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Practicing Yoga: In & Out Of Addiction Treatment

Practicing Yoga: In & Out of Addiction Treatment

For individuals just entering residential addiction treatment, the idea of changing behaviours and adding new lifestyle and spiritual practices can be a challenge. There are many preconceived ideas of what “Yoga Practice” means. What has breathing practice got to do with recovering from alcoholism?  How can stretching my calves really benefit me in treatment? Is standing on my head necessary to change my disordered eating habits? These are just a few of the questions Cedars Staff are often asked from new patients in treatment.

Yoga Therapy is an integral part of our inpatient addiction rehab program for many reasons. About 85% of our beliefs are established before we reach age 6. Influenced mainly by parents who established their belief system years before, when they were children. Ancestral mindset carried over generations can create habits of behaviour that are difficult to break.

One way, proven effective over thousands of years, is the art of mindfulness. I can lift my arm a thousand times up and down, doing the same movement and over and over the same way – or I can do it once slowly and mindfully, being actually aware of the whole range of motion in my shoulder, what muscles I can use, how I can turn and twist and stretch my body. It might be uncomfortable at first, using muscles I have not used for a while (just like in recovery from addiction, stepping out of the comfort zone and trying something new can be very beneficial) – but it allows me to create a new body awareness and with that a wider range of possibilities to choose from and break old habits. This practice of mindfulness is not only a positive practice for body awareness but can be successfully applied to many aspects of the addiction recovery process.

Individuals recovering from addiction or co-dependency can practice mindfulness in everyday tasks: eating, walking, washing dishes, how they relate to others, and their reactions to stressful situations. The usual habitual pattern of behaviour can be only broken by being aware of emotions and situations. Only with that presence of mind am they able to see the whole range of actions available to them, leading them to make better choices in life.

In the ancient Indian text, the “Yoga Sutras” Yoga is defined as the “ability to direct the mind toward an object and sustain that focus without distraction”. It gives us tools and techniques that help us cultivate that mindfulness. Controlled breathing, movement with the breath, stretches, poses and conscious relaxation techniques all brings us to a healthier, more balanced way of being. In each pose we find the perfect balance between giving our very best effort, and still being able to breathe. Practicing mindful breathing techniques in treatment from addictions can aid a person in the recovery process. When we sit quiet and focus on the breath, it can help us in that moment of stillness of the body and focused mind with a deep sense of center, peace of mind, gratitude and joy-ever present and everlasting.

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