Yoga for Addiction Recovery

Using Yoga Therapy as a Tool for Lasting Sobriety at Changes

The benefits of yoga have long been realized for people struggling with all sorts of ailments, including substance use. Yoga therapy gives you an advantage when it comes to both physical exercise and mental health.

If you have been considering whether yoga for addiction recovery could help you, here are the essentials you need to know.

Changes Healing Center is proud to offer holistic treatment to combat the issue of substance abuse. If you are looking for addiction recovery that considers both your mind and body, then reach out at any time to our facility today to learn more about how we can assist you. Our warm and welcoming admissions staff is ready to talk with you about sobriety.

Keep reading to learn more about yoga for recovering addicts and its many benefits, and remember we are here if you or a loved one need additional support for sobriety!

3 Proven Benefits: Practicing Yoga for Mental Health

Yoga offers many benefits as an evidence-based treatment alongside more typical clinical exercises, individual therapy, group therapy, and more. Perhaps one of the strongest reasons to implement a regular yoga practice into your daily life is for its extensive impact on your overall mental health.

Research has revealed that anyone wanting to improve their anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns can benefit from yoga. If you can stop to breathe deeply, you might come to some of these points of self-realization that lead you away from seeking substances.

Consider some of these traits of regular yoga and how they might influence your addictive behaviors.

1) Decreased Anxiety with Yoga Classes

A yoga class often contains many elements of other practices that assist you with substance use disorders. In particular, mindfulness meditation has been proven to complement a yoga practice. Mindfulness-based relapse prevention can start on the yoga mat and then transfer to other areas.

Simply put, mindfulness is the act of sitting with your feelings and experiences without judgment.

How does this impact your addiction treatment or mental health?

There are lots of studies that demonstrate the effects of mindfulness on anxiety. It can reduce overall stress and anxiety within just an 8-week session of mindfulness meditation. With as little as 30 minutes a day for a full week, participants found that they had both lower anxiety and lower blood pressure, signaling the important benefits of yoga for both mind and body.

Another study demonstrated that mindfulness meditation reduces cortisol levels, an important indicator of stress in the body. All of this combines to give you less anxiety.

Decreased Anxiety with Yoga Classes

2) Less Depression with a Routine Yoga Practice

Yoga helps reduce stress and anxiety, but what about the various mood disorders that accompany addiction recovery? Depression is linked to substance use in surprisingly high numbers, but yoga offsets some of these low moods. Research has demonstrated time and again that yoga and mood correlate with many benefits.

Eight weeks of yoga therapy and meditation practice were found to reduce psychological distress, including symptoms of depression and low mood. Similar studies have replicated those results with other branches of yoga including meditation.

The question is: how does yoga help improve depression?

It starts with general breathing techniques found throughout the practice. Slow and rhythmic breathing as well as the gentle movements of the yoga practice can contribute to lower stress. They give you an important sense of calm and well-being which minimizes depressive symptoms including rumination. This could be great news for anyone interested in recovery yoga.

3) Increased Empathy for Others

Sometimes, attending addiction treatment and thinking about your drinking and/or drug use can make it hard to hear about the experiences of others who might be impacted by your substance use disorder. Yoga practiced as part of an addiction recovery setting can open the doors to increased empathy and connection to your loved ones, as well as your peers in an inpatient setting.

Throughout an 11-week yoga practice, researchers found that practicing yoga increased self-compassion, empathy, and self-regulation. This is in addition to the other benefits of yoga already covered here. Additionally, students who went through the study found that they had:

  • More mindfulness
  • Increased connection between mind and body
  • Better sense of community
  • Improved stress management
  • More confident mind-body skills

Cultivating a Connection to a Spiritual Path

12-step programs

For many people struggling with substance use, it is not just physical or psychological well-being they are concerned with. One of the basic tenets of 12-step programs has been admitting that there is a higher power — and yoga may be able to help with this part of your recovery journey.

Yoga is an inherently spiritual practice and always has been, regardless of what your religious beliefs might be. Anyone can benefit from the self-awareness that yoga encourages, but it is the sense of being connected to something greater than yourself that permits spiritual growth.

As part of a robust addiction treatment program, yoga therapy can connect you to that higher power.

One research study looking at medical students who participated in an 8-week yoga intervention found that they had increased scores on a variety of spiritual experiences following their yoga practices. Other studies have similar results, demonstrating that yoga can increase:

  • Spiritual aspirations
  • The search for wisdom in everyday experiences
  • Sense of meaning, peace, faith, hope, and compassion

Increased Self-Awareness for Better Outcomes

In addition to the spiritual connection of yoga, it is also important to note how yoga makes you more attuned to the rest of your body and mind. As you move through the yoga postures, you will start to recognize feelings of resistance, whether they are physical or psychological.

How does this play into recovery yoga?

Think about what it would mean for you if you could pinpoint the exact feeling that leads you to have cravings and could result in a relapse. As you practice, you can drop into your body, noticing all of the physical signs that could lead you to use. You can stop those thoughts in their tracks and make a wise decision for your sobriety instead.

Many people achieve self-actualization (a measure of feelings of personal potential) through a regular yoga practice during their addiction recovery process.

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Stronger Emotional Health

While self-awareness can be key to preventing relapse, there is also something to be gained for your overall emotional health in a facility that will teach yoga. Emotional health thrives with yoga, giving you a greater sense of inner peace. You can reside more fully in the present moment and delay the desire to engage in an addictive behavior.

Instead of turning to drug abuse, you can stay on the mat and start to master those impulses that once led you to use drugs and alcohol. Every time you use your coping and life skills to manage a craving, you are that much more likely to gain confidence in your ability to stay sober.

This can open you up to new opportunities if you can trust that you are not at risk of using, even if you happen to be exposed to old temptations. It is a great practice to continue even after discharge from an inpatient treatment program.

Self-Acceptance Increases

Yoga encourages you to come to the mat, just as you are. This means that you are primed to start to learn the benefits of both self-awareness and self-acceptance. Take a moment with this ancient practice to simply start breathing deeply, and you might notice that your stress hormones respond as your self-acceptance increases.

Some studies show that there are statistically significant improvements in the degree of self-acceptance among those who engage in yoga. People are happier with who they are, their quality of life, and their perceived stress levels daily. Negative emotions will not going to disappear overnight. However, regular practice can help you to relax completely.

Even a few minutes of yoga can make a big difference in your parasympathetic nervous system responses. Breathwork or pranayama often leads to reduced stress and can help your nervous system to unwind, which is why it is an important part of comprehensive programs.

Plus 3 Physical Benefits of Practicing Yoga for Addiction Recovery

Physical Benefits of Practicing Yoga

While the psychological benefits of yoga are certainly something to consider, the physical benefits are a close second. Yoga for addiction can not only help you maintain physical strength, but it can decrease the likelihood of seeking substances on a day-to-day basis.

Here are a few of the ways that this form of physical exercise can aid your substance abuse treatment.

1) Link Between Exercise and Addiction Recovery

It matters very little what type of yoga you decide to practice. Instead, it is all about elevating your heart rate and getting your body moving. The data is quite revealing when it comes to how implementing more robust exercise practices serves as a protective factor for substance use.

In one landmark study, it was found that exercise decreased drug-seeking after abstinence and could even help prevent relapse.

The mechanism for how this works is a bit complex but interesting. When someone uses substances heavily, their brain tends to light up in its reward centers with the neurotransmitter dopamine. At first, this flux in dopamine feels great which is what leads people to use it time and again. Addiction throws dopamine balances out of whack.

Yoga can restore them to their baseline levels. It is a natural way to increase dopamine levels in the brain and can be a great substitute for addiction. The result is fewer cravings because your brain already has all the dopamine it needs to feel pleasure.

2) Decrease in Pain with a Regular Yoga Practice

Oftentimes, people turn to substances because it helps them to achieve remission of pain even for a little while. Those with chronic pain may find that the physical benefits of yoga can improve their daily lives and alleviate some of the pain they have been carrying for years.

This study showed that those who had chronic pain and participated in yoga twice a week had statistically significant differences in their pain outcomes after just eight weeks of yoga classes.

Overall, yoga is shown to improve quality of life and mood which can help you stay anchored in the present moment and make the best use of your recovery.

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3) Central Nervous System Benefits

Some of the physical benefits of a regular yoga practice are invisible, but you will certainly feel their far-reaching effects on your nervous system. According to one review of the literature, there is a lot to be said about the effects of yoga on the nervous system, particularly the brain.

Some of the differences yoga made in the brains of those who maintained a regular practice were quite significant, including:

  • Improved functional connectivity between the medial prefrontal cortex and right angular gyrus (important in cognition and memory)
  • Increase in hippocampus density (also associated with better memory)
  • Increases in default mode network (improved verbal memory)

Many of the benefits surrounding the changes in the brain are related to working memory and cognition. The same review showed that those who engaged in long-term yoga practices often had better volumes in the brain and fewer cognitive failures.

This could spell great long-term success for those who are worried about the negative impacts of substance use on the brain.

A Pair of Different Types of Yoga Classes for Recovery

Different Types of Yoga Classes for Addiction Recovery

The good news is that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to help you find the perfect yoga class. Practicing yoga for addiction recovery is as unique as you are, but there are two main types of yoga worth trying: Hatha yoga and vinyasa yoga.

Hatha Yoga for Strength and Balance

Yoga for addiction recovery often utilizes a Hatha approach because it is enough to give you some aerobic workout, but it does not require tremendous flexibility and strength. There are lots of ways participants can modify the yoga postures, but long-term commitment to the plan increases your flexibility, strength, stress reduction, and even your balance.

Hatha yoga encourages you to take a posture and hold it for some time, increasing your strength as you go.

This style of yoga also allows for pranayama or breathwork which can be important holistic therapies for recovering addicts. This gives you a way to take a break from overwhelming emotions, sink into the body, and practice mindfulness.

Vinyasa Yoga for More Cardio

For those who already have some degree of physical strength, vinyasa yoga might be the better fit. In these yoga sessions, the body will rarely remain still. You flow from one posture to the next, moving along with the breath. This means that you are far more likely to get a good cardio workout from vinyasa as opposed to Hatha yoga.

In addition to the psychological and physical benefits of all yoga styles, vinyasa yoga benefits include:

  • Boosted metabolism and weight loss
  • More energy
  • Improved sleep habits
  • Better lung capacity

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Is Yoga the Cure for Addiction Recovery?

With all of the inherent benefits of holistic treatment at Changes such as yoga, you might be wondering if you can combat substance use with yoga alone. The truth is that any sort of physical exercise can help you grow, but you need professional assistance to enable you to thrive sober. Yoga is a coping skill just like art, music, and other forms of recreational therapy.

Changes Healing Center includes yoga as part of our treatment philosophy, but you also need more traditional treatment.

You need to get to the bottom of why you are turning to substances, what you can do to minimize your risk of using them again upon return to your daily life, and how you can support yourself relationally. All of these components are not addressed by a yoga instructor (even at a treatment facility).

Like all of the tools you will gain at Changes Healing Center, you can take yoga with you when you return home. It is an inexpensive coping skill with many free resources and yoga classes available online. Consider adding it to your addiction recovery process during your time with us!

Get Holistic Treatment with Yoga at Changes in Phoenix

Holistic Treatment with Yoga at Changes in Phoenix

Are you ready to start tackling life without substance use and think complementary therapy like yoga could be the solution you need? Changes Healing Center offers a holistic approach to helping our clients recover from drug and alcohol abuse as well as more general substance use. Yoga is just one way that we take into account the whole person instead of just the addiction.

If you feel ready to commit to your sobriety, contact us today. Our admissions staff is ready and waiting to help you kickstart your recovery process with the exact level of care you need from inpatient to outpatient treatment programs.

Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help you with your recovery process!

 

References

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  2. Kinser, P. A., Goehler, L. E., & Taylor, A. G. (2012). How might yoga help depression? A neurobiological perspective. Explore (New York, N.Y.), 8(2), 118–126.
  3. Bond, A. R., Mason, H. F., Lemaster, C. M., Shaw, S. E., Mullin, C. S., Holick, E. A., & Saper, R. B. (2013). Embodied health: the effects of a mind-body course for medical students. Medical education online, 18, 1–8.
  4. Csala, B., Springinsfeld, C. M., & Köteles, F. (2021). The Relationship Between Yoga and Spirituality: A Systematic Review of Empirical Research. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 695939.
  5. Smith, M. A., & Lynch, W. J. (2012). Exercise as a potential treatment for drug abuse: evidence from preclinical studies. Frontiers in psychiatry, 2, 82.
  6. R, P., Kumar, A. P., Dhamodhini K S, Venugopal, V., Silambanan, S., K, M., & Shah, P. (2023). Role of yoga in stress management and implications in major depression disorder. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 14(5), 100767.
  7. Schmid, A. A., Fruhauf, C. A., Sharp, J. L., Van Puymbroeck, M., Bair, M. J., & Portz, J. D. (2019). Yoga for People With Chronic Pain in a Community-Based Setting: A Feasibility and Pilot RCT. Journal of evidence-based integrative medicine, 24, 2515690X19863763.
  8. Crevelário de Melo, R., Victoria Ribeiro, A. Â., Luquine Jr, C. D., de Bortoli, M. C., Toma, T. S., & Barreto, J. O. M. (2021). Effectiveness and safety of yoga to treat chronic and acute pain: a rapid review of systematic reviews. BMJ Open, 11(12), e048536.
  9. Gothe, N. P., Khan, I., Hayes, J., Erlenbach, E., & Damoiseaux, J. S. (2019). Yoga Effects on Brain Health: A Systematic Review of the Current Literature. Brain plasticity (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 5(1), 105–122.

Why Changes Healing Center?

The mission of the CHC family is to assist in any way possible our client’s desire to achieve and maintain a life of long-term sobriety.

We are a licensed drug rehab in Phoenix, AZ, with substance abuse and Arizona alcohol rehab programs.

Our Programs serve Maricopa County and the surrounding cities and regions with evidence-based behavioral healthcare provided by individuals passionate about recovery.

We are JCAHO accredited for addiction treatment by the Joint Commission and strive to continuously improve our offerings and make treatment more accessible for all in need.

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