A Helping Hand: How Yoga Can Help With Alcohol Addiction

by Cody Hill | January 11, 2017 10:18 pm

It’s a common belief that addicts and yogis don’t sail in the same boat. As a matter of fact, most people would even argue that they’re practically on opposite poles. But who are we to say certain treatments can’t work? For one, there are many ways to overcome addiction and medical treatment is just one of them. Throughout the years, there have been certain methods that have higher rates of success, like the 12 Step Program[1], than others.

However, treatment doesn’t begin and end with a single treatment plan and can be supplemented by alternative activities and methods. One popular addition to traditional and even non-traditional treatment has been yoga.

Although medical treatment forms are a major part of alcohol addiction recovery, more and more rehab centers are including yoga and meditation as a spiritual treatment modality for recovery from alcohol addiction.

What Are Some Things Addicts Experience Throughout Their Addiction?

To begin with, alcohol addiction or alcoholism is a condition [2]that occurs when a person has a dependency on alcohol. This dependency impacts their lives as well as their relationships with loved ones. Alcoholism can be a deadly disease if it isn’t treated. The condition can lead to liver damage or result in traumatic accidents.

In addition to the potentially harmful physical effects of stress[3], in far too many cases stress and depression can also push people into drinking alcohol. It is used as a coping mechanism[4], helping them keep reality at bay, and dissociate from the world, their bodies and most importantly, themselves. In other words, addicts rely on alcohol to drain out the psychological stress and anxiety they’re going through. Alcohol addiction develops rapidly as alcohol triggers the reward systems in the brain.

On the contrary, when an addict wants to quit their bad habit, their body goes through withdrawals. The withdrawal symptoms are dreary and horrible and the fear of having to go through this experience often prevents people from quitting. This is when individuals start to sink into a vicious cycle. In due time, alcohol traps alcoholics in a fabricated world of distortion and denial.

How Can Yoga Help Addicts?

Yoga is a gentle exercise designed to help you get in tune with your body. Since alcoholism can make you feel out of control, yoga may help ease your aggression. Yoga also helps to let go of the past and step into the present world. In other words, it teaches individuals to cope with life better and modulate their own psychological upheavals.

Many types of yoga exercises exist, from slower-paced Hatha yoga to vigorous power yoga[5]. With this recent discovery, community centers, gyms, and yoga studios all over are now offering classes to addicts.

How Does Yoga Help During the Recovery Process?

Meditation. Believe it or not, this is a big part of yoga, as it trains and changes the way we think. The way it works is by enabling the mind and body. To put it another way, it binds the person with the world again. Meditation helps the person to calm down and reconnect with his or her own body and breath. This is what helps the addict feel, comfortable in their own skin.

Meditation also helps us turn inward. In other words, it helps us turn our spirits inside out, creating an opportunity for introspection. As you start connecting with your inner self, the external highs will mean less and less, until there comes a point, where you no longer need them.

Yoga quiets our mind. There is a sutra in the Yoga Sutras of Pat Anjali that reads Yoga Citta Vrtti Nirodhah. This translates into yoga being labeled as “the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” This one sutra summarizes the purpose of yoga. Of all the practices mentioned throughout the article, undertaking your physical endeavor, and adapting a spiritual pathway are two of the most important keys to a successful recovery.

It rejuvenates your body. The highly specialized kundalini yoga has also been shown to play a vital role in the regeneration of nerves and glandular tissues of the body. The difficult poses, for example, test your endurance and inner strength. Which then becomes clear that practicing this form of yoga regularly increase your mental and physical endurance.

It forms a support group. Alcoholics tend to be extremely lonely throughout their recovery process. With no company, the desire to come out of the false worlds slowly begins to subside until the addict starts drinking again. In yoga classes, however, teachers and fellow students provide the support group the addict needs. For instance, when the alcoholic sees fellow trainees struggling with some of the positions, it motivates them to leave their addiction and embark on a more rewarding journey towards a better life for them and their family.

Namaste.

 

Endnotes:
  1. 12 Step Program: http://www.ohioarc.com/twelve-step-programs/
  2. alcoholism is a condition : http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/alcoholism/print.html
  3. physical effects of stress: http://onlinemasters.ohio.edu/the-physical-effects-of-stress/
  4. It is used as a coping mechanism: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/201303/why-stress-turns-depression
  5. Many types of yoga exercises exist, from slower-paced Hatha yoga to vigorous power yoga: http://yogadigest.com/yoga-style-best-meets-needs/

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