YOGA & MEDITATION FOR ADDICTION RECOVERY
Through a blend of breath, flow, and meditation, yoga promotes healing and relieves stress in men and women recovering from substance abuse. Yoga is one of the more popular holistic therapies offered by The District Recovery Community. We actively integrate yoga and meditation practices throughout all phases of our co-occurring disorder or addiction treatment program. We work with some amazing professionals who have helped us successfully implement meditation for addiction recovery as part of our regimen.These programs are among the most popular at TDRC. So what’s the connection between meditation for addiction recovery and Yoga? Research has indicated that yoga and other mindfulness techniques can be used in conjunction with traditional, evidence-based treatment to help people overcome mental illness and substance use disorders. “Yoga offers a unique combination of physical exercises and relaxation techniques that are unlike any other conventional exercises,” Geri Topfer, founder and president of Kula for Karma, told DrugRehab.com. Topfer’s organization brings therapeutic yoga to individuals with physical or mental health problems, from veterans with PTSD to people recovering from heroin addiction. The nonprofit organization partners with Advanced Recovery Systems to provide yoga to people receiving substance abuse treatment around the United States.
Benefits of Yoga & Meditation
Yoga is an eastern discipline that enhances physical health and emotional well-being. One of the major advantages of this therapeutic technique is its portability. Without equipment or specialized tools, men and women can take their yoga practice with them after they return home from rehab. This form of therapy is especially beneficial for overcoming relapse triggers, reducing anxiety, or dealing with symptoms of a co-occurring disorder. Learning to do yoga offers several benefits for people in recovery. Clients have most likely lost touch with how their bodies and minds feel, since the disease of addiction numbs one to reality. Yoga helps clients to tune back in and get in touch again so that they can feel comfortable in their own skin. Yoga is especially helpful for people in the early stages of their recovery. At this point, they are likely experiencing a significant level of stress. The practice of yoga can help clients learn to manage recovery. Yoga is also a good form of physical exercise that will help participants to improve physical health that is important for recovery. Meditation for addiction recovery can be incorporated directly into your yoga practice, or pursued as a distinct form of therapy. You do not have to practice religion or profess a particular faith to meditate. Instead, it is an opportunity to put your mind at rest and look inward rather than concentrating on the external world. While meditation sessions require practice and concentration, it is wise to learn how to “be still” as you process your recovery, deal with underlying emotions, and let go of the desire to achieve instant gratification using drugs or alcohol. Our credentialed practitioners can help you achieve this state of consciousness in order to produce fruitful results. And, once again, meditation is also a portable form of therapy that you can use for years to come!
Addiction is Fueled by a Sense of Lack; Yoga Counters This
We know that people who struggle with addiction carry a deep sense of lack. Something seems to be missing. An itch needs to be scratched. With acute addiction, one’s entire organism is caught up in a pursuit to fulfill needs that can never be met. This is true for active addicts as much as it is true for people in recovery until they have been able to work out the complex roots of trauma that drives their behavior. In the body’s hierarchy of needs, breath is #1. We can live without food for weeks. We can live without water for days. But without breath (in yoga we use the term Prana or life force) for even three minutes, we get into real trouble. Vinyasa yoga is the primary form of yoga practiced in the United States today. Vinyasa simply means movement coordinated with breath, but all yoga emphasizes a focus on breathing. Through dedicated and sometimes strenuous practice, we develop a relationship with our breath. We come to understand that by focusing on and controlling our breath, we can change how we think and feel. We can use the breath as a vehicle for entering states of meditation and also as a means of changing our emotional state and managing stress. By learning to do simple, long, deep breathing, which is accessible by almost anyone, we send a different message to our nervous system, namely that all is well and our core need is being met. This allows our body-mind system to relax and moves us toward healing, recovery and wholeness. Breathing well counters the sense of lack that plagues most addicts and is a precursor to a healthier life beyond addiction. There’s no denying that meditation for addiction recovery and Yoga go hand in hand. One exercises the mind, the other, the body.
Addiction is a Disease of Disconnection; Yoga is More of a Union
The word Yoga means “union”. It refers to the union of mind, body and spirit. In a typical yoga class, a teacher might say, “Press down into your feet in such a way that you feel the earth press back up.” So I bring my attention to my feet, press down, and begin to feel the rebound of energy up through my body. “Breathe more slowly and deeply.” And I bring my attention to my breath. Wherever the teacher directs my attention, I learn to connect with that area of my body. In this way, yoga practice is the practice of connecting or re-connecting with my body. In active addiction, we have lost connection with our body. As we all are aware, addiction counters even our body’s main directive to survive. System override! So, to engage in practice that directs our mind to bring us back into contact with our physical self will move us toward a sense of union and be uplifting to our spirit. In more esoteric terms, yoga also refers to the union of individual consciousness with Universal consciousness. Here we are talking about spiritual matters, which become very relevant to people who are pursuing theistic recovery paths such as the Twelve Steps. Yoga and the Twelve Steps work very well together. All over the United States, we are seeing the advent of Yoga classes with a Twelve Step component to them. Of particular note is the work of Nikki Myers and her Yoga of Twelve Step Recovery, in which people attend a non-denominational or universal Twelve Step meeting followed by a yoga class. Experiences that bring together these two spiritual paths are proving very effective in helping people to achieve sustainable recovery from addiction. Meditation for addiction recovery isn’t just an afterthought, it should be viewed as part of the healing process. It should also be used a relapse prevention tactic. Maintaining a sense of harmony and balance in life is important for everyone, especially those who struggled to find it through natural means.
Meditation and Its Benefits
Because of its healing effects, meditation can be a powerful tool in addiction recovery. These effects are magnified in wilderness therapy, where participants can get their personal rhythms (such as breathing and heartbeat) in tune with the rhythms of nature.
After numbing their feelings with drugs and alcohol, young people can use meditation as a gentle way to clear their minds. Individuals in recovery use meditation to sit in silence, focus on body sensations and thoughts, and begin experiencing their emotions in a non-threatening way. For individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, temptations to use are inevitable. Meditation is one way to gain awareness of these thoughts, accept them without feelings of guilt or shame, and learn how to cope in healthier ways. By building a stronger awareness of themselves and their environment, people in recovery can realize the impact drugs and alcohol have had on their lives and start to discover their triggers. Meditation breeds an appreciation for the mind and body, which builds motivation to treat oneself with respect rather than polluting the body with chemicals.
For many people, meditation is a deeply spiritual practice. A highly personal and self-directed activity, meditation appeals to a number of individuals as a way to explore their beliefs without any pressure or expectations. Spiritual growth is an essential element of the 12 Steps as a way to combat self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse.
In addition to the emotional and spiritual benefits, meditation has physical benefits, such as lowered heart rate, enhanced energy and mental acuity, and increased blood flow. The slow, steady breathing of meditation can help reduce tension and stress, improve concentration, and reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and anger, providing peace of mind and an overall sense of well-being. In these ways, meditation for addiction recovery is a logical extension of preventing relapse triggers by giving individuals the power and tools necessary to cleanse their minds of distractions. This can also help prevent depression, another key relapse trigger. Because many people initially turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with stress, meditation can reduce the negative emotions that lead to drug abuse and help prevent relapse. It can also slow the release of stress-inducing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and increase production of “feel good” hormones such as serotonin and endorphins, providing a natural “high.” The relief meditation brings can be similar to the effects of certain drugs: loosening of the muscles, relaxed breathing, and a feeling of calmness and well-being. The difference is there are no harmful effects with meditation.