The Benefits of Yoga in Chemical Dependency Treatment
Without a doubt, treating addiction – whether it’s to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, food, gambling, sex or shopping – is a complex journey of learning to deal with emotions, environment and physical chemistry. The belief of many addiction specialists is that people become addicted to their substance of choice as a coping mechanism, a way of filling an inner void or because they’re looking for spiritual fulfillment.
The practice of yoga can complement conventional chemical dependency treatment by helping to break the cycle of addiction in several positive ways. In fact, a 12-step program and the eight-fold path of yoga practice are very similar in that they both emphasize truth, meditation, surrendering to a higher power and developing self-awareness.
Often stressful situations trigger a person’s desire to engage in addictive behavior. Additionally, a long-term dependency on drugs and alcohol – and the accompanying poor nutrition and lax health care – can significantly impact someone’s physical well being. Just getting used to living a sober life can be a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Because yoga emphasizes willpower and stress-reduction, addicts can learn to regain control over their bodies and their minds to better face temptations or avoid them altogether.
Stanford University Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science Roy King, Ph.D., M.D., has studied the biological impact of yoga on drug abuse. He has noted the correlation between yoga and its ability to inhibit the dopamine surge that addicts get from using – and sometimes the cravings they feel just even thinking about taking drugs. Additionally, King has found that the intense breathing patterns in forms of yoga, such as Kundalini, release the body’s natural pleasure-producing endorphins.
Additionally, those in recovery are strongly encouraged to avoid their old substance-using friends as well as anxiety-producing situations. Beyond building physical strength, spirituality and self-awareness, yoga can help someone with a chemical dependency build sangha, a new, healthy community of friends.
Recovery is a long – often very difficult – process. By incorporating yoga into their recovery practice, people can learn new tools to release stress and connect into their inner strengths.