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Yoga – In Addiction Treatment And Recovery

Yoga – In Addiction Treatment And Recovery

Eckhart Tolle, in The Power of Now says- “What characterizes addiction? Quite simply this, you no longer feel that you have the choice to stop.”

With substance use, one tends to live in one’s mind either using or planning to use, isolating oneself from friends and family. The body goes through its own suffering. Alcohol and drugs affect the organs of the body, the muscles, lack of eating results in nutritional imbalance, the tone of muscles lessen, weaken, bones weaken, there are a generalized imbalance and disharmony that develops.

Addiction is a disease of being unable to manage or deal with one’s emotions realistically, one’s inability to cope with pain results in looking for quick fixes in substance use .. which are only a temporary fix and problems resurface and so does the hormonal imbalance continue .

In using and not using, in early days of recovery and during full-blown addiction the individual lives in a constant state of anxiety, fear .resentment, depression, sorrow, etc ... in these circumstances the hormones that are affected and go haywire in the body are cortisol, adrenaline, dopamine, GABA, etc. The chronic high levels of the hormones like cortisol and adrenaline prove toxic to the body and the general nervous systems .

Years of habitual ways of reacting to situations results considering this as normal ..this however results in many blocks in the body, of energy and emotions, resulting in repeated self - destructive behaviors or continued using, against one’s wishes too.

The body and mind is one unit . What affects the mind affects the body and vise versa .

In addiction the personality becomes identified with the intoxicated thought process, which is not real.

Yoga ,meaning union is aimed at integrating the personality bringing a balance into the body and mind.

Yoga is a way of living a balanced life and includes asanas or poses, contemplation, and meditation.

Yoga Poses /Asanas

-enable the body to balance and regulate the hormones in the body.

-Holding a pose brings balance , tones the muscles , improves core muscle strength

  • it develops discipline , the ability to be present using the body to be patient with oneself
  • It is seen to do away with insomnia and induce peaceful sleep .
  • Meditation , works tremendously in releasing and dissolving suppressed and repressed emotions , enabling one to be more present and aware of one’s thoughts, words and actions.
  • It reduces the speed of the torrent of thoughts running through the mind making the mind calmer
  • The evident effects are that , the anxiety reduces , the ability to be calm despite the same external stressors improves , fears and resentments reduce.
  • This is the outcome of the amygdala growing smaller in size with regular yoga poses and meditation practice. This is the area in the brain controlling the primitive responses of fear, flight and fight and cause the emotional responses to stressors.
  • Sensitivity to oneself and compassion to other grows within as the hippocampus - ,the area of the brain that generates this increases in size .
    [Ref research by Sara Lazar PhD Harvard University ]

A small 2007 pilot study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, funded in part by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, demonstrated that yoga may be able to change brain biochemistry. The study compared sessions of reading to sessions of yoga and concluded that the yoga sessions resulted in increased levels of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, while the readers experienced no change. Low levels of GABA are associated with anxiety and depression, conditions often considered to underlie addiction.

In Addiction treatment in the initial days of detox yoga poses just enable the person to be calmer and act as mild exercise regimes. These are adjuncts to detox medications enabling a shorter detox time. Some of the Asanas that are very useful in recovery are

  1. Vajrasana (Sitting Mountain), variation
  2. Balasana (Child's Pose)
  3. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
  4. Baddha Konasana (Butterfly)
  5. Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)
  6. Apanasana (Little Boat Hugging Knees)
  7. Jathara Parivartanasana (Knee-Hug Spinal Twist)
  8. Savasana (Corpse Pose)

Today Yoga and Meditation form an integral part of addiction treatment facilities across the globe that have a client specific and /or single client based system of treatment that incorporates, voluntary, non- medical holistic treatment programs.


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