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How Yoga Can Help You Thrive in Recovery

The real payoff of a yoga practice, I came to see, is not a perfect handstand or a deeper forward bend – it is the newly born self that each day steps off the yoga mat and back into life. ~ Rolf Gates

Yoga is a powerful practice for the mind and body that helps to replace addiction with something that will enrich your life in a more wholesome way.

Yoga help our bodies and our minds. Dr. William Glasser explains in his book Positive Addiction how activities like yoga can fill the void of drug or alcohol use when a person is trying to change their life.

Yoga is a 5,000-year-old practice that can no longer be called a trend, as currently millions of Americans are enjoying its health benefits. Yoga connects the mind, body, and spirit through body poses, controlled breathing, and meditation.

My Personal Yoga Journey

I started practicing yoga about ten years ago, about the same time I realized we had the disease of addiction in our family. I wanted to make some positive changes in my life, and a yoga practice felt like a good place to start.

It was a way to help me stay focused on the present moment as I practiced the poses. Yoga let my mind take a break from worrying about my kids. It is an introspective practice offering us a chance to turn inward and nurture the calm, quiet center that is in all of us. Yoga is a practice of stillness, patience, and non-reactivity.

The practice enhances a person’s self-care by teaching us to become better listeners as we practice tuning in. We become wiser as we get to know ourselves from the inside out. Exploring our own inner worlds allows us to become more curious about the world around us.

With a body that is stretched and more limber, I feel happier and more content after each yoga class that I attend. Yoga helps me connect with my breath. It teaches me how to move and how to get comfortable in my own body. It also reminds me that at times, I need to relinquish control.

On and off the mat, yoga has influenced my life and brought me to an amazing calm that I had never felt before. From the beginning stretches to the final resting post, my mind becomes focused as I move from pose to pose. I look forward to my practice, as well as to the final relaxation pose when my mind and body are blissful and calm.

We live in a time of uncertainty where we all yearn for clarity and direction. Yoga is one path out of the haze of our confusion.

What Can Yoga Bring to Your Life?

Yoga can bring so much to your life if you allow the goodness of the practice to surround you. It can lead you forward.

As we age, the aches and pains begin to slowly creep up. Yoga can help them quietly disappear by giving your body a tune-up. Your life will be more manageable whether you are new to recovery, in recovery, or a parent who is concerned about their child’s recovery.

What yogis know is that once you start, and you begin to internalize the yoga philosophy, you’ll want more. The mat beckons for your return.

Kyczy Hawk, author of Yoga and the Twelve Step Path, expressed it this way:

“A continued practice of yoga has kept me vital, has kept me in touch with my feelings (physical and emotional) and given me tools to work through my feelings rather than thinking them away, pushing them down, denying them. Being in myself, believing in my feelings, allowing them space and the chance to leave, has made me a very grounded person. I am solid, and I am in touch.  I can feel and express compassion without being enmeshed; I can accept myself just as I am.”

Tommy Rosen, creator of Recovery 2.0 says that:

“Yoga is about connection. It’s about union, the union of body, mind and spirit, the union of breath and movement with the quieting of the mind, the developing of health, flexibility and strength in the body. All of these things are positive assets when it comes to recovering from addiction.

Addiction is exactly the opposite state: it is being disconnected from our minds, from our bodies, and from our spirits. Yoga is something that brings us back into alignment, brings us back to our focus in the practice of yoga postures and yoga movements. We have to focus on our breath, we have to focus on the movement and the alignment of our body.”

The benefits of yoga are equally helpful to anyone. Since all of us are most likely recovering from something, yoga can enhance your long-term positive change. The journey inward that yoga provides will give you a better understanding of yourself, your life, and your relationships.

A Look at the Benefits of Yoga

Apart from all the medical benefits, such as decreased blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and general prevention of disease, here are 12 ways that practicing yoga can help you. Some may surprise you.

  • Self-Acceptance
    You focus on yourself during yoga practice and realize that a perfect pose is not the goal; the practice is. You accept your strengths as well as your limitations on the mat and hopefully carry these same lessons to your life off the mat.
  • Self-Compassion
    All aspects of our lives, (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) need tending for our overall well-being. With yoga, we have the opportunity to observe, nurture, soothe, and calm ourselves. Carefully taking a posture and adjusting for your body’s unique set of needs is a form of self-care and loving kindness.
  • Positive Outlook
    The longer you practice, the more you develop a stable, positive approach to life. Practicing yoga helps you to feel happier and realize that all things are possible. Going into your practice you may feel anxious and stressed, but when you leave you will feel more relaxed and peaceful.
  • Better Concentration
    With regular practice, concentration and motivation improve. As you concentrate on each pose, your focus improves. Continued yoga practice helps with better concentration off the mat as well, which can be a benefit in all areas of your life.
  • Reduced Stress
    Yoga practice encourages less stress. You learn to focus on what’s happening at the present moment in time and let go of the stressful feelings that are keeping you stuck. You will be giving your brain a break during your 90 minutes of practice.
  • Body-Mind Connection
    Your mind quiets to a place of calm and peace, as you control your breathing as your body moves through the poses., You mind connects with your body for each pose, and quiets as you concentrate completely during your practice. During yoga practice you are encouraged to notice your breath and let go of your thoughts, which helps to calm your mind.
  • Discover Patience
    As you practice each pose, you realize it takes patience to build your practice and to master each pose. Some are easier for different body types than others, and some will never be mastered in this lifetime. We learn patience with ourselves as we practice.
  • Letting go of Depression
    During your practice, many of the negative feelings that you may be repressing will surface and be released. You have now let go of the negative energy which may ease any depression you are feeling.
  • More Resilience
    Holding a pose can provoke anxiety. When you approach it with tenderness, the body acclimates. Giving up the need to control a situation is a lesson we can carry with us into our day-to-day life. We learn how to adapt to the ups and downs of life. We practice managing with grace, which can lessen our predisposition to stress.
  • Sit with Your Emotions
    Our bodies store emotions, and it’s not uncommon for sensitive thoughts, memories, and feelings to surface while practicing any form of yoga. The practice teaches us how to be gentle, patient, and non-reactive. When our emotions bubble to the surface, the conditions are safe.
  • Flexibility
    You can improve the flexibility of your body at any time or any age. When you stretch your muscles, you release stiffness, tension, pain and fatigue. Your range of motion improves. Continued practice will enhance your flexibility.
  • Cultivate Balance
    Your own health and well-being is a balancing act. If you look at the yin/yang symbol, you will see the white and black forms are perfectly balanced. Many of us live very active lives and leave little time to foster the quiet, introspective side. This can be physically, mentally, psychically and emotionally draining. Through yoga, you can restore your equilibrium and feel whole.


Images Courtesy of iStock

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