How Does Yoga Help You in Recovery


How Does Yoga Help You in Recovery

Yoga gets a reputation for being an activity for people who are already very into fitness and health. The word alone conjures up images of thin, flexible vegetarians at peace with themselves and the world.

While this can be true in some cases, many people turn to the practice of yoga at volatile times in their lives. Addiction treatment is one of these times. Yoga and recovery, especially new sobriety, are a match made in heaven.

How Does Yoga Help You in Addiction Treatment

Many rehab centers are beginning to introduce yoga as part of their treatment curriculum. It isn’t mandatory out of respect for people’s personal feelings about yoga, but it is definitely suggested to try. The classes are gentle and incorporate lots of breath work and stretching. Their focus is on self-love and presence of mind.

Along with activities like writing and art classes, yoga brings a person into the present. Ideally, thoughts about the past and future drop off and the person focuses only on their mat, postures, breath, and the present moment. So how does yoga help you in addiction treatment?

Obsessive thoughts and getting stuck in anxiety and fear are a big part of why a person abuses drugs and alcohol. Mindfulness exercises like yoga help to ground a person and teach them how to give thought to their actions, rather than acting impulsively. Rewiring the brain in this kind of way is essential to helping people get out of addiction.

What is Yoga?

Yoga has been around for thousands of years. It’s a physical and mental practice that has helped countless people get back on their feet from a low period in their life. It has also helped elevate people from mediocre to excellent physical and mental well-being.

Thousands of books have been written about yoga, and many of the core beliefs of practitioners run parallel to Buddhism. Yoga itself began in India and has since expanded to all corners of the world.

Yoga, along with its postures, which are called asanas, has ten ethical principles called the Yamas and Niyamas. They are:

  • Ahimsa – nonviolence
  • Satya – truthfulness
  • Asteya – non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya – non-excess
  • Aparigraha – non-greed
  • Saucha – purity
  • Santosha – Contentment
  • Tapas – self-discipline
  • Svadhyaya – self-study
  • Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender

It is easy to see how these principles relate to sobriety. If an addict can adhere to these Yamas and Niyamas, they would have a very strong chance of staying sober. Even if just a few of them were followed, it would have many positive benefits. Hence, the reason yoga is so valuable to recovery.

Starting a Yoga Practice in Addiction Treatment

Starting a yoga practice while in addiction treatment will take patience and diligence. It is also a great place to focus your efforts as the body and mind begin to heal from the abuse of addiction. People may find themselves attracted to yoga as a way to center and ground themselves. At the same time, the internal focus yoga brings creates a great sense of well-being in the person that they end up wanting to pursue.

Yoga also helps immensely with anxiety and depression, two mood disorders that are often diagnosed along with addiction. This is called a dual diagnosis. Treating such disorders is a fundamental part of addiction treatment because many people self-medicate to get rid of the symptoms of mood disorders instead of seeking help. In fact, science has found many specific benefits to practicing yoga including lower stress, better cardio function, and better thinking. (You may want to read 18 Amazing Benefits of Yoga, According to Science).

Yoga As A Part of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Many people who are not in recovery seek out yoga as a holistic aid for treating anxiety and depression. A yoga practice focused on breath, gentle stretching, and mindfulness has been proven to work wonders for people, even allowing them to move past a prescribed medication addiction.

In recovery, we believe yoga can be a great addition to medicine and therapy in treating the dual diagnosis, especially early on when a person is re-learning how to live, sober. Additionally, routine treatment helps those with mood disorders, enabling a better opportunity at sobriety.

So You Want To Start A Yoga Practice

Like with any undertaking, yoga takes time and patience. Remember, you can’t expect yourself to be an all-star from the moment you step on a mat.  Reach out and ask about yoga programs if you are in treatment for addiction.

If you are on your own, perhaps fresh out of treatment, make the small investment of a mat and start exploring online. Additionally, many sites like and have classes you can follow and grow with while you learn the ropes.

There is always the option of going to a live class, but in early recovery, budgets are often tight. Many studios allow energy exchanges where you can donate some of your time, like helping with cleaning, in exchange for free classes. You also never know until you ask.

And, a cardinal rule of yoga is non-comparison. You aren’t there to judge anyone in the room, or yourself. Be accepting of what your body and mind bring to the mat in the present moment, and allow yourself to simply breathe.

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