What Is Yoga?

Yoga began as a philosophical and spiritual practice in India more than 5,000 years ago. This full mind and body exercise disciplines the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects in nature. The term yoga derives from the Sanskrit word yug, meaning to unite. This refers to the ancient practice’s main focus of oneness, or the marriage of mind, body, and spirit. Ancient yogis believed this union brings a state of awareness and understanding that enables a student of yoga to overcome sufferings like addiction, grief, or trauma.

Yoga incorporates various exercises to enable a student’s engagement with spirituality. These exercises are typically a routine of stretches, poses, and movements that awaken and stimulate systems in the body. Throughout these exercises, instructors direct students through their breathing to encourage discipline. Nearing the end of a session, instructors will have a wind-down period where students are instructed to empty their minds and let their thoughts flow freely. These sessions are meant to bring about patience, healing, and awakening.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

Yoga brings peace, overall wellness, mental clarity, spiritual healing, and growth by utilizing exercises for the mind and body. The eight limbs of yoga refer to the ways in which students reach unity and a deeper understanding of themselves.

Here are the eight limbs of yoga and how they relate to addiction:

1. Yamas: This refers to moral standings that students must adhere to, such as abstaining from stealing and violence, being honest, having self-control, and avoiding attachment. This limb is beneficial to addiction treatment because it enforces a set of rules and provides structure. Self-control can be a challenging hurdle in recovery, and yoga can be a gentle guide.

2. Niyamas: This refers to a set of principles that will help integrate body and mind. They include purification, contentment, effort, self-reflection, and devotion. Each of these traits and practices help clients in recovery as they begin to trust, build confidence, and reach a better sense of understanding within themselves.

3. Asanas: This refers to the postures and poses held in yoga practice. These are meant to encourage stability, strength, and health by stimulating the circulatory, immune, digestive, muscular, and nervous systems. These exercises are used in addiction treatment to help repair the mind-body relationship and teach clients how to care for their bodies in recovery.

4. Pranayama: This limb of yoga is devoted to breathwork. Through conscious awareness of breath, students of yoga can learn how it can influence mindfulness, relaxation, discipline, and concentration. Breathing exercises open the mind to meditation, which can be beneficial to clients in addiction recovery.

5. Pratyahara: This limb of yoga focuses on conscious withdrawal from the senses and blocks outside distractions. This allows for restful relaxation that combats the stress of addiction recovery and everyday life.

6. Dharana: By demanding concentration from a student, they can focus on one particular object or image. This is in preparation for the meditation needed to reach and achieve the final limb.

7. Dhyana: Through deep meditation that requires intense discipline and concentration, practicing dhyana enhances a student’s ability to think objectively and thoroughly process their surroundings. This limb of yoga is only reached through repeated practice and encourages overall mental and physical well-being.

8. Samadhi: The final stage and ultimate goal of yoga, this limb refers to awakening or enlightenment. By reaching this stage, a student can feel liberated from the struggles of everyday life and lifted up by the bond they have made within themselves. This final goal acts as a motivation or ultimate goal for clients in addiction treatment.

Yoga in Addiction Treatment 

In addiction treatment, yoga works best in combination with professional treatment like residential rehab or outpatient services to bring healing to all areas of an individual. Yoga and addiction treatment work well together because they both focus on healing the mind, body, and spirit. Addiction centers will often practice yoga that integrates exercise, meditation, and spiritual teaching to aid in healing.

In addiction treatment, yoga falls into the category of alternative therapy with music therapy, art therapy, nutritional counseling, and physical fitness training.

Yoga benefits clients in addiction treatment through:

  • Helping them cope with stress. In yoga, the combination of physical activity and mindfulness practices targets stress-related thoughts and emotions and allows them to be processed in a healthy way.
  • Providing relaxation techniques. Maintaining peace of mind is essential in managing triggers, especially in recovery.
  • Encouraging the mind-body relationship. By staying in tune with their bodies, clients are able to pay attention to their needs in recovery to prevent relapse.
  • Boosting confidence. Yoga is an exercise that requires strength, balance, and patience. It is not easily conquered, so accomplishments within the practice can boost self-confidence and provide motivation.
  • Providing structure and methods of self-control. Yoga is a powerful practice that requires discipline. Through practice — and trial and error — clients in addiction treatment can rely on the structure it provides to maintain sobriety. Many clients need structure and stability because it brings comfort and predictability.

Yoga is compatible with a 12-step program and is a way to manage symptoms of co-occurring disorders or the psychological effects of substance use disorders. Through physical movement and relaxation and incorporating its spiritual roots, yoga can improve an individual’s sense of self and encourage lasting healing from the effects of addiction.

Yoga in addiction treatment encourages healing of a client’s mind, body, and spirit. Laguna Shores Recovery believes in the effectiveness of the “whole body” approach to addiction treatment, which is why we incorporate yoga into treatment. Call us today to learn more about our alternative therapies at 866-934-5276.