Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Yoga, Spirituality and Addiction Recovery

How Yoga and Spirituality Aid in Addiction Recovery

While enhancing the mind-body spiritual balance and increasing awareness, yoga is known for its ability to heal and strengthen the body. The benefits of yoga are incredible, but yoga practice is becoming a proven way to help addicts on their journey to recovery. Addictions are damaging to both the physical and spiritual health, and because yoga emphasizes the union of the body and mind, it can be a successful, and holistic, method of rehabilitation.
Yoga is known for reducing cortisol levels and relieving stress, among a variety of other health benefits. But it’s yoga’s attention to mindfulness that is important when considering it as treatment with addictions. During practice, yoga fosters the kind of discipline and self-peace that substance abusers typically need when undergoing a rehabilitation program.
Individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol or engage in other addictive behaviors often feel compelled to follow their urges. According to Psychology Today, research has shown that through the practice of yoga, addicts are taught slow and controlled movements, which helps decrease reactive and automatic behaviors. These are often associated with people who have dependencies.
 Yoga followers become more aware of their thought process and their body sensations. Rather than simply reacting to an emotion, yoga teaches mindfulness. Instead of misinterpreting the body’s cues for drugs, alcohol, etc., yoga trains the brain to interpret those cues as an emotional need that can be satisfied in healthy ways.
Addiction specialists are starting to recognize the impact of yoga in rehabilitation, but it is certainly not part of mainstream therapy. Holistic drug rehab includes yoga as a method of enhancing the healing process for people with addictions and engaging spiritual exploration to help understand emotions. Mary Margaret Frederick, a New York City addiction psychotherapist, believes that “yoga treats the biology and the psychology of an addict.” Although addiction is about much more than willpower, development of healthy coping mechanisms like deep breathing, physical activity, and yoga can build an addict’s physical and mental strength.
The aspect of sangha, the company of a spiritual community, plays a role in recovery by providing a supportive setting for people trying to overcome addictions. But the type of yoga that an addict practices might come into play. Allison Sackin, a yoga instructor at a treatment center in Malibu, believes poses that stimulate the lymph nodes underneath the arms and around the chest enhances the body’s natural systems of detoxification. She incorporates sets of Kundalini yoga, which focus on the untapped energy at the base of the spine that can be drawn up through the body. Kriyas often consist of repetitive movements to perfectly balance the aura and turn the mind inward.
Whether yoga is practiced as part of a holistic treatment for addictions, or just in addition to treatment, it’s important to realize that rehabilitation is a process. Recovering addicts should be patient with their body—and remember that all roads lead to shavasana.

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This article was written by Alex Kerwin, a follower of my blog who asked if he could be a guest blogger on this blog. If you are interested in doing the same please contact me at: Thank you, Alex!

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