Yoga has become a staple in holistic substance abuse programs — and with good reason. A combination of slow, conscious movements and relaxed breathing, yoga provides you with physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. Actor Colin Farrell credits his successful recovery from substance abuse, in part, to yoga.
Yoga and Body Chemistry
Many addictive substances cause low levels of GABA, an important nervous system and brain chemical. GABA regulates many central nervous system and muscular functions, including excitability and muscle tone. Research indicates regular yoga practice increases GABA levels by over 20 percent. As part of an inpatient substance abuse program, yoga helps restore your central nervous system function.
Yoga also stimulates the internal organs, helping the kidney, liver, and other organs function properly and purge toxins. As a result, you feel healthier and better about yourself.
Yoga and Self-Control
Impulsivity can result in drug abuse and increases the risk of relapse after treatment. As an addict, your brain learned to react automatically to substance abuse triggers. Yoga helps retrain your mind, lowering the risk you’ll fall back into old patterns of behavior.
Yoga does so by promoting mental and physical control. You perform each yoga movement with attentiveness and concentration. In the process, you teach yourself to think and react with attention, rather than falling into automatic behavioral patterns.
A Relaxed State of Mind
Substance abuse can over-stimulate the mind, causing insomnia, restlessness, or agitation. Conversely, some drugs depress mental activity, slowing thought processes and leaving the user feeling listless and apathetic. Both extremes make thinking and focusing difficult.
Yoga promotes a sense of deep, alert relaxation, helping reset the brain’s natural rhythms. The deep breathing associated with yoga calms anxiety and agitation. At the same time, the physical movements keep you alert and focused. Instead of operating at emotional and mental extremes, you develop a calm yet active mental state.
Most forms of yoga employ meditation, which helps heal the spirit as well as the body and mind. Acknowledging a higher power has been an important part of 12-step programs for many years. Yoga can help you connect to this higher power and reawaken your spirituality.
Yoga and Social Connections
Reestablishing social ties is an important step in the months after treatment. While you can practice yoga alone, you may want to consider regular yoga classes. Yoga classes offer a safe, controlled environment, providing you with the social support you need.