Yoga is increasingly being used in substance abuse treatment programs and throughout recovery to help prevent relapse, reduce withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings, and provide a healthy outlet to cope with potential triggers and daily life stressors.
When someone abuses drugs or alcohol regularly, some of the pathways in the brain are altered, and the pathways related to feeling pleasure, regulating emotions, making sound decisions, and controlling impulses may be negatively affected. After a period of time without the influence of drugs or alcohol, brain chemistry and circuitry can heal and rebuild itself. Yoga may be able to help with this as well.
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. By recognizing cravings when they occur and not attempting to avoid them or give in to them, for example, a person may be more able to cope with and manage these feelings if they are more physically aware of them when they occur.
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 during the day. 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 as well.
Many of the 12-Step programs individuals join during treatment and recovery to garner support are steeped in spirituality and spiritual concepts. Yoga can enhance this and help individuals to reach that spiritual connection through breathing techniques and mindfulness meditation. 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.
Yoga goes way beyond just stretching. It can be beneficial as a part of a substance abuse treatment program and can be practiced independently as well. When used in conjunction with other traditional therapy practices, yoga can be a wonderful adjunct therapy that individuals can practice throughout their lifetime to calm themselves and improve clarity of mind whenever needed. In cases of withdrawal- related symptoms such an anxiety, insomnia, or depression, meditation can assist in grounding the individual and calming the nervous system. A calm nervous system enhances the overall quality of sleep, and during times of wakefulness, it enables better moods.
Meditation therapy also allows someone to actively regain control over impulses. For example, transcendental meditation has been used to reduce drug and alcohol abuse and the risk of relapse.