Rehab Yoga: Yoga as a Form of Rehabilitation for Addiction
While yoga for rehabilitation may be fairly new, it’s certainly no secret that yoga is good for you.
Dating back to the fifth century, the practice has been used by everyone from Buddhist monks to yummy mummies. Celebrities have also been shouting about the benefits of yoga for rehabilitation for years, and today a whole new health-conscious crowd is turning to yoga.
It’s accessible, it’s enjoyable, and it’s good for de-stressing and relaxing. It also works wonders for your posture and your core strength.
But aside from the obvious physical benefits, can yoga be used as a therapy to treat addiction?
Traditional Addiction Rehab Methods
Up until the late 60s, being addicted to drugs or alcohol would probably have eventually landed you in prison. Thankfully, more modern approaches view addiction as a disease, with experts increasingly looking at alternatives like yoga therapy to treat it.
Currently, therapeutic drugs like methadone and nicotine patches are the most widely accepted addiction-treatment methods.
These medicines work by eliminating the nasty side effects that come with withdrawal, but they don’t address the emotional and mental aspects of substance misuse.
This is where techniques like rehabilitation yoga come into play.
What is Rehab Yoga?
Rehab yoga, or therapeutic yoga, uses yoga’s teachings and techniques to improve negative physical or mental symptoms.
Adopting core messages of mindfulness and compassion, rehab yoga focuses on yoga’s five main principles:
- Proper Relaxation
- Correct Breathing
- Good Diet
- Beneficial Exercise
Awareness of these principles (mindfulness) and using them to help yourself (compassion) is how rehab yoga treats a variety of disorders.
Why Yoga for Rehabilitation?
When you practice yoga, your brain releases dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. These chemicals, aside from being well known “happy hormones,” actually change your brain.
These changes decrease cravings and significantly reduce depression, anxiety, and stress, which addicts often suffer from. If you don’t alleviate sadness and stress, it can be nearly impossible to focus on getting better, which is why practicing relaxation methods like yoga is so beneficial.
Formerly, rehab facilities would use a combination of medication and behavioral therapy to treat addiction, without adding in yoga therapy. Nowadays, almost all rehab centers integrate yoga into their programs for exactly this reason.
While rehabilitation yoga can’t address the physiological symptoms of addiction (which is where meditation helps), it can be used as an effective way to complement other treatments.
Does Yoga for Rehab Really Work?
It isn’t pseudo-science.
Although yoga won’t work on its own, there’s pretty good evidence to suggest it can assist the rehabilitation process.
A recent study showed that mindfulness principles learned in yoga significantly improve the effectiveness of traditional addiction-recovery methods. This worked by finding the reason people might crave or desire drugs and tackling it at the source.
If you’re ever attended a yoga class, you might have heard phrases like “no judgment” and “thank yourself” being thrown around. Positive self-talk like this has a profoundly uplifting effect on people’s self-esteem.
Studies into addiction often recognize that people with lower self-esteem are more likely to use drugs. Because rehab yoga increases self-esteem, it can be vital in preventing relapse.
Additionally Sat Bir Khalsa, a Harvard Medical professor, conducted a study that found that yoga decreases levels of cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones) in the body. He noted in the Yoga Journal, “It makes sense that if you’re less stressed, you may not be so quick to seek substances to cope.”
Yoga Therapy for Rehabilitation
Addiction is a serious and difficult problem for anyone to overcome.
There’s no one size fits all approach to it, but therapeutic yoga can offer a genuinely useful tool for avoiding relapse and making a full recovery.
How can yoga be used as an alternative method of therapy to treat substance addiction? Discover how yoga for rehab can reduce stress and boost confidence.
Need More Reading Material?
Check out our latest article that details how yoga and meditation can heal addiction here.