In recent years, recovery programs have embraced a more holistic approach for treating substance use disorders. Among the most popular experiential activities is yoga, an ancient practice that has shown to be helpful in relieving stress.
The physiological effects of yoga’s help to regulate the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Additionally, yoga can impact brain chemistry by increasing levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally occurring amino acid and neurotransmitter, reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
These positive side effects, and more, make yoga an essential recovery activity that can help you better manage your stress levels and stabilize your mood. There are several schools of yoga to choose from, and classes are readily available any time on YouTube.
Utilizing Yoga in Recovery
Recovery may be the first time one discovers and begins practicing yoga. Although yoga may feel a bit intimidating at first, if you start slow and remain patient, you will gradually improve your technique.
Start with some simple poses while focusing on slow, steady breathing to ease into the practice of yoga. Consider these basic yoga poses:
- Triangle Pose: From a standing position, slowly move the legs into a wide stance. Reach the arms out to the side and parallel to the ground. Turn the head toward the right hand, bend the right leg while twisting the torso, and rest the right hand on the floor next to the right foot. Extend the left hand above the head, creating a triangle shape with the body. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Leg Wall Pose: Lie down in front of a wall. Place both legs up against the wall and scoot forward until the buttocks touch the wall. Straighten the legs and let them relax against the wall for 30 seconds.
- Mountain Pose: Each yoga pose should begin with the mountain pose. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, press the palms together in front of the chest. With eyes closed, breathe slowly and rhythmically to calm the mind before moving to the next pose.
- Spinal Twist: Lie on the back with knees pulled to the chest and arms stretched out to the side. Then slowly drop the knees to the right and hold for 5 seconds. Return the knees to the center then drop the knees to the left and hold for 5 seconds.
- Child’s Pose: From all fours position, pull the buttocks all the way back while stretching the arms straight out in front of the body. Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
Even just practicing these five poses will demonstrate the calming effects of yoga.
5 Benefits of Yoga for Recovery
As a recovery tool, yoga offers a range of health benefits that help to reinforce recovery. Restoring both physical health and mental wellness creates a significant protective factor to avoid relapse.
Five primary health benefits of yoga:
- Reduces Stress. The gentle movements practiced in yoga combined with focused breathing can calm nerves and reduce stress. This creates a peaceful yet focused state of mind. The calm mindset can reduce both cravings and emotional distress.
- Improves Circulation. The slow stretching with purposeful breathing leads to improved circulation, as more oxygen reaches the brain. This results in reduced blood pressure and risk of heart disease. It can also improve cognitive function, allowing you to think clearly in recovery.
- Improves Fitness. Yoga improves overall strength, muscle tone and flexibility.
- Promotes Self-Discipline. Substance recovery means saying no to self-destructive habits while creating a more ordered life. Practicing yoga involves self-discipline, which can also influence healthy routines in daily life.
- Improves Self-Esteem. Mastering the poses, while also noticing the physical effects of practicing yoga, can be a boost to your self-esteem.
If you are in recovery, consider adding yoga classes to your other weekly activities to continue supporting a sober lifestyle. Whether you practice yoga at a professional studio, or on the floor of your living room, you will soon enjoy its many benefits. Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.