

  • Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest
  • Keep your knees bent into your chest and place your arms out to your sides
  • Your palms can be up or down, whichever feels most comfortable to you
  • Inhale
  • As you exhale, move your hips and knees to the left as you turn your head to the right
  • Hold the position and breathe
  • When you are ready, do a gentle spinal twist to the other side

8. Savasana (Corpse Pose)

yoga for addiction treatment


Benefits: This basic pose of relaxation is done at the end of each hatha yoga session. It helps relieve the body of tension. It relaxes, rejuvenates, and replenishes the mind and body.

Affirmation: I allow myself to relax completely and surrender to my Higher Power.

  • Lie on your back and gently close your eyes
  • Place your feet and legs slightly apart
  • Place your arms along the sides of your body with your palms facing up
  • Make sure your teeth are slightly parted so that your jaw is relaxed
  • Start taking some deep breaths
  • Lie absolutely still
  • Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and let healing energy restore any areas of the body or mind that have been depleted by stress or tension
  • Visualize healing energy flowing through your entire body
  • Relax your body, quiet your mind, and soothe your soul
  • Stay in this position for up to 20 minutes

How Yoga Help The Process Of Substance Recovery

Yoga alone will not make you sober

However, it does help you to become mindful of what you have to do to become sober or drug un-addicted.

During this substance abuse recovery process, you must still go to class, attend meetings, attend your private counseling sessions, and take your medication.

Yoga gives you choices

It provides a self-imposed time-out while you “feel your feelings“, accept where you are at any given moment, and decide, proactively, what you want to do next.

Yoga improves the health of your body as you are cleaning it out

You build a connection to yourself that once you experience, you simply can’t deny. Having that inner connection makes you think a little harder before using your drug of choice.

Yoga takes courageyour for sobriety journey

It opens you up to new things and helps you replace old patterns. Change occurs in your life with yoga, regardless of your “level” of expertise with all the poses.

Rehab presents a trip into the unknown

Many questions will arise:

Will my relationships, job, home, and finances change because of my new habits?

How do I handle all of that?

Will I need any help?

Can I get help?

The practice of yoga will ground you and provide you consistency, which is something every addict needs in bulk quantity!

You will succeed!

Yoga is fun

Yoga can be a fresh and free break from all that hard work you need to do during recovery.

With so much emotional surgery you’re doing and undergoing, yoga can be your welcome break and sanctuary of new light!

Do not underestimate the good feelings that yoga can bring.

You may soon enough find that your chasing with chemicals or destructive behavior fades away, in comparison to the authentic goodness, warmth, community, and love that yoga for addiction treatment can bring.

yoga for addiction treatment



Do You Yoga

Yoga Journal



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