Active addiction can be boiled down to a complete lack of presence. Those in the throes of addiction are constantly on the hunt for the next drink or high, intoxicated, or withdrawing. It is a vicious and soul-crushing cycle, characterized by an inability to stop. Addiction recovery, on the other hand, is all about learning to live in the present moment, stay mindful, and focus on each individual day as it comes. “One day at a time” has become a sober slogan, used by members of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs.
Additionally, a spiritual connection lies at the base of every solid program of recovery. This newfound sense of spirituality can be difficult for newly sober individuals to grasp; likely, over the course of their addictions, they struggled to remain spiritually connected to the world around them. With mindfulness, living in the present moment, and spirituality in mind, yoga has proven to be an extremely beneficial tool for those beginning on the path to recovery.
Yoga and Meditation
The art of meditation is woven into nearly every yoga practice – one of the main goals of yoga is to train the mind to remain present, and to experience sensations (physical, mental, and emotional) as they come. Addiction is typically spurned by some emotional cause, whether it be depression, fear, anxiety, or disillusionment.
Negative emotions are uncomfortable, and many addicts and alcoholics attempt to self-medicate with chemical substances. Attempt to numb the mind. Mindfulness meditation allows us to retrain our minds, essentially. It teaches us that unpleasant emotions are an expected and unavoidable part of life and that rather than attempt to numb them out, we should acknowledge them, experience them, and let them go.
Of course, meditation doesn’t come naturally to most people – especially those new to sobriety. The mind has a tendency to race, and it can feel near impossible to slow it down and simply breathe. Yoga essentially prepares the mind for meditation. Originally, yoga postures were designed to systematically calm the mind, preparing it to meditate. In order to move through yoga poses with relative ease, one must focus on breath – inhaling and exhaling rhythmically, in a way that benefits the body.
Annapurna Lacour, an Ananda Yoga Instructor, E-RYT 200, and Ananda Meditation Teacher, wrote in a recent article on the link between yoga and meditation, “Meditation and yoga are interrelated. They go hand and hand. They work together to unite our small self with our higher soul self. One cannot be present without the other. We need to be aware of the body in order to forget about it, in order to go inward in meditation. Where the breath flows, the mind goes. In yoga and meditation, we can raise our consciousness. Yoga helps us to bring the body to the point of stillness by clearing away the restless energy we carry around, and prepares us to become fully immersed in deep concentration, meditation.”
Yoga and Addiction Recovery
We at Garden State Treatment Center understand the indisputable benefits of yoga, especially when it comes to those new to addiction recovery. Our inpatient program of recovery encourages patients to participate in weekly yoga classes, which focus (in large part) on mindfulness meditation. Our goal is to instill the skills necessary to deal with uncomfortable emotions – emotions that may have otherwise lead to relapse. Managing emotions is more than half the battle.
Addicts and alcoholics turn to chemical substances as a form of escapism; they are uncomfortable in their own skin and want to do all they can to numb this discomfort. Yoga helps our patients to feel comfortable in their skin once again, and to process emotions in a healthy and efficient way. For more information on our program of recovery, or to learn more about the ways in which yoga can benefit recovering addicts and alcoholics, please feel free to contact us today.