What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient meditative practice that dates back more than 5,000 years. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which means “to yoke or bind.” Modern interpretations of the word “yoga” suggest that it literally means “union” as a method of discipline.
Yoga involves stretching, breathing, and meditation. It promotes a mind-body-spirit connection through the incorporation of very intentional body poses. Most people who practice yoga report that it creates a feeling of tranquility, mental clarity, and connectedness.
The Yoga Sutra (written about 2,000 years ago by an Indian sage named Patanjali) is considered the authoritative text on yoga. It is a collection of 195 statements that provide a philosophical framework for those who are interested in practicing yoga.
The Yoga Sutra outlines eight limbs of yoga:
- Yamas (restraints)
- Niyamas (observances)
- Asana (postures)
- Pranayama (breathing)
- Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyani (meditation)
- Samadhi (absorption)
In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali describes yoga as “the progressive quieting of the fluctuations of the mind.” Through disciplined practice of this ancient artform, Patanjali explains that yoga helps to cultivate detachment, which helps to relieve suffering and open the practitioner to experience their true nature.
Yoga – Now Incorporated into Addiction Treatment Programs
For centuries, yoga was only practiced in the East – in countries like India, which is where yoga originated. In the past 25 years, however; yoga has become popularized in the United States.
Yoga has become a common fitness practice, meditative exercise, and mindfulness activity. Most major fitness chains now offer yoga classes. Plus, yoga studios are found in communities from L.A. to New York City. And, instructional videos on yoga are available by the hundreds on sites like YouTube.
But, what about yoga in addiction treatment? When most people think about doing yoga, they do not associate this ancient practice with recovery from a substance use disorder. However; more rehabilitation centers across the United States are incorporating yoga as a holistic approach to treating addiction, including AToN Center. Why is this?
Yoga Restores a Spiritual Connection
When most people think of addiction, they think of physical pain and mental anguish. They understand that substances like heroin, alcohol, and prescription painkillers produce very unpleasant and dangerous withdrawal symptoms that often require a medical detox. They also understand that addiction negatively impacts brain function and can be detrimental to mental health.
It is important to recognize that addiction also has spiritual consequences. Many come into recovery feeling spiritually bankrupt, as if they have been completely emptied of their very own soul. Addiction causes people to compromise their values, hurt the people they love most, engage in dishonest and less than honorable behavior, and turn away from their own spirituality.
This is why a holistic approach to addiction treatment is so valuable to the newly recovering person. Someone who has made the brave decision to get help for a problem with drugs and alcohol desperately needs to reestablish their oneness with themselves, their fellow man, and universal consciousness.
The Many Benefits of Performing Yoga in Recovery
Of course, there are many other reasons to practice yoga during addiction treatment than boosting a feeling of spirituality. A sense of connectedness is only one of the many benefits yoga has to offer for those in recovery. In fact, many people who go to rehab do not identify with spirituality at all – and that is perfectly okay. Yoga can positively affect the atheist and agnostic as well.
According to scientific research, yoga benefits the addiction recovery process in the following ways:
- Reduces production of the stress-hormone cortisol in the brain
- Relieves anxiety
- Helps fight off depression
- Elevates mood
- Eases withdrawal symptoms
- Promotes mindfulness
- Allows for appreciation of the present moment
- Calms and quiets the mind
- Increases feelings of gratitude
- Lowers heart rate and blood pressure
- Produces healthy, restful sleep
- Helps to lessen chronic pain
- Reduces inflammation throughout the body
- Improves flexibility
- Promotes a sense of tranquility and well-being
Addiction has profoundly negative consequences for the mind and body. Yoga helps restore a sense of mental and emotional stability, promotes good physical health, and encourages a spiritual connection. Why shouldn’t it be incorporated into an addiction treatment plan?
Don’t Be Intimidated By Yoga
Many people find yoga intimidating. They think they might be too out of shape to perform the body poses. Others are terrified at the idea of having to sit with their own mind because of all of the relentless chatter it produces. And, many don’t like the idea of slowing down and being still.
Nevertheless, there is absolutely nothing to fear when it comes to experiencing yoga during addiction treatment. Here at AToN Center, we employ a certified yoga instructor who is compassionate toward those who are new to recovery. They give beginners yoga classes and meet participants at their own level of experience. This allows practitioners to perform yoga comfortably and gracefully.
Just like with any new practice, it takes time to learn yoga and familiarize yourself with all of the terminology, poses, and disciplines. However; this is an exciting voyage within, one that reaps many benefits and positive life experiences. It is a great way to kick off a lifelong recovery journey.