Yoga is a centuries-old practice that combines controlled breath work and movement to achieve physical, mental and spiritual health. It helps calm the mind while increasing heart rate and strengthening muscles. Because it is low impact and can be performed slowly, it can work for people of any age and all levels of fitness. These characteristics make it the perfect physical exercise for nearly everyone.
“Yoga means addition – addition of energy, strength and beauty to body, mind and soul.”
How does yoga help people in early drug addiction recovery?
When someone enters a drug rehabilitation center, they most likely are in poor physical health and fatigued both physically and emotionally. There is a lot of mental work involved in addiction treatment. For many, the need to be disconnected from ourselves is at the root of addiction. When we enter recovery, therapy and 12 step meetings make us take a long hard look at ourselves. We are confronted with our thinking processes that happen without drugs. Yoga allows us to shift focus from our minds, the past and future, to the body, the here and now. When we practice yoga we connect with ourselves and learn to okay with what is there.
Physical Exercise Reduces Urges for Drugs and Alcohol.
In a recent study noted in The Journal of Pathophysiology, organisms that have regular physical exercise have less cravings for drugs like morphine than those who do not exercise. Exercise releases feel-good compounds into the brain like serotonin and dopamine. These are the same compounds that are released when we take drugs. With exercise, those who struggle with addiction crave less drugs to feel good.
Yoga starts us on the path to understand ourselves and our thinking processes. Because it brings us into the present, we are better able to concentrate and pay attention to our physical and emotional impulses. We can, for the first time, notice when our minds and bodies crave drugs or alcohol. We can be fully aware of our triggers because we are in tune with our bodies.
Yoga is a way to calm and restore the nervous system. Because drugs affect parts of the brain that send us into a constant state of fight or flight, most addicts do not know how to relax. They are stuck in survival mode. With the use of props, blankets and bolsters, the body is in a place of support. The body can rest, relax and digest. When the nervous system is restored we feel more peace within. If the nervous system is calm, the rest of the body can work in unison to heal.
When we practice yoga, we learn to slow down. We pay attention to our breath. We concentrate on a pose and learn to relax.. We can carry the calming effects of yoga with us throughout the day. When we are stressed, we can slow our breath. We learn how to be still and accept what is going on without needing drugs to cope.
“Yoga is invigoration in relaxation. Freedom in routine. Confidence through self-control. Energy within and energy without.”
Recovery, Yoga, and Essential Oils
The combination of yoga and essential oils can perfectly complement the 3 phases of rehabilitation and working the 12 steps.
Detox Phase: This early phase of recovery entails detox and residential treatment. If doing the Twelve Steps, this is usually Steps 1, 2 and 3. Yoga at this stage of healing is very slow. Less movement and more holding poses close to the ground allow us to find our center. Yoga practice can be accompanied by a blend of frankincense, cedarwood, cinnamon, sandalwood and patchouli. This combination calms the mind as you learn to connect with your body.
Transitional Phase: Steps 4-9. Cleaning out the past. Yoga at this phase becomes more active and we can add a different blend of essential oils to complement our practice. This blend enhances our sense of being centered including Peppermint, Geranium, Basil, Rose, Jasmine. All help us calm the nervous system and reduce negativity.
IOP/ Sober Living: Steps 10-12 Establish spiritual connection and prepare to enter back into life. We have a new freedom from addiction and energy and use a blend of Lemon, Grapefruit, Siberian Fir, Osmanthus, and Melissa to enhance our yoga practice.
Emily Broms has been offering yoga at Ventura Recovery Center for the last 4 years. She studied yoga in San Francisco. She is developing her own program that mixes yoga and the Twelve Steps of Recovery to help others find lasting and rewarding sobriety.
“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”