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How Yoga Can Help Treat Addiction

Yoga is
typically associated with relaxation and flexibility, but this centuries-old
practice may also be able to help people overcome addiction. As a supplemental
therapy, yoga can aid in the healing of the mind, body and spirit – which plays
an important role in a holistic-approach treatment for addiction.

Addiction is
a growing problem in the U.S. and across the globe. In 2014, approximately 21.4
million people in the U.S. aged 12 and older were battling a substance abuse
disorder. That equates to about 1 in every 12 American adults, according to the
National Survey on Drug Use and

Yoga’s Effects on the Brain

abuse alters certain pathways in the brain, particularly those associated with
regulating emotion, feeling pleasure, controlling impulses and decision-making.
These altered pathways create a vicious cycle in addicts which can be very hard
to break.

But the
brain’s chemistry and circuitry can rebuild and heal itself after the body has
had a break from the substance. Yoga may be able to help with the rebuilding

According to
The Beaches Treatment Center, yoga can help regulate and balance
stress hormones. It can also help addicts cope with the anxiety, depression and
stress linked to the withdrawal effects of treatment.

With regular
practice of yoga, the grey matter and areas of the brain associated with stress
control may be enlarged.

study published in the Journal of Alternative and
Complementary Medicine
that levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) were increased with the regular
practice of yoga techniques. Higher levels of GABA typically translate to lower
levels of stress and anxiety. 

The Mind-Body Connection

The yoga
practice can help balance certain parts of the body and brain that are impacted
by substance abuse. All forms of yoga focus on the mind-body connection as well
as the coordination of movement with the breath.

requires the practitioner to regulate their breathing and listen to their
bodies throughout the entire practice. Over time, this help the practitioner
becomes more self-aware of how certain movements or emotions can make you feel
a certain way. The goal is to feel and be aware of these emotions without

focusing the energy inward, addicts can learn how to take ownership of their
feelings and emotions. Ultimately, they gain control over themselves and their
actions. For example, regular yoga practice can help addicts recognize their
cravings, but not attempt to give in to or avoid them.

Health Benefits

Yoga also
offers additional benefits, such as:

  • Increased energy levels
  • Better quality sleep
  • Less stress
  • Lower irritability levels
  • Physical exercise
  • Pain relief
  • Improved self-confidence
  • Increased self-awareness

The yoga
practice also encourages people to eat healthier diets. Addicts are better able
to cope with withdrawal effects and the life changes they’re experiencing when
they’re well-rested and eating well.

Yoga is
natural, safe and easy to implement into an addiction treatment program. All
you need is a mat, comfortable clothing and time. With regular practice, yoga
can help addicts battle the uncomfortable feelings they will ultimately face
during treatment.