|Posted by Laura Germanio OTR, RYT, LMT, CLT on January 6, 2017 at 8:30 PM|
It has long been acknowledged that yoga is good for both the body and the mind: on a practical level, yoga increase flexibility and joint suppleness, whilst on a more holistic note, yoga can help to calm the mind, focus attention, and encourage the practice of mindfulness and therapeutic breathing. In recent years, however, these benefits of yoga have been harnessed and adapted to have wider benefits, including use in the treatment of addiction. Regardless of what you are addicted to (be it drugs, alcohol, the internet or even food) the focus and calm that you receive when you practice yoga can be harnessed to help overcome these addictions as part of an approved treatment programme.
The mind, body, spirit focus that yoga encourages is becoming increasingly recognised as a legitimate tool in the treatment of addictive behaviours, particularly when it is used in conjunction with more conventional therapies. New York City addiction psychotherapist Mary Margaret Frederick, PhD, explained why yoga was so beneficial for individuals with addictive personality types, writing that “Addicts are profoundly out of control internally. They have knee-jerk panic reactions and tempers. The will and determination yoga requires helps people regain control over their body and their mind.”
A Growing Epidemic of Addiction
Addiction is much more widespread across America than you might think. During the year 2000 alone, 12 million American adults admitted to using some kind of illicit drug, whilst almost half of Americans admit to drinking on a regular basis, and five percent of American adults drink so heavily that they are considered to suffer from an alcohol abuse disorder. Perhaps are statistically largest addiction of all is to nicotine, with 65.5 million Americans smoking cigarettes on a regular basis. In order to overcome these addictions, to make positive changes, and to grow, it is important to take a multifaceted approach. This means that, for many addicts, simply undergoing a medical detoxification or attending regular group therapy sessions isn’t enough to overcome their addiction in the long term. Physical, emotional and spiritual growth is also important to ensure lifelong change, and one of the best forms of exercise to achieve all three of these goals is yoga.
How Can Yoga Help
One of the biggest benefits of yoga in the treatment of addiction is that it can help to calm compulsions, quieting the desire to continue to repeat unhealthy behaviours. In 1997, a study published in the Journal of Alternative Therapies found that, because of this, yoga was beneficial in the treatment of addiction: the study revealed that in a group setting (where each member of the group was struggling with addiction) yoga was just as effective as traditional psycho-dynamic group therapy, as a non-medical treatment option. Yoga helps to treat the disease of addiction holistically, in fact, many supporters of yoga as a treatment for addiction believe that yogic practice and the twelve steps programme actually complement each other. Like Yoga, the second of the 12 steps advises that you recognise a power greater than yourself, whilst the 11th step focuses on meditation and prayer. Therefore, using these two programmes together could actually increase the chances of success in someone who is struggling to overcome addiction.
Yoga encourages self-discovery: it is a practice that focuses on self-love, on calm, and on clearing out your head space. As you move through your yoga poses you should be focusing on your breathing and on the sensations you are experiencing within your body; taking the time out to empty your mind in this way can give you a much-needed respite from the muddle of thoughts that almost all of us have to deal with on a daily basis. Yoga releases endorphins, and the natural high that you get from a yoga class could well act as the perfect substitute for the artificial high that you used to get from drugs or alcohol. If you are a ‘pleasure chaser’ with an addictive personality that needs to experience the high that accompanies a release of endorphins, then this is the very best healthy replacement available to you.
Article by Jenni Falconer