Daily Yoga and meditation – early morning sessions
"Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny." ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness provide helpful tools for addiction recovery. Yoga combines both exercise and mindfulness (the practice of ”non-judgmental attention to experience" in the present moment). Moderate to high intensity physical exercise, including mind-body practices, have been shown to improve attainment of sobriety as well as to reduce anxiety and depression — symptoms that often trigger relapse.
The famous rubric for Recovery is HALT -- don't let yourself get too Hungry, Lonely, Angry or Tired. Yoga plus mindfulness is HALT from another angle. (Say it just once, for practice. HALT!)
Yoga has been helpful for people who are recovering from alcohol dependence, and opiate dependence. Yoga and meditation have been helpful to people who want stop smoking cigarettes as well. (Which makes sense when you think of taking a deep centering breath, instead of a drag on a cigarette.)
Mindfulness programs for substance abuse include regular sitting meditations and have been shown to be even more effective than 12-step programs and psychoeducation in lowering risk of relapse and having fewer days of substance use or drinking at both 6 months and a year later. Yoga was just as effective as group psychotherapy over 6 months in reducing drug use in people attending a methadone maintenance program.
Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness target the main symptoms of substance abuse, including cravings, impulsivity, negative mood, and increased reactions to stress.
Here are some ways mindfulness and yoga help the road to Recovery.
- Reduce stress and anxiety
Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, which can often trigger substance use. By creating a capacity to observe and be aware of stressful and difficult situations, there is less need to immediately react. With mindfulness, you are better able to notice your emotions and make room for them, which decreases the pressure that you put on yourself.
- Improve attention and awareness
Mindful attention can help people in recovery to understand better their patterns of behavior, including triggers for relapse and substance use. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practice focus on self-reflection. Mindfulness and yoga training emphasize awareness without a need for reaction. In other words, you get used to noticing uncomfortable feelings without needing to react or escape them.
- Reduce cravings
Cravings are strong predictors of relapse. Over time, mindfulness training have been found to reduce cravings, even when people experience negative or difficult feelings. One brain imaging study found that smokers who were trained to pay attention to smoking images in a mindful manner showed less craving on brain activity compared to those who didn't have this training.
- Improve mood
Negative moods and the resulting desire to avoid these feelings can play a significant role in relapse. Different forms of yoga, including regular breathing exercises, have been shown to improve mood in people going through addiction recovery.