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Yoga Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Yoga calms the mind, body and spirit.By Julie Kielly Gergely, RYT

In the yogic view, addiction is a symptom of a serious imbalance in the individual.  Yoga is an effective therapy in addiction treatment as it integrates the body, mind and spirit, to return the individual to balance and wholeness. 

Yoga requires that we stay still, breathe, and feel.   Practice on the mat teaches us to be more skilful off the mat.  Yoga practice creates a state of calm alertness, which allows the recovering addict to respond from a place of clarity, instead of reactivity and impulsiveness.  This continued awareness enables the individual to see choices clearly, release negativity, reduce cravings and break habitual patterns.  Yoga practice also cultivates discipline, inner-strength and willpower, replacing the addict’s feelings of powerlessness, while improving their physical condition and increasing self-esteem.  The client regains control of his/her life and rediscovers, or discovers for the first time: who they are, where they want to go, and what they need to do to get there.

Hatha Yoga in Addiction Treatment

Yoga means union of body, mind and spirit.  Hatha yoga includes postures, breathing techniques and relaxation/meditation. 

  • The physical poses help to detoxify, stretch and strengthen the body, as well as, teach respect for the messages the body is sending.
  • The breathing practices teach valuable techniques to manage stress and create tranquility by calming the restless mind.  Meditation trains the mind to witness thoughts without fear or judgement.  Guided relaxation soothes the nervous system and creates a peaceful healing state.  
  • By using life-affirming themes and nurturing safe, non-judgemental and unconditional relationships with others and the higher self, the Spirit is healed.  Making this connection with their spirituality allows the client to tap into his/her inner power.

Through the ancient practice of yoga we can heal the whole person.

Yoga Group Sessions for Addiction Treatment

Each yoga group session is multi-levelled, accommodating the changing abilities of the clients as they regain their health and strength.  Injury and illness are great teachers.  Yogic philosophy woven throughout enhances the client’s ability to listen to inner guidance, appreciate what is good right now, and create an empowering and uplifting inner dialogue.  This allows the client to be open to this moment, without needing to change it, act on it, or run away from it.  Through the weeks we explore a variety of physical postures, breathing methods, and meditations to create balance in the body, mind and spirit.

Relaxation Techniques that Benefit Addiction Rehabilitation

  • Savasana:  Each yoga class concludes with savasana (final relaxation), which enables the client to consciously relax, actively release tension, and let go at will.
  • Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) is practiced weekly.  This deep meditation is very beneficial for the recovering addict who suffers from stress and anxiety, as it systematically relaxes and releases tension in the body and mind, bringing it into a state of calmness where profound healing can take place.  Through yoga nidra we bring awareness and openness to opposing sensations, emotions, and held beliefs in the body.  It is a safe context for dealing with negative emotions.  Yoga nidra is a journey into pure awareness, awareness of all that is present in this moment: physically, energetically, emotionally, and mentally. The client works with an especially chosen resolve/intention related to the root of their addiction.  This powerful positive phrase, set in the present tense, is used to strengthen the will, which is the key to change. 

Yoga Tools for Maintaining Sobriety

The meditation and breathing practices taught throughout the session provide the client with valuable tools they can take with them when they leave.  These are proven methods for dealing with life’s stresses.  Techniques to calm anxiety, lift mild depression, combat stress, diffuse anger and resentment, and restore a sense of serenity.  These techniques can be used anytime, anywhere to break the cycle of stress induced cravings as they arise.

Through the continued practice of yoga, a sense of much needed peace and equanimity can be realized. 

Yoga Addiction Therapy at Foundation

I love Julie’s sessions.  I have tried countless yoga classes at gyms and other fitness centres only to be disappointed and leaving in excruciating pain. With the yoga classes at Sobriety, they were small and I received the best attention and care. Julie asks everyone if they have any health problems before their first session and advises what poses and movements are appropriate and inappropriate.  I have learned that the problems and fears I had about yoga been due to the previous classes.  Many were just simply too large and lacked the attention from the instructor. With Julie, she stops me when I am not posturing properly.  I never felt the pain I had in the past. The only thing I felt was a little soreness after a couple of sessions but that was because I have been out of shape. Yoga has not only given me back the flexibility and health back, it has made me a more calm and focused person.