Yoga is known to be good for the mind and body, keeping us centered and feeling rejuvenated. However, did you know this ancient practice could also help with recovering from addiction? This makes sense when you think about addiction as a way to self medicate the mind and its harmful effects on the body. By committing to a practice that supports the mind and body, addiction can slowly start taking a backseat. A satisfied, healthy mind and body won’t depend so strongly on addiction. This is always easier said than done, but with dedication to one’s health and wellness, it will make the road to recovery so much smoother and help to prevent relapse.
Yoga as an addiction therapy method isn’t just a way to participate in the hype of a trend. Ancient cultures understood it’s healing magic before science could prove it. Ancient people could feel the benefits of yoga first hand and that was all the evidence they needed. However, recent modern research explain how this phenomenon is actually physiological.
These recent studies have discovered that yoga increases levels of GABA in the brain (a neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid). Why does this matter? Well, it turns out that people who suffer from anxiety, depression, stress, and substance abuse have lower levels of GABA. Regardless if low levels of GABA are caused by or cause addiction, yoga would be beneficial in balancing these levels.
Addiction can make a person feel like they have no control of their decisions, cravings, mind, and life in general. Yoga is a simple practice that builds self discipline which helps a person regain internal control which can help with impulse control. Holding various postures and poses, both relaxing and challenging, teaches a person the difference between pain and discomfort, and how to sit through it while it passes. This is all extremely empowering for everyone. Sometimes stress and life challenges seem overbearing and we want to give up, self medicate, and forget about everything. But that’s a numbing path of avoidance and destruction.
When we’re mindful of the poses we’re holding, we feel every stretch and strain. But while maintaining a calm, steady breath, we learn how to notice the feeling and experience it without the internal chaos of struggle and suffering. By repeating this practice daily, we begin to rewire ourselves to manage stress and life challenges in a healthier way - focusing more on what’s being felt and experienced rather than the internal drama and pain.
This awareness helps recovering addicts resist urges by training them to observe themselves objectively. When they may feel uncomfortable, that’s all it is - discomfort. Sometimes people confuse discomfort for pain. This is unfortunate especially when they self medicate because we don’t have to suffer when we struggle. When we suffer, we feel damaged by pain. When we realize we’re just uncomfortable in life, there’s a resilient understanding that it’s only temporary and we don’t fall victim to our pain.
Yoga is known for it’s physical calming benefits and stress relief. However, what’s extremely beneficial for recovering addicts is that it’s self healing. When a medical professional, friend, family, support group, etc., is unavailable during hard times, a person can turn to their breath and poses at anytime.