Although the benefits of yoga deny quantification, and are even elusive to describe, clinical studies and many anecdotal reports indicate that yoga may well have earned a place in addictions recovery, and yoga is offered with increasing frequency at holistic drug treatment facilities.
While I confess I’ve never done any yoga, and I fear my abysmal lack of flexibility would make my journey into yoga more painful than normal, I am intrigued by the numerous anecdotal reports, and as well certain clinical studies, that have enthused about yoga’s potential as a complimentary therapy in the treatment of addictions.
A recent contribution to a Harvard Medical School study, which compared methadone use and therapy, with methadone use and yoga, found that yoga alone seemed to offer as much incentive away from abuse as did therapy!
Perhaps it’s not surprising that holistic treatment facilities have been increasingly incorporating meditative yoga into their treatment regimens.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an exercise of controlled breathing and of stretching the spine through the achievement of certain positions. Increasing proficiency requires discipline and willpower over discomfort to achieve the flexibility needed to attain the positions of advanced yoga.
The benefits of yoga
While performing yogic positions, the practitioner needs to focus completely on their breathing and on the attainment of the correct form. Total concentration is required, and there is no mental space left for the extraneous thoughts that normally cloud our minds. When we remain focused on the physical, our minds clear to a largely non verbal and extremely relaxed state, and while it seems contradictory; yoga enthusiast swear that by not thinking, you gain far more self awareness than you ever could by actively thinking.
The practice of yoga integrates mind and body, and there is a spirituality component to yoga as well. As addictions professionals call for a more holistic approach to recovery, yoga seems to meet the criteria of complete physical and mental therapy. Yoga requires discipline, and encourages patience and steadiness over rash action and hurry.
Meditation and yoga
I practice Theravada meditation, and what I get from my meditation sounds very similar to what practitioners of yoga are getting from their discipline. By thinking of nothing you conversely gain insight, and by concentrating on mindfulness (a part of both meditation and yoga) the stresses of everyday life are reduced. The benefits of yoga are additionally spiritual, and as such are difficult to quantify for treatment statistics.
Some things just don’t fit neatly into our demand for numeric values; but if half of what yoga advocates say about it is true, yoga offers quite a lot to anyone struggling with addiction and recovery, and as it strengthens the body, clears the mind and buoys the sprit, yoga seems to give people the strength to stay alcohol and drug free. Give yoga a try…I might even try it myself!