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Yoga is a discipline that uses controlled breathing and physical postures to strengthen and lengthen the spine, calm the mind, improve flexibility and concentration, promote patience, and more. Additionally, it can help people deal with cravings, agitation, insomnia, and more.

Yoga for Addiction Recovery

Yoga is now being used more and more to help those who are recovering from an addiction. This is because it can improve their mental and physical health. As a result, a lot of rehab centers now incorporate yoga as part of their treatment. It helps in a range of ways, including giving people the foundation they need to alleviate stress once they return home. Early recovery is when the chance of relapse is highest, and this technique can help avoid that.

Understanding Yoga

Yoga first started in India around 3000 BC. Lately, Western countries have adopted it as well to help them promote health and to develop spiritually. Yoga itself is a Sanskrit word that describes the union of the mind, body, and soul. Yoga, contrary to popular belief, is about more than just taking on poses. In reality, it has eight different limbs:

1. Yama, which is the principle of restraining behavior, not stealing, being non-violent, avoiding jealousy, and always speaking the truth
2. Niyama, which is spiritual practice such as spiritual austerities, contentment, studying sacred texts, surrendering to a higher power, and cleanliness
3. Asana, which are the actual poses
4. Pranayama, which are the breathing techniques
5. Pratyahara, where you withdraw from your senses
6. Dharana, which refers to intense, pointed meditation
7. Dhyana, which refers to flowing rather than pointed meditation
8. Patanjali, meditating to a point of transcendence, which also invokes ecstatic feelings

Most people do not practice all eight limbs of yoga. In fact, the majority of people only focus on asana and pranayama. While this may not be complete, it is more than enough to reap some benefits.

How Yoga Can Be of Benefit Someone in Recovery

Yoga is a practice that promotes health of the mind, body, and soul. Some of its clearest benefits are:

1. It can help as a way to relieve stress. Stress can lead to various illnesses, and people often don’t know how to manage certain stress factors. Through yoga, anxiety levels and tension can be reduced. Studies have demonstrated that yoga lowers cortisol levels.
2. It increases physical fitness, making people stronger and more flexible. Elderly people who still practice yoga often have younger bodies. It is healthy without straining the body.
3. It helps people to relax and prevent insomnia.
4. It can help with weight control. Because it is not intense, people can continue to practice yoga even if they are not physically fit. Plus, because stress levels are reduced, people are less likely to comfort eat. Lastly, yoga creates a bond with the body, meaning people become more conscious of how to keep it healthy.
5. Blood circulation is improved with yoga, meaning less chance of heart disease and a lower blood pressure. Resting heart rate is reduced, meaning less strain is placed on the heart.
6. People who practice yoga develop a sense of inner piece. This means that they can better cope with various challenges as well.
7. Yoga significantly improves people’s mental state, decreasing feelings of depression and anxiety, leaving people happier. At the same time, it improves memory, concentration, and mental clarity.

Yoga for Those Recovering from an Addiction

All of the above benefits are true for everybody who practices yoga, but it is particularly good for those who are recovering from an addiction. When people abuse drugs, their mind, body, and soul are no longer in balance. Through yoga, they can learn to be happy with themselves again. At the same time, it can help them lower the levels of stress that they are experiencing from withdrawal. Lastly, they can build their fitness and strength back up as well.

12 Step programs will always tell you that there are three aspects of an addiction: mental, physical, and spiritual. Yoga addresses all three of these elements, which is what makes it unique and so beneficial to recovering patients.

How to Start with Yoga in Recovery

Luckily, it is very easy to get started with yoga. Do start slowly, and work your way up. Some useful hints and tips:

1. Have a teacher and go to a class, particularly at the start, so that you learn the basics properly. It is also an opportunity to socialize with like-minded people.
2. Learn about the different types of yoga. Vinyasa yoga focuses mostly on breathing, hatha yoga focuses on poses, and so on.
3. Pick up some books on yoga, check out videos on YouTube, and so on. However, don’t expect to be able to truly learn from these without a proper teacher.
4. Get a yoga mat and some comfortable shoes. You can also get yoga socks and gloves, but they are not a necessity.
5. Perform at least 20 minutes of yoga per day if you truly want to benefit.
6. Practice yoga when you get up and just before you go to bed.
7. Take it easy! If it hurts, stop and stretch yourself a little bit less.
8. Create a relaxing atmosphere with soft music and incense.
9. Always speak to a health practitioner before you start doing yoga.
10. Enjoy!