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Exploring 7 Benefits of Yoga in Recovery

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June 21 was officially made the International Day of Yoga in 2015 by The United Nations. Yoga has grown in popularity over the last few decades and is good for the body, mind, and spirit. In honor of this day and ancient practice, take a few minutes to explore the vast benefits of yoga—particularly for anyone in recovery. 

Yoga translated into ‘union’ or ‘connection’, is believed to have begun more or less since the dawn of time. Yoga has grown in popularity over the last few decades and is good for the body, mind, and spirit. 

The recorded history of yoga dates back to more than 5,000 years ago in North India by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization. One of the first mentions of yoga dates back to the Vedas—a sacred text containing songs, mantras, and rituals used by Vedic priests. Today, yoga studios can be found in most cities and towns across the nation. So why is yoga so popular? Let’s explore this ancient practice, its vast benefits, and discover how it can help to support long-term recovery. 

There are four main periods of development when it comes to yoga. These are pre-classical, classical, post-classical, and modern. During these periods yoga progressed from the pursuit of enlightenment through the mind in the pre-classical period and classical period to the post-classical and modern during which yoga masters focused on practices used to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. 

The result of these periods of yoga development is the yoga you see today. Today’s modern yoga has many forms, types, and schools. However, the majority agree that yoga consists of six branches, each offering a slightly different focus and goal. Here are six branches of yoga:

1. Raja yoga

This means ‘chief’ or ‘king’ and is focused on meditation as a tool to control the mind and thoughts. 

2. Jnana yoga

This type of yoga seeks wisdom with knowing one’s true self as the goal.

3. Tantra yoga

In this type of yoga, exploring the sensations of body and mind are primary. 

4. Hatha yoga

Also meaning ‘the yoga of force’, hatha yoga seeks to change the physical body and mind by movement and physical force. 

5. Bhakti yoga

Meaning ‘devotion’, this type of yoga focuses on devotion to God or another deity.

6. Karma yoga

This branch of yoga encourages awareness of thought, word, and deed. 

As you can see, there are variations of yoga practices through these different branches. It’s important to note that depending on who you talk to there are different branches or limbs of yoga. Some consider there to be eight branches and others seven. Some have different naming conventions, however, all represent the same concepts and practices. 

Yoga has become popular in the west today because of its many benefits. From physical health to improved mental well-being, practicing yoga can reap many rewards. Some of these benefits of yoga are important for anyone in recovery from alcohol or drugs. 

How Yoga Can Support Addiction Recovery

If you have (or had) an addiction to alcohol or another substance, then you know firsthand the pain in both the body and mind addiction brings. From racing thoughts and ruminating on certain subjects to aches and pains throughout the body, addiction can wreak havoc on our entire being. 

Recovery from addiction and sustaining long-term recovery takes work and relearning how to cope with life. The first step to recovery from alcohol or drugs is to seek help. For many people, finding an addiction treatment center and getting help opens the door to a life of freedom from alcohol and drugs. 

Each treatment center offers something a little bit different from the next. Finding the one that is a good fit for you is important. Futures Recovery Healthcare understands that each person’s path to recovery is unique. With this understanding, Futures offers three addiction treatment programs; Core, Orenda, and Rise as well as a Mental Health Unit for those with only mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.  Futures exposes patients to multiple pathways to recovery as well as numerous tools to help sustain long-term recovery including yoga

One of the tenets of any recovery program is to learn new coping skills for managing stress. Many people with an alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder have co-occurring disorders. This means that a person with an AUD may also have an anxiety disorder. Or someone with a SUD may also suffer from a mood disorder. 

In many of these cases, learning to calm the mind and deal with stress in life is essential. For many people with both anxiety and an AUD, they would simply reach for a drink in times of stress, however, in recovery new, healthier coping skills must be learned to sustain recovery for the long haul. 

Yoga can help to calm the mind and ease the nerves. Not only does yoga provide tremendous relaxation benefits when practiced regularly, relaxation when practicing yoga is also immediate. Yoga benefits aren’t just for the mind, yoga practice also helps one’s physical health. 

The Benefits of Yoga for the Mind

Relieve Stress and Improve Sleep 

Yoga can decrease stress and helps you to relax. Not only is this an immediate effect of yoga, with regular yoga practice increases. Multiple studies have demonstrated that yoga practice reduces the production of cortisol. Cortisol is the primary hormone associated with stress. 

Additionally, it has been shown that a regular yoga bedtime routine helps some people fall asleep faster and stay asleep. When you are recovering from addiction, the body and mind need regular, healthy sleep. 

Decrease Symptoms of Depression

Some studies show that one of the benefits of yoga practice is to help with depression. Yoga may act as an antidepressant because it helps to decrease cortisol production that impacts levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter tied to depression. 

One study on individuals with alcohol dependence practiced a specific kind of yoga that focuses on rhythmic breathing. In just two weeks the participants experienced lower levels of cortisol, ACTH, and decreased symptoms of depression. 

Reduce Anxiety

For many, their goal with beginning yoga is to help reduce anxiety. Numerous studies support yoga as a way to reduce anxiety. In one study, individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) practiced yoga for 10 weeks. The results? Everyone had decreased anxiety and 52% no longer met the criteria for having PTSD

PTSD, trauma, and addiction to alcohol or drugs often go hand in hand. Having tools like yoga can be an important piece of a recovery program. However, it’s only a part. Getting professional treatment and being part of an ongoing support community are key components of recovery. 

Improve Mood and Quality of Life

Many individuals who practice yoga report improved feelings of wellbeing and increases in energy levels after practice. Increases in alertness, as well as decreases in negativity, are also benefits of yoga. 

Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor from California, explained the benefits of yoga, “The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome”

Yoga Benefits for the Body

Supports Strength and Flexibility 

Yoga includes specific poses designed to improve strength and others designed to increase flexibility. Regular yoga practice helps you to become more flexible and stronger. 

One study reported improvements in endurance, strength, and flexibility with regular yoga practice. Holding poses and rhythmic breathing help the body to relax while focusing on core areas of the body.

When the body has endured addiction to either alcohol or drugs or both, there is healing to be done. Not many who are living in active addiction of any kind are the picture of health. It’s essential for both the body and mind to recover and heal. Yoga can be an important tool for the body as well as the mind. 

Could Support Heart Health

Some studies show that another benefit of yoga practice is a decrease in blood pressure. High blood pressure is connected with issues such as heart attack and stroke. Other research suggests the possibility of yoga as part of a healthy lifestyle helping with heart disease. 

Everyone’s health is different. If you have heart issues or other physical issues, be sure to consult with a medical professional before beginning yoga or any exercise program. 

Relief of Chronic Pain 

Many who practice yoga have had relief in some of their chronic pain. There is research that shows yoga to be effective in helping with carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis. 

In addition, one of the benefits of yoga is the reduction of inflammation. When inflammation is ongoing, serious issues such as heart disease and certain cancers can develop. Controlling inflammation in the body is important for overall health and wellbeing. Research shows that yoga can help to reduce inflammation. 

The benefits of yoga need to be researched further to reveal just how good yoga is for the body, mind, and soul. And while the research continues into this relaxing and healing ancient practice, those who practice will continue to live the benefits on a daily basis. 

For anyone interested in beginning yoga or starting again, there are yoga studios in most areas as well as free classes online. Remember, yoga can help relax the mind and strengthen the body. Yoga can be done in groups or in the privacy of your home. 

If you are in recovery from alcohol or drugs and looking for new and healthy coping skills give yoga a try as a part of your comprehensive plan. Futures helps those who want to recover from alcohol or drugs detox, heal, and create personalized recovery plans to help support long-term sobriety. Contact Futures today to learn more or call 866-804-2098

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