chemical addictionsBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Yoga has many facets for healing. At the top of the list is meditation.  Although Yoga postures help people cope with life’s daily problems, the body is being adjusted to bring about states of inner calm.  Yoga meditation preserves this feeling of calm by teaching the practitioner how to control the mind. Controlling one’s mind is a life saving skill.

A chemical addiction is a serious medical issue with a physical and a psychological component. The body may crave a specific “mind and mood altering substance,” but overcoming the physical addiction is just the first step. Ultimately, it is the mental addiction, and the difficulty in changing habits with coping mechanisms, that can lead addicts to relapse.

Accordingly, strengthening the mind is an extremely important step in chemical addiction recovery. Like a toddler learning to walk, the mind grasps for something to cling to. When drugs are removed as an option, the mind is left flailing and must be taught with other methods and new tools. Yoga, in conjunction with meditation, can be a very powerful ally to the mind, which is struggling for new footholds.

Meditation creates states of “mindful awareness.” Labeling thoughts that come into the mind as one meditates, and learning to observe them without judging, or becoming attached to them, teaches the meditation practitioner to separate these feelings or cravings from the self. Prayer and meditation are specifically mentioned in step 11 of Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step program.

Kevin Griffin, the author of “One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps,” points out that “in addiction, people turn to drugs to escape from uncomfortable feelings, but in meditation, you learn to do the opposite. You sit with yourself, your thoughts, and feelings, instead of running away.” Admittedly, the process can be difficult. Similar to insights in therapy, insights in meditation come at the cost of facing the feelings that addiction has been masking. Yet, only by facing these feelings can they lose their power.

Loving kindness meditation develops a systematic quality of loving acceptance towards others and the self, through regular practice. Addiction mistreats the body and the self, so increasing feelings of self-worth and self-acceptance, faults and all, can be extremely healing. Loving kindness towards those around us also makes us aware of the toll that addiction can take on our friends and loved ones.

Incorporating meditation into an existing Yoga practice can be as simple as setting aside time before or after regular mat time. Practice in a peaceful area, where disturbances are minimized. Remember that meditation alone may not be sufficient support for recovery .  Therefore, it is wise to seek other assistance, such as  professional counseling or therapy, as needed.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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