Using Yoga to Support Your Recovery

Using Yoga to Support Your Recovery

They say that a substance use disorder is a disease of the mind, body, and soul, which means a good recovery program addresses all of these areas. The practice of yoga certainly checks two of these boxes because it can do wonders for your physical and mental health.

The team here at Tres Vistas Recovery, led by Dr. Daniel Headrick, is pleased to offer comprehensive recovery programs that include all the tools you need to take back charge of your physical, mental, and spiritual health. 

Here, we take a closer look at one therapy that has helped many of our clients navigate the early days of recovery and beyond — the practice of yoga.

The history of yoga

If you think that yoga is just another form of exercise, like pilates, think again. Yoga dates back about 5,000 years and there are several different forms of the practice, including hatha yoga, which is largely the yoga that is practiced today.

Hatha yoga is the physical side of yoga and it’s designed to prepare your body for helping your brain to calm and still during meditation. While it may seem counterintuitive that one should use exercise to better meditate, the theory is that physical stamina allows you to be still for longer.

Yoga and your physical health

When you were in the depths of your substance use disorder, the odds are good that taking care of your body wasn’t one of your top priorities. Through yoga, you can slowly regain your physical health, which can be incredibly empowering as you slowly take back control of your life.

Yoga focuses on three different areas of musculoskeletal health:

  1. Building muscle
  2. Expanding flexibility
  3. Increasing your stamina

If you think that yoga is just a series of poses, we urge you to give a couple poses a try. You’ll quickly discover that each pose incorporates all three areas we mention above and can build your strength quite quickly.

Yoga and your mental health

There’s a saying in recovery — move a muscle, change a thought. For people who struggle with a substance use disorder, the mind can be a powerful force and when that mind is focused on drugs or alcohol, it’s a force that’s tough to overcome.

By engaging your body (move a muscle), you can change the direction of your thinking through the simple act of moving. Movement triggers different neural pathways and chemicals in your brain that can overpower the cravings and obsessions.

To give you an idea about how effective exercise can be when it comes to your mental health, a study including 1.2 million people in the United States found that people who exercise report 1.5 fewer days of poor mental health each month compared with those who lead more sedentary lifestyles.

Diving a little deeper, ample research has shown that yoga lowers the levels of cortisol hormones in your body, which are the hormones related to stress. As an example, one study of 52 women concluded that, “Depression, anxiety, and stress decreased significantly in women after 12 sessions of regular hatha yoga practice.”

Ultimately, we find that a practice like yoga excels in many ways during recovery as you’re able to rebuild your physical strength, quiet your mind, and reduce stress and anxiety.

If you have more questions about the role that yoga can play in your recovery, please contact us at our office in San Juan Capistrano, California, to learn more.

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