According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, one out of every twelve adults in America is battling a substance use disorder – that’s over 20 million people. Even famous people battle addiction. Of those who battle addiction, only a small percentage seek help. Unfortunately, many of those who seek help will face relapse and fall back into their addictions. Today we will consider the role of yoga and meditation in recovery from addiction and substance use disorders.
In addition to the more mainstream approaches to addiction recovery, there are also alternative therapy treatments available.
Holistic Approaches To Addiction Treatment And Recovery
One alternative method of treatment for addiction is to take a holistic approach.
This is a method of non-medicinal treatments that are used in addition to traditional treatments. Typically, holistic approaches to addiction therapy do not stand alone, instead they are used to complement other forms of therapy.
In holistic therapy programs, meditation, exercise, and nutrition are pathways taken to recovery. While treating the physical symptoms of addiction and withdrawal in a traditional manner, holistic therapy allows the therapist to also focus on the patient’s overall well-being.
There are many different types of holistic therapies that can be used, including:
- Guided meditation
- Spiritual therapy
- Tai chi
- Exercise routine
- Proper nutrition
Holistic Therapy Objectives
When setting out on a journey involving holistic approaches to therapy, there are several goals in mind. Holistic therapy can help a person achieve several objectives, including:
- Finding the underlying cause of their addiction
- Boosting self-confidence
- Improving physical fitness
- Decreasing the appeal of alcohol and substances
- Improving resistance to cravings for drugs and alcohol
Let’s look now at yoga and meditation and learn more about how these practices can benefit someone in recovery.
How Does Meditation Work?
When many people consider meditation, they often picture monks sitting silently while focusing their minds. What exactly is the purpose of this activity, though?
Meditation is an activity involving the mind and the body. The intent of this activity is to calm the mind, promote relaxation, and improve well-being.
Millions of people practice meditation according to data published by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
When a person meditates, they typically follow a certain process. They choose a quiet location free of distractions, they choose a posture that is comfortable (some people sit, others lie down or walk around), they focus their attention (often on a word or object), and they adopt an open attitude.
Meditation is an introspective activity, meaning that the person engaging in meditation is looking inward, to themselves. Research has shown that people who participate in meditation are more likely to be “in-tune” with themselves, and to gauge what is happening in their lives more accurately.
Practicing meditation has been shown to alleviate psychological stress
Meditation can lower blood pressure in those who are at risk for high blood pressure
Those who engage in meditation regularly experience fewer respiratory infections
In patients who experience significant back pain, meditation was shown to reduce the severity of the pain
Meditation has been found to be beneficial in smoking cessation
Can Meditation Be Beneficial For Recovery?
Because the purpose of meditation is to help people turn their focus inward and to discover themselves, this is a practice that can be highly useful for those in recovery from addictions.
Even under the best of circumstances life can be stressful, and it can be hard to cope. As people learn to live life without their substance of choice it can be difficult to adjust.
Those who are in recovery often complain of anxiety, pain, stress, poor sleep, depression, and cravings. These complaints can often lead to relapse, so it is important that people have a way to cope with these issues.
SAMHSA suggests keeping the mind and body busy during withdrawal and recovery, and since meditation is exercise for the mind, it can be a beneficial tool during this period.
Evidence has shown that meditation can be useful for treating addiction. Researchers studied the brains of people who battled an addiction and found that meditation activated the areas in the brain that are associated with self-control.
Emerging data is promising, too. New studies are showing that meditation can be beneficial in the treatment of substance use disorders.
Meditation In Recovery
While in recovery, you should certainly seek out all opportunities for healing and restoration. Speak with your doctor or recovery team about adding meditation to your treatment plan. There are many different methods of meditation, and it might take time to find what works best for you. It never hurts to get started though, and some things you can do right now are:
- Downloading a free meditation app
- Take a relaxing walk and focus on yourself, your posture, your breathing, etc.
- Sign up for a meditation class
- Think positively
- Pay attention to your body and the sensations you are experiencing
- Concentrate on the good things
- Breathe deeply
Purpose Of Yoga
“Downward Dog”, “Child’s Pose”, “Warrior”. These are the names of a few of the physical postures that are taken by those who are practicing yoga.
More than a simple physical exercise, the Yoga Journal says that through attempting these postures, a person is connecting their mind, body, and breath in order to focus attention inward and gain self-awareness.
Just as with meditation, yoga forces a person to be more in tune with themselves. Practicing yoga brings the mind and body together, and this can be quite beneficial for overall health.
While flowing through the different positions in a yoga session, a person can experience the following:
- Increased mindfulness, calmness, and relaxation
- Better heart health
- Better posture
- Increased flexibility
- Better muscle tone and strength
- Improved respiratory health
- Positive mood
- Better focus
Can Yoga Be Beneficial For Recovery?
For those in recovery from addictions to drugs, alcohol, and other substances, yoga can be highly beneficial.
In addition to improving sleep, reducing pain, and increasing energy, yoga can help those in recovery with the following things:
- Increase GABA: A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that those who practiced yoga saw an almost 30 percent increase in GABA levels in their brains. This is important because GABA can help to reduce cravings for drugs, increasing the chance for long term sobriety.
- Reduce Cravings: Researchers showed that those engaged in physical activities like yoga were better able to fight off cravings for drugs.
- Dopamine Regulation: Yoga can boost dopamine levels in the brain, resulting in feelings of happiness thanks to the brain’s reward pathway. This is a natural dopamine increase as opposed to the false increase that is the result of using drugs.
Because yoga can be beneficial physically and mentally throughout the recovery journey, it is a good idea to incorporate it into your treatment lifestyle.
Be sure to speak with your doctor and care team about this option, as they may be aware of classes and other sources of information.
In the meantime, there are a plethora of free apps as well as videos on the internet to help you get started with your yoga journey.
The Role Of Mindfulness Activities In Addiction Recovery
We’ve seen how yoga focuses on physical awareness and meditation allows us to look inward. When practicing mindfulness, a person focuses on their external surroundings.
In practicing mindfulness, a person not only becomes more aware of what is happening around them, but also pays closer attention to how they feel about and how they react to external circumstances. Practicing mindfulness can help people to retain peacefulness no matter what is happening around them. This can be vital during recovery from addiction.
There is only so much that a person can control and having the knowledge and tools to be able to choose how to react to situations beyond control can help keep people on the track to recovery.
In studying mindfulness and addiction, researchers published findings of their clinical trial in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). People were separated into three groups for the study:
- Treatment As Usual group which used education and traditional 12-step programs
- Relapse Prevention approach
- Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention which joined cognitive behavioral relapse prevention methods with mindfulness and meditation
With check-ups at 6 months and 12 months, researchers found that when compared to study participants who received only “Treatment As Usual” or “Relapse Prevention”, those who participated in the “Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention” fared better. Those in the combined program experienced fewer days with alcohol as well as substance abuse.
Getting To The Root Of Addictive Behaviors
There is absolutely a place in addiction treatment for traditional therapies. Unfortunately, most of these types of therapies focus on treating the addiction itself rather than the underlying cause.
Through the practices of mindfulness, recovery yoga, and meditation healing will come. It is imperative that a person be able to look within through yoga meditation but also be aware of outside influences that could trigger a relapse into drug or alcohol abuse.
Adding mindfulness yoga and meditation as a complement to traditional treatment methods can result in a better outcome for many patients. In addition to relieving stress. Improving mental health, and reducing cravings, yoga of recovery can greatly increase a person’s quality of life.
Many people who battle addiction will find that they’ve been battling other things as well. Those who have a dual diagnosis of addiction combined with anxiety, depression, or another mental disorder can benefit greatly from yoga and meditation.
As shown above, these practices can improve mental health and well-being in addition to being useful for overcoming cravings for harmful substances.
Continual Benefits Of Meditation And Yoga
Research has repeatedly shown that people who engage in activities like yoga are less likely to experience a relapse as part of their recovery. They are also more likely to stick with their recovery programs and have better outcomes.
Here To Help
Finding the right combination of treatments is important to recovery. Many people respond better with a multi-pronged approach combining both traditional and alternative therapy options for addiction and recovery.
Here at District Recovery, we believe in tailoring our available treatment options to suit your needs. We have the skills, staff, and experience to help guide you through a program that is created for you and your recovery.
If you or a loved one is living with addiction and is ready to break free, please reach out to us today! We are standing by, ready to help you discover the options available to you.