How Yoga Can Benefit Addiction Recovery If you or someone you love is battling substance abuse or addiction, there are many treatment methods and programs available to help, from traditional to alternative. Especially effective are holistic programs, which focus on treating the whole person rather than just the disease. One powerful tool that often gets incorporated into these programs is the practice of yoga. Popular for its health and wellness benefits, yoga is considered by many to be a natural form of medicine — a tool for healing the body and the spirit. Practitioners praise it for relieving stress, building strength and stamina, improving pain, increasing energy, boosting self-confidence and more. For people suffering from addiction, yoga can be a powerful complementary tool for combating substance abuse. Here are a few key ways yoga can benefit addiction recovery: • By providing a healthy coping mechanism — When a recovering addict can no longer turn to substances to cope with triggers or stressors, he or she needs different, healthier outlets. Yoga is a great, health-boosting practice that can be done anywhere. It’s a go-to strategy for responding to frustration. • By teaching self-care — Because so much of addictive behavior is self-harming, it’s important for recovering addicts to learn new strategies for physical, mental and emotional self-care. Through yoga, they can gain a tool for embracing wellness. This can be an important step in changing their overall view of their physical selves and how best to care for them. • By relieving stress — Yoga can blunt the emotional triggers that drove the recovering addict to substance abuse in the first place by relieving stress. The impact of stress on the body is huge. It speeds the heart rate, increases blood pressure, impacts respiration and raises body temperature, just for a start. Yoga counteracts these damages by balancing stress hormones and potentially enlarging the part of the brain that controls stress. • By reducing cravings — One key part of yoga is rhythmic breathing, and this simple practice alone has been shown to reduce practitioners’ nicotine cravings. Because of this, yoga could be an effective weapon against certain addictions. • By improving the mind-body connection — A key component of substance abuse is how it prevents a person from feeling normal bodily sensations. The recovery process is enhanced by including steps that help addicts regain a healthy understanding of physical sensation and how to respond to it. Yoga is a practice that engages both the mind and the body through breathing exercises, movement and meditation. It can increase a person’s self-awareness and help him or her take responsibility for actions and ownership for behavior. • By combating anxiety — Having a calming practice to return to when you’re feeling anxious is a great way to combat emotional instability — something that is often behind addicted behavior. Yoga offers a centering, grounding way to safely settle the mind and emotions. • By boosting confidence — For anyone who’s weighed down by the regret of past mistakes or poor decisions, yoga offers a way to rebuild confidence through attainable challenges and reflective meditation. As individuals gain new skills and physical capabilities, they may develop a willingness to take on other challenges, including the ongoing fight against addiction. For these reasons and more, yoga is an effective practice to use in addiction recovery. Because it affects a person physically, mentally and emotionally, it’s a useful tool for combatting each of those components of substance abuse. As a person regularly calms, stretches and moves the body in intentional ways, it can significantly change the way he or she feels, thinks and learns to handle difficulty. That’s why yoga is such a valuable tool as part of a complete, whole-body treatment program — and one worth trying for patients today. About The Author Tony Goodman is Executive Vice President of Marketing and Commercial Development at Symetria Recovery, an outpatient rehab center in Houston . Goodman holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marshall University and has spent more than 23 years in the pharma and biotech industries. He previously founded Keswick Group, LLC, a healthcare strategic commercial and business development advisory firm.