Ayurveda is a traditional system of medicine that originated in India thousands of years ago, and it remains in wide use today all over the world. Considered a form of alternative and complementary medicine in the U.S., many of the principles of Ayurveda have nevertheless come into the mainstream, with physicians trained in modern medicine incorporating some of the practices into their own roster of treatments for various conditions.
Ayurveda is particularly suited for helping people with a substance abuse disorder tune in more closely to their physical and spiritual condition. It embodies a holistic approach to healing that addresses mind, body, and spirit, which is increasingly regarded as the best way to treat the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of substance addiction.
The Guiding Principles of Ayurveda
Ayurveda has two main guiding principles. First, the mind and body are inseparable. Second, nothing has more power to transform a body from illness to health than the mind.
The driving philosophy behind Ayurvedic medicine is that everything in the universe is connected, and when the mind, body, and spirit are in balance with the universe, good health is the result. Imbalances lead to illness, and curing illness depends on addressing one’s physical, spiritual, and mental wellbeing.
Ayurvedic treatments are chosen by practitioners based on a person’s unique constitution, or prakriti, and which of the three life forces, or dosha, primarily controls one’s body’s functions. The treatments chosen work to restore balance between the mind, body, spirit, and universe.
Ayurveda in Addiction Recovery
Whether or not you put much stock in the philosophy behind alternative medicine, many of the treatment protocols utilized in Ayurveda have been in use for addiction recovery for some time and have been shown to be effective for helping to promote recovery in a variety of ways.
Yoga is widely used in addiction recovery programs for its ability to promote balance, strength, and flexibility of both mind and body. It incorporates breathing exercises, which help control stress, ground the spirit to the body, and improve mind and body awareness. Regular yoga practice also helps to foster an overall healthy lifestyle for those in recovery.
Massage therapy increases the production of dopamine and serotonin in the brain to help restore a sense of wellbeing, particularly during withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. It also helps relieve pain, reduce the stress hormone cortisol, increase the health of the immune system, and improve circulation to help the body detox. And, like yoga, massage therapy helps to improve body and mind awareness, and it promotes overall good health.
Mindful meditation is a critical component of successful long-term recovery. Meditation is becoming increasingly respected in the West as a powerful tool for healing the mind and the body by reducing stress and promoting mental clarity.
Research shows that meditation affects the amygdala, or the area of the brain that controls emotion, and according to the National Institutes of Health, it actually thickens the bilateral, prefrontal right-insular region of the brain, which is responsible for producing a sense of well-being, promoting feelings of optimism and hopefulness, and increasing the capacity for creativity and heightening the sense of curiosity. Meditation fundamentally promotes self-reflection, a critical and powerful skill during addiction recovery.
A Holistic Approach to Recovery
Other Ayurvedic treatments used widely in addiction recovery include deep breathing exercises, aromatherapy, lifestyle and dietary changes, and regular physical exercise. Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation cites a number of studies that have found these and other alternative therapies to be highly beneficial for those recovering from mental illness and addiction.
Choosing a treatment center that takes a holistic approach to recovery through Ayurvedic treatments and other physical and spiritual practices can make a world of difference in the health of your mind, body, and spirit as you work to restore balance and discover your rightful place in the universe.