Yoga and Recovery from Addiction
Yoga is an integral part of several recovery programs. Malibu Beach Recovery Center offers “yoga breath work,” to quote Joan, but don’t be misled by the terminology—it’s an intense, well-designed plan. Lead exerciser Oleg Yevseyev has written about the link between yoga and brain rejuvenation. And in an earlier post, Elizabeth, an MBRC graduate, raved about it. This excerpt from the manual explains more:
This program is most effective combined with a low glycemic diet; a specifically formulated program of food supplements and amino acids; group, individual and family therapy; and when appropriate, membership in a 12-Step program.
The target audiences are usually unhappy, depressed and anxious people who have spent years developing chemical and emotional imbalances due in full or in part to genetic predisposition, environmental factors, stress, depression, anxiety, and high glycemic diets (rich in carbohydrates and sugars). This program of yoga-based breathing exercises helps participants feel naturally happy. It eliminates the need to self-medicate with alcohol, street drugs or prescription drugs. The program stimulates, rejuvenates and balances brain chemistry; it repairs brain function and those parts of the brain that have been physically damaged by chemical dependency. Different breathing exercises combined with different movements and static positions oxygenate and deepen the connection between the brain and body and appear to raise the chronically low dopamine levels of the target audiences. Like meditation, the stable pace of repeated movement helps clients focus their mind. Attending classes three times a day for at least 30 days (depending on severity of each individual’s condition) helps participants develop the habit of correct breathing which reduces stress during the day and sustains newly elevated dopamine levels.
The program consists of three different types of classes: Energy Replenishment (before breakfast), Energy Enhancement (before lunch) and Calming Release (before dinner). The goal is balancing the two main systems of the body: the system of excitement and the system of tranquility. The morning and afternoon classes are designed to last one hour each. The evening class lasts for 1-1/2 hours. This means that three times a day the mood of the participants is uplifted through exercises that train the brain to produce dopamine. At the end of 30 days most participants have achieved higher dopamine levels that can be sustained by continuing to do at least half an hour of yoga breathing exercises each day.
Yoga itself has numerous benefits for people recovering from a variety of ailments. The reasons it’s helpful are especially applicable to those in recovery from addiction:
- Yoga is calming and helps people manage stress.
- Yoga helps you focus.
- You don’t need to be in great shape or flexible to do it.
Here are some websites containing information about yoga and recovery.
http://www.yogaforrecovery.net/ This site features two yoga practitioners.
http://www.adyo.org (a free video on addiction recovery and yoga)
http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/679 (An article from Yoga Journal)
Finally, the reason I thought of writing this post: here’s the link to a 1st-person essay in The New York Times by a yoga practitioner in recovery from heroin addiction. She tells how hard it was to continue attending the class, yet how it helped her. She became a yoga teacher herself.