When you think of yoga, there’s a good chance you think of difficult poses that are utterly impossible to perform. You may even think your flaky New Age friends have been duped into a silly past time. That’s simply not the case! Yoga has been around since 3,000 BC; the word “yoga” means “yoke” in the original Sanskrit language of the Indians who invented it.
What does yoke mean? It’s essentially a unification of your body, your mind, and your spirit. That’s what makes it so powerful: properly performed, you are calming your mind, exercising your body, and getting in touch with your spiritual center. You don’t have to believe in any specific religion for yoga to be effective: it’s just as useful for Christians as it is for the Hindus that invented it.
That’s all fine and good, you think, but there’s no way I can perform yoga. Thankfully, joyously, you are wrong! Anyone can get into yoga stretches if they ease their way into it. When I first started, I felt stiff and scared transitioning into new poses. Every time I stood on one leg, I collapsed to the floor in frustration. And managing my breathing seemed difficult and time-consuming.
However, with persistence, I mastered yoga and I have used it to not only gain more confidence, but have seen others use it to beat back their prying tendrils of addiction. But before we delve into that any further, we need to discuss the eight limbs of yoga. Understanding this aspect of your practice can help you gauge the success of your yoga treatment.
The Eight Limbs Of Yoga Discussed
The eight limbs of yoga are the paths which your yoga practice will take: physical stretches and breathing are only two aspects of it. Breaking them down individually will show how effective yoga is to a dedicated person in recovery.
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I love all of these benefits:
Yama – This is the ethical concepts that serious practitioners of yoga follow. They are useful to consider in addiction because they help you maintain a clear mind and healthy behaviors. They include:
- Personal restraint
- Avoidance of jealousy and stealing
- Speaking only the truth
- Personal respect and dignity
Niyama – Here, you study specific spiritual practices that are designed to help guide you towards a healthy life. These include feelings of contentment, believing in a higher power, and sincerely studying religious texts.
Asana – These are the actual physical poses you will perform and they are the essential focus of a successful yoga-based recovery.
Pranayama – Breathing exercises necessary for successful implementation of yoga. Generally, these exercises are slow, steady, and calming.
Pratyahara – Essentially, meditation or deliberately calming your mind and letting your thoughts slow down. This helps beat the anxiety that eats at many people in recovery.
Dharana – The intense concentration caused by regular meditation and yoga posing. This can give you the focus you need to concentrate on beating your addiction.
Dhyana – An expansion of Dharana, it’s when the one-point focus of Dharana expands to a flowing and pervasive concentration. Very difficult to achieve, it can lead to a sense of self-knowledge that few obtain.
Patanjali – The moment of ecstasy that comes in fully knowing and transcending oneself. Compare this to the joy you’ll feel when you are finally free of addiction.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the demands of the eight limbs of yoga: you don’t have to follow all of them to experience the benefits. Pick which ones you think will benefit your recovery and use them to kick your unfortunate problem. I’ve seen it happen with dozens of people and I know that you can do it too.
Yoga WILL Benefit Your Recovery
I’ve known a lot of people that were doubtful about the benefits that yoga could offer to their recovery. Even with the above mentioned eight limbs, it’s hard for many people to imagine how stretching and breathing can help them beat addiction. But it’s true!
Yoga is an amazing coping tool and the following are just a sample of the benefits yoga will offer to your recovery:
- Physical Benefits – You will feel stronger and more flexible after every exercise. Any aches and pains you may feel from your withdrawal will decrease as you stretch through them.
Stress-Reduction Benefits – The calm breathing exercises, gentle motions, and meditative benefits of yoga can help calm your nerves, reduce cravings, and help treat any psychological distress or trauma you may feel regarding your addiction.
- Improved Circulation – Better circulation not only lowers your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease, it also increases oxygen flow to your brain, improves your mood (crucial during the difficult depression that can accompany recovery), and help you think more clearly.
- Emotional Benefits – A greater peace of mind comes to just about everyone who performs yoga and this gives you access to new and healthier coping mechanisms. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol, you can turn to the calming breathing exercises inherent in yoga.
- Increased Self-Discipline – Learning how to say “no” to an addiction is challenging, but the challenge of committing to yoga can give you the new discipline you need to stay clean for the rest of your life.
- Inner Peace – The spiritual benefits of yoga extend beyond the bounds of all religions and can be used to enhance inner peace in any particular belief. Like the 12-Step program, it asks only that you believe in a higher power and never dictates the exact power.
I want to stress that yoga can not and should not be used as a singular treatment for addiction and recovery. You still need to go through with detox and through the necessary medical treatments prescribed to you by your recovery specialist.
Yoga Poses You Can Use In Recovery
Although any yoga poses are beneficial to your recovery, this particular sequence is good for beginners.
It will challenge your body and mind and give you the relaxation you need to recover from addiction:
Mountain Pose – Start every yoga routine with this pose to give it a nice circular feel. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and press your palms together in front of your chest. Close your eyes and breathe slowly, calming your mind, before moving into the next pose.
Triangle Pose – Slowly move your legs apart until they are in a reverse V-shape. Pull your arms up parallel to the ground and turn your head to look out past your right fingertips. Bend right at your waist and draw your right hand down, while twisting your waist forward. Pull your left hand in the air and hold in a “triangle” shape for 15-30 seconds. Release, come back to the original pose, switch to the left, and repeat. Once you’re done, come back to mountain pose.
Leg Wall Pose – Move from a standing position to sitting and lie back with both of your legs pressed up against the wall. Pull up so that your behind touches the wall and let your legs relax. Straighten your legs to get the full effect.
Spinal Twist – Just before finishing your routine, end with this pose by lying on your back and pulling your knees close to your chest. Put your arms to your side, palms up, and move your knees left as far as you can, hold for five seconds, return to center, and go to the left.
Corpse Pose – Ends each round of yoga and lets you relax and feel the benefits of your practice. Simply lie down on your back with your feet and legs apart, close your eyes, and gently breathe.
Once you’re done, open your eyes, and take stock of yourself. You feel pretty good, don’t you? You always will after a successful yoga routine. Your body will be pain-free and your mind will be relaxed and comfortable. And addiction is nowhere in your mind when you feel that good.
Let Us Help Guide Your Addiction Recovery
Yoga is a powerful and beautiful way for you to ease your way through recovery and gain the peace of mind you need to beat your addiction. To learn more about how yoga can help your rehab process, please contact us at TreeHouseRehab.org today.