Yoga has taken health and wellness communities by storm over the last decade. Most of us either are or know somebody who is regularly attending yoga classes that include a variety of physical postures, breathing exercises, and perhaps even meditation for a more aware and wholesome well-being.
As a whole, most of us are aware of the superficial benefits of yoga: flexibility, strength, relaxation, and stress relief. Yet, there is a relatively new surge of mindful and yogic programs popping up in recovery spaces and communities. So, how do these ancient practices aid people in recovery? What is the relationship between yoga and recovery?
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient healing modality dating back as far as 5,000 years. At its core is a self-realization practice, which is defined differently, depending on where we look. For instance, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “the fulfillment of one’s own potential.” Yet, in some more traditional yogic texts, the term is related to one’s understanding of themselves, the world, and their relationship within it all. In other words, the realization of who we are outside of societal ideals and conditioned belief systems, stemming from a place truly inside of ourselves.
The term “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root word “yuj,” which translates into yoke, bind, or unite. The most basic definition of what yoga “is” is an intricate system of practices built to uncover the relationship between one’s mind, body, and soul, and in a broader way, the “unity” or “connection” within that and the rest of creation. Yogic practice is truly a scientific process because it allows for us to experiment and then experience for ourselves what the ancient texts were implying, which leads us to our relationship to self in a very personal and intimate way.
What is Recovery?
“Recovery” is just another term for self-realization, or healing, in the sense that we re-learn how to be ourselves without the harmful patterns we learned as an act of self-preservation. As most compulsive habits, unhealthy patterns and addiction processes typically begin as a point of safety or comfort that transform into dangerous and often destructive programmed behavior.
Like yoga, recovery is an experiential and very personal process and will look different for everyone. There is no one path to recovery. However, at its root, it is about understanding ourselves outside of the addictions and compulsions that have governed our lives and experiences and re-learning how to live in a way that we embody our real, true nature.
How Do Yoga & Recovery Intersect?
In many ways, we could say that yoga and recovery are ultimately the same things. They are different paths, both moving toward the same place, just slightly differentiating in their direction. Recovery, for many people, begins in a 12-Step program, a rehabilitation center, or at the very rock bottom of what may be considered the worst day of their life. Sometimes it involves drugs and alcohol, compulsive behavior or abusive relationships.
There are many different ways to “recover” our highest sense of self. So the idea of yoga and recovery being the same plan, just in a separate system, doesn’t always land. Yet, yoga and mindfulness programs are showing up more and more in the recovery community for this very reason. Yogic practice can be one of the many roots that build our foundation for strength, sobriety, and our sense of self, which is ultimately the recovery journey at its core.
The Science Behind Yoga & Recovery
There are a few key points concerning the scientific evidence of why yogic practice aids in a healthy, wholesome recovery:
- Human beings are habitual, and as much as we may fight it, the need for routine, programming, and patterns is in our biology.
- Neuroplasticity is the study of the brain creating new pathways for different behaviors to override the old ones, and yoga has been scientifically proven to help aid and develop these new pathways.
- The physical exercise that yoga classes and practice entail helps detoxify the body, increase lung capacity, regulate hormones, and improve circulation. In doing all of this, we also release natural endorphins into the body, which create nature’s greatest “high.”
- Meditation practice has been said to not only reprogram our nervous system, reduce stress, and improve brain function; it also has been proven to create a deeper relationship with oneself and what is “higher than ourselves.” (In whatever context that means for the individual.)
- Much of the literature and study of yoga aiding in recovery programs describes a higher sense of “self-worth” and body image, which reduces the want or need to self-harm or destruct.
Yoga & Recovery, Not Instead Of
It is important to note that though yoga can be a full recovery program in itself, for many, it is an enhancement to the other modalities we embrace. Just as holistic wellness practices are preventative and provide us with a more in-depth landscape of what wellness and our health means, they do not discredit or take away from the more clinical, Western model of medicine.
One of the many joys of living in today’s world is utilizing all of the tools we have available to us, and yoga can be one of the many tools used for our journey.
At Avalon Malibu, we understand that everybody has different needs when living a sober and healthy lifestyle. Yoga can be a rewarding and healing holistic practice for your recovery journey. Along with yoga, we offer a wide variety of resources for getting and remaining sober, depending on each person’s needs. We understand that there are certain things we all need when it comes to recovery, and we do not replace those with alternative sources. At Avalon, you’ll learn how to develop long-term life skills and coping mechanisms for a healthier and more fulfilling life. Instead, we believe in integrating various treatment plans and resources for each person’s most wholesome recovery plan. Integrating holistic and clinical approaches truly allows a person to see their recovery from all sides of the spectrum and improves the likelihood of staying sober. If you or someone you love is struggling to get or remain sober, please call us today at (844) 857-5992.