Yoga is incorporated into addiction recovery programming in many rehab centers, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that many recovering addicts have their first encounters with it in the early stages of recovery. But even after rehab, yoga can be an excellent addition to your daily routine, providing countless physical, spiritual, and emotional benefits in a lifestyle of recovery. If you are enrolled in a sober living program, here are 10 excellent reasons to add yoga to your daily routine and continue
1. It’s great exercise.
Physically speaking, yoga is great for the body. The American Osteopathic Association cites several physical benefits of yoga practice, including increased flexibility, muscle tone, and strength, weight reduction, cardio and circulatory health, improved energy, respiration, and vitality, and protection from injury, among others.1 Not to mention, physical activity provides a natural high that can replace the pleasurable feelings you used to get when you used drugs and alcohol. So instead of seeking solace and relaxation in a bottle of wine, you may eventually find yourself plopping down on your yoga mat to unwind after a long day.
2. It’s free.
Nothing is better than a free hobby, especially when you’re transitioning out of a life of addiction, doing your best to save money, spend responsibly, and learn how to manage your own finances. Practicing yoga is easy to start and maintain even while enrolled in a transitional housing program. All you need is a mat, a space to put it, and at least 10 minutes of dedicated time every day, every other day, or even just twice a week. There’s no gym membership required.
3. It encourages mental stability.
In drug and alcohol rehab, addicts in recovery learn to address inappropriate emotional responses to triggers and other stimuli in their environment and use coping strategies to adopt healthier reactions. Emotional control is no small feat and learning how to feel emotions without being overrun by them takes time and constant effort. The practice of yoga also aligns with meditation practices, which requires you to manage your internal energy, maintain a calm mind, and be mentally stable. These physical and mental techniques will help you avoid self-harming behaviors and attitudes that previously contributed to your substance abuse.
4. It teaches self-control and relaxation.
The breathing techniques you use in yoga practice help you develop self-control. Smooth, controlled breathing also regulates the heartbeat and steadily delivers oxygen to the brain.2 By practicing this controlled breathing during yoga, you can also recall and use it the same techniques when you are faced with stressful situations. Controlled breathing not only relieves tension all throughout the body, but it may also help you to remain calm and practice self-control in a challenging situation. As a sober living resident, you’ll be faced with daily challenges that require self-control, emotional and mental stability, and internal stability to overcome. Yoga provides opportunities to regularly practice these skills which will help you cope with triggers and high-risk situations that could otherwise lead to relapse.
5. It reduces symptoms of stress and anxiety.
There is scientific evidence that proves yoga relieves symptoms of stress and anxiety by raising levels of GABA in the body.3 GABA, which is short for gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that reduces the activity of nerve cells in the nervous system. This function has a natural calming effect and works to reduce feelings of anxiety, fear, depression, and stress. Many sober living residents may experience these difficult emotions in early sobriety and even months or years after getting sober. For those who are seeking a natural solution to anxiety in addiction recovery that doesn’t involve taking addictive anxiety medication, yoga is a great alternative.
6. Anyone can do it.
One of the best things about yoga is that you don’t have to have any special skills or talents to do it. It is much less physically demanding than other sports like football or basketball and you don’t have to be one of those intense Instagram yogis to enjoy its benefits. Even if you just stick to the simple poses like corpse pose, downward facing dog, child’s pose, or Vajrasana (sitting mountain), you’ll invite stillness into your mind and body, release tension, and relieve internal pressure as you move.4
7. It aligns with mindfulness practices emphasized in the Big Book.
If you completed your rehab at Nova Recovery Center or you’re currently enrolled in transitional housing at Eudaimonia Recovery Homes, chances are, you have some experience working through the 12-step program. Regardless of what step you’re on or how long you’ve been working the program, you are probably aware that the Big Book promotes mindful living and a sense of spirituality. The philosophy behind yoga compliments these ideas, by emphasizing concepts like self-awareness and mental focus.5
8. It can be a group or solitary activity.
In addiction recovery, it’s important to find your tribe, or a group of like-minded individuals who share some of your interests, beliefs, and/or attitudes about life and sobriety. Practicing yoga in a group setting is a great way to connect with other people who are seeking some of the same things in life that you are and who also make it a point to prioritize their physical and mental well-being. Even if you’re actively involved in an NA or AA group, cultivating friendships elsewhere is never a bad idea, and a gym or yoga studio is a great place to start building those relationships. You don’t have to join a gym or a yoga studio to find this either—many community groups offer free weekly yoga sessions indoors or outdoors in local settings. You can also continue to enjoy your yoga practice as a solitary event in your own personal space. The great thing? You don’t have to choose between the two.
9. You can travel with it.
Maybe you travel a lot for work or school. Or perhaps you enrolled in a sober living program in a different state so you travel home to visit family. Take your yoga with you! All you need is your mat and your phone, laptop, or iPad to take your yoga practice on the road. Whether you’re staying at a hotel for the night, bunking with your little sister in her room, or you’re stuck in the airport due to a delayed flight, many yoga poses don’t even require a mat.
10. It helps to relieve insomnia.
It’s not uncommon for rehab and sober living clients to suffer from insomnia, as this is a common aspect of addiction recovery. Unfortunately, taking sleep medications like Ambien may not be the wisest way to deal with the problem. Although there are many other natural strategies for dealing with insomnia in addiction recovery, yoga may also help relieve sleep problems. Increased levels of GABA (that neurotransmitter we mentioned earlier) produce a sedative effect in the body, which, in turn, helps you get to sleep better at night. As a result, just 15 minutes of yoga each evening before bed not only works to calm your mind, but it may also help you get a better night’s sleep.
A Personal Story Of Yoga’s Positive Impact
In Peter’s recovery from addiction, he found that the 12-step Program provides him with tools for healing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. However, he has recently used Yoga for recovery to get deeper physical healing, and to help reconnect his mind and body. Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline which originated in India. It’s a practice that uses physical postures and controlled breathing to lengthen and strengthen the spine, increase flexibility, calm the mind, improve concentration, and promote patience. Here’s what he had to say about the impact of yoga on his life and his recovery.
What motivated you to try yoga?
“I was first introduced to yoga for recovery by a friend. I didn’t really want to go, but I still went because recovery taught me to be open-minded. I realized yoga was harder than it looked, but I was hooked.
There are days where I’m looking forward to getting on my mat all day at work. There are also days where I’m still sore from the day before or carrying emotional turmoil and the last thing I want to do is get on the mat and move around. Using what recovery has taught me I learned that when I don’t want to go, is when I should go, and that’s when I get the most out of yoga.”
How has it helped your recovery?
“As my practice deepened, I found myself having spiritual experiences on my yoga mat. These moments of severe bliss and surrender, moments of connection to something beyond my small finite self. I was evolving in these classes and I couldn’t get enough of it. Yoga helps me relax for meditation. It helped bridge the gap between my physical exercise and spiritual life. Before yoga, I worked out and meditated separately as two different practices. Yoga combined meditation and physical exercise.”
What advice do you have for anyone in recovery interested in yoga?
“Deciding that you want to start doing yoga is the first step. Don’t be intimidated by experienced yogis. When I first started I couldn’t do much, I wasn’t flexible at all. Start at a basic level and try not to judge yourself on flexibility. Talk to the yoga instructor after the class and learn about basic poses like downward facing dog and chaturanga.
Yoga has been a journey. Just like in recovery there are obstacles that we overcome through practice and actually doing the work, the same is with yoga. Today I have more energy throughout the day, I feel grounded, and I have a new sense of well-being and creativity.”
Combine Yoga And A Sober Living Program For Sustained Recovery
It’s important to find balance in a life of recovery and incorporating yoga into your daily routine throughout your sober living program may help you achieve a sense of calmness and stability as you work to maintain your sobriety for the long haul.
For more information on what it means to be enrolled in a sober living program or to learn more about our sober living homes in Austin, Houston, and Colorado Springs, call Eudaimonia Recovery Homes today.