Yoga and Addiction Recovery

yogayoga

As a registered nurse, I have received extensive training  on how to holisitically treat the body using various techniques. I have taken care of heart transplant patients in the ICU, trauma patients in the ER, and surgery patients postoperatively. But when treating addiction, which doesn’t necessarily have obvious physical or outward signs, how can we be creative in addressing idiosyncrasies that aren’t necessarily as easily measured as blood pressure or pulse?

 

We utilize the 12 steps at AACC in adjunct to many other techniques, including group and individual therapy, motivational counseling, and family inclusion. We also find that clients with existing or adopted spiritual practices have lower relapse rates. We have existing education on nutrition, mindfulness, and exercise’s role in recovery for each of our clients and there are numerous scholarly articles to support all of the above modalities in long term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. So what in addition could I add that supports some or all of these principles to our program here at AACC? I bet dimming the lights, donning mala beads, and having clients lay on the floor of the group room was not what you’d think a nurse would have in mind.

 

In a recent study published by the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, yoga has shown to reduce stress, relapse, physical symptoms, and even cravings. Most people envision tight pants, super trim bodies, and a lot of people sitting in postures even a contortionist would envy when they think of yoga. Yoga can include some of this, but at its core can incorporate so much more. Yoga has many principles at its philosophy that mirror that in the 12 steps. It utilizes intentional breathwork to calm the mind. There are meditative qualities to it. Yoga means “union” in the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit, and seeks to unite the body, mind, and spirit through many techniques.

 

Why aren’t more treatment centers using yoga as an adjunct then? Well, they are. Incorporating principles from the 12 steps, Nikki Myers, has adapted an entire movement of 12 step meetings that incorporate yoga postures and philosophies. The library at The National Institute of Health has more and more published articles on the effects of yoga in drug and alcohol addiction. Recovering people represent a growing number of memberships at yoga studios across the United States. Yoga doesn’t have to be practiced at expensive studios however, but many people lack the exposure or knowledge otherwise.

 

I have been practicing yoga for many years and received my Registered Yoga Teacher certification at the 200hr level this year. After that I was inspired to teach our clients here at AACC in hopes that they may reap some of the benefits I have from it, as well as some of the benefits that the aforementioned study found to be true. The interesting thing about yoga is you don’t have to be the most athletic person to do it, anyone can! You don’t need expensive workout gear or mats and props to see results. I try to show things the clients can do in their own homes, despite their current physical limitations. If anything, I hope that clients learn a bit of self-acceptance through the practice, have a sense of humor with themselves, and maybe even adapt a practice of their own.

 

I will close with a quote from modern yogi and recovering person, Rolph Gates, who says, “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”.