Drug and alcohol addiction has many negative effects on the mind and body. The use of drugs affects breathing, and heart rate, the ability to control emotions and feel happiness. In addition, problem-solving, planning, and decision-making abilities are inhibited. It is also difficult for people who use drugs to process information provided by their senses. The more often drugs are used, the more they will impact brain chemicals and circuitry. Once someone chooses to rehabilitate from drug addiction brain chemistry and circuitry can heal and rebuild itself after a period of time. Considering the above negative effects of drug and alcohol abuse, yoga can provide a healing benefit to the mind, body, and spirit making it a great practice in recovery.

Yoga is an old discipline from India. It is both spiritual and physical. The word ” Yoga’ means to unite or join. This may mean to unite yourself with a spiritual force or higher power. Others may feel that it means uniting yourself with all aspects of your life, or for some joining of mind, body and spirit.

Mental component of Yoga: Yoga practice helps you to learn to be in the moment and practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

Physical component of Yoga: There are many physical benefits to practicing yoga. If you consistently practice certain types of yoga regularly you’ll improve your strength, stamina, and develop great posture. These benefits reach beyond our physical bodies. Yoga can help you work through psychological changes, emotional stress and connect with a higher power.

Spiritual component of Yoga: Spirituality is a name given to matters of the spirit. Spirituality helps you trust in life and in yourself even when managing difficult situations. You’ll find you’re more capable of caring and loving for yourself and others and you’ll experience the joy of being who you are by deepening your yoga practice. Some people believe spirituality is a part of religion. However, you don’t have to be a certain faith to practice yoga. Yoga is not a religion it’s a discipline.

The three components of yoga mental, physical and spiritual help to bring a greater awareness of the person we want to be. In addition, yoga uses breathing techniques, exercise and meditation, all of which help to improve health and happiness. The health benefits of yoga are particularly helpful to someone overcoming addiction. The nervous system of many former addicts are seriously impaired by drug use causing anxiety, stress, mental cloudiness, sleep disorders, and emotional fluctuations. A regular practice of yoga has shown the following benefits:

– Stress Relief
– Self- reflection and increased self-awareness
– Heightened self-confidence and improved self-image
– Pain relief
– Better sleep
– Increased energy levels
– Emotional healing
– Overall health and wellness improvement
– Increases happiness
– Better focus
– Maintains nervous system
– Gives peace of mind
– Promotes inner strength
– Encourages self care

Stress, anxiety, and depression are common side effects of drug withdrawal, and the use of yoga in recovery may actually work to improve these symptoms. Scientific studies have shown the following results:
Harvard Health reports that scientific evidence has provided a link between practicing yoga and the reduction of stress by modulation of the stress response.
The Yoga Journal published that when a person feels stress, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and body temperature increase. Yoga may actually act on this system by regulating and balancing some of the stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Scientific American published that grey matter and regions of the brain active in controlling stress, like the hippocampus, may also be enlarged with the regular practice of yoga. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported on a study that showed an increase in the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) with the practice of yoga techniques. GABA is a kind of natural tranquilizer produced by the brain to help manage anxiety and the stress response. Higher levels of GABA usually means less anxiety and less stress. A Harvard Health study published a group of women who reported themselves to be “emotionally distressed” practiced yoga for 1.5 hours twice a week. At the end of three months, half reported less depression, a third cited fewer anxiety symptoms, and 65 percent claimed an increase in overall wellbeing. According to a National Health Interview Study (NHIS) in 2012 published by the Harvard Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) over 80 percent of the people practicing yoga in the United States, reported a reduction of their stress levels as a result.

When practicing yoga, people are attuned to their bodies and learn to regulate their breathing. This can create a self-awareness of how things may make a person feel and observing these feelings in a nonjudgmental fashion. By focusing all energy inward, individuals can learn to take ownership for the way they feel and gain control over themselves and their subsequent actions. In so doing, they may also become more self-reliant and self-confident. A person may be more able to cope with and manage feelings of cravings if they are more physically aware of them when they occur, which could help prevent relapsing.
Yoga can also increase energy levels, encourage people to eat better, and improve quality of sleep that may be disrupted by drug withdrawal symptoms. When people feel better physically, they are more able to handle stress and anything that may come up. More sleep means a clearer head and lower irritability levels. Physical exercise can also improve self-image, as healthy habits can improve the appearance of the physical body.
Yoga can enhance spiritual connection through breathing techniques and mindful meditation. This can help an individual to not feel alone, but rather connected to a supreme being who created them for a purpose. Quieting down all external influences through yoga may help a person to find inner peace through self-reflection and come to a personal realization of what may need to change to improve life.

When used in conjunction with other traditional therapy practices, yoga can be a wonderful adjunct therapy for addiction recovery that individuals can practice throughout their lifetime to calm themselves and improve clarity of mind whenever needed.