Why Yoga is a Secret Weapon Against Addiction
Yoga is a $2.5 billion business in America. Approximately 21 million Americans have practiced yoga - almost 10% of the adult population in the US. Whether you're going to a hot yoga studio or practicing from guided YouTube tutorials, yoga is an incredibly popular exercise across the nation. It doesn't require lifting heavy weights or forcing yourself to become exhausted until you're gasping for breath. Instead, it's a fluid and straightforward exercise involving stretches, balances, and holding different positions. Research has proven how this practice can build strength, flexibility, posture, happiness, and overall health.
What most people don't know is that yoga can help treat addiction. This fact sounds surprising since yoga and addiction don't seem at all related to one another. However, yoga is a very spiritual process, and spirituality is a critical factor in recovery treatments such as the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve-Step program. Kevin Griffith, co-founder of Buddhist Recovery Network, said that addiction often comes from a desire for spirituality. People who want to build connections end up mistakenly finding solace in their additions.
Yoga, as well as meditation, also teach the user mindfulness or "being in the moment." Mindfulness helps people become aware of their emotions and surrounding rather than ruminating in the past or worrying about the future. This technique helps treat all sorts of mental illnesses, including addiction.
"Addiction is the ultimate checking out of the moment," said Kripalu Yoga, teacher Aruni Nan Futuronsky. "Yoga, on and off the mat, is the checking in to reality."
The science backs up the evidence. A study published in Jama Psychiatrycompared drug and alcohol abusers in twelve-step programs to ones in mindfulness-based relapse prevention programs. Those who were learning mindfulness were less likely to relapse than the ones in the twelve-step program. Furthermore, the mindfulness students who relapsed didn't engage in substance abuse as much as the other group.
A clinical psychologist from Pacific University in Oregon Dr. Sarah Bowen said that mindfulness helps change the patient's relationships with their emotions. For example, someone who experiences sadness or anger might feel the need to resort to their addiction. However, a mindfulness student can relate to that feeling differently. They become aware of what happens in their minds and can notice when certain emotions arise. Then, the patient can realize different alternatives to quell their feelings. They no longer feel the need to give in to their cravings and addictions.
Just ask Holly Glen Whittaker, founder of Hip Sobriety, who used Kundalini yoga to overcome addictions and control her mind. "I am no longer a victim to the whim of my mind, but rather, the captain of the ship," she said. "I never feel out of control. Not in the way I used to, where I felt like a balloon tossed around in a wind current. I hold the string now, and I can reel the balloon back in."
Furthermore, yoga fights addiction by relieving stress. Many people turn to their vices during difficult times, so eliminating stress also reduces cravings. One study in 2006 found that yoga was as good as a stress reliever as cognitive behavioral therapy. Another study found that yoga helps combat anxiety and depression in dementia patient family caregivers. People can turn to yoga rather than drugs and alcohol to calm their mind and relax.
Yoga works because it helps tackle the addiction problem by assisting patients in restructuring their thoughts and practicing mindfulness. These practices are more than just stretching on a floor mat - they help people take control of their mind. Yoga can change your mind and change your life.