can yoga help with addictionBy Faye Martins

Think about it: Can yoga help with addiction? Yes, but what does addiction have to do with yoga? Imagine my surprise when one of my first teaching assignments was at a drug rehabilitation clinic.  Yoga teacher training hadn’t prepared me for this one and I had no idea which drug did what!  I contacted Paul Jerard for some advice, which was very encouraging.  Although we learned many pranayama techniques during yoga instructor training, I hadn’t considered the state of euphoria we take for granted could be so effective in drug rehabilitation.  Additionally, there is much more of this experience for me to share with you.


Anyone Can Become an Addict

Addiction can happen to anyone. They may not even realize they have what is classified as an addiction. It can be to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. These are the first things that come to mind when someone says addiction. However, people are also addicted to food, hoarding, shopping, gambling and many other similar things. Addiction is extremely hard to overcome and it’s true that traditional therapy methods can work; but many are discovering that implementing yoga into their schedule plays a major role in helping them overcome their addictions. It is the mind-body approach that helps people who are suffering from addiction realize how strong their body really is. Replacing their addiction with yoga can be extremely difficult, but in turn it helps them kick the addiction, and begin a path to recovery.


How it Works

How can yoga help with addiction recovery” Addiction is a lifestyle that is run on complete impulse. The impulse to grab some fast food, or smoke a cigarette, or do whatever it takes that provides immediate satisfaction and calms the desire that created that impulse. Yoga students who are trying to overcome addiction realize that through a bit of strain and discomfort their mind and body are focused on something else, and the impulse is controlled. The satisfaction that is achieved through yoga training and using the mind as well as the body is equal to or greater than the satisfaction they would have gained from giving into their addiction. Yogic methods can prevent addiction by switching a good habit for a bad one and the impulse is controlled, because yoga causes euphoria with no bad side effects.


Kundalini and Hatha are two yoga styles that are perfect for those struggling with addiction. They both practice slow movements and controlled breathing (pranayama) along with engaging the mind to achieve a peaceful state of being. Kundalini incorporates more meditation and chanting of mantras to build spiritual awareness. Certain breathing patterns have proven to release endorphins. Endorphins create feelings of pleasure, which help replace those that were brought on by the addiction.


In addition to the practice of yoga training, the sense of community and togetherness can create a safe haven for those who are recovering from addiction. They may feel they are not alone, and feel like their yoga instructor and classmates are there for them, and know where they are coming from. That combined with the peacefulness that yoga training methods bring about can become the perfect marriage of elements on the journey to complete well-being. Can yoga help with addiction? In a supportive environment, and as an adjunct method, yoga contains lifeskill that help anyone during challenging times.


Side Notes for Yoga Teachers

If you’ve never been addicted to anything – good for you.  However, your strength is what addicts need to learn to master.  There is no better role model for an addict than someone who has recovered or someone who has a gateway to an alternative lifestyle.  It’s easy enough to find a local counselor who can point out  rehabilitation centers and clinics. Additionally, there are many types of addictions and the path to recovery might not be a straight line. Some people struggle through multiple relapses. Each relapse crushes us emotionally, which combines the problem with anger, guilt, shame, loneliness and depression.  This combination of toxic emotions and addiction can cause and addict to consider ending his or her life. For this reason teachers should focus on providing a productive and supportive class. We can help students with coping techniques, but we should not be counseling, unless that is our profession.


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