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Yoga in Treatment

Providing Trusted, Evidence-Based
Treatment for Three Decades and Counting

If you or a loved one is experiencing addiction, we’re here to help.

yoga treatment

Almost every single addiction treatment program available in the United States today provides some form of psychotherapy. In treatment sessions with a counselor, people with addictions learn more why they began using drugs, and they come to realizations about how they will need to amend their habits in order to stay sober in the future. However, there are other forms of therapy that could build upon the lessons people learn while in the company of a counselor. Yoga is just one of those alternative treatments, and it could be quite powerful for some people dealing with an addiction.

Yoga Fundamentals

Students of yoga are encouraged to learn a variety of different poses and movements that involve strength and balance. It’s not an aerobic exercise, per se, as it doesn’t involve activities that would speed up the heart, but the activities are considered at least somewhat intense. At high levels, the classes might even be considered difficult.

In addition to movements and stretches, people who participate in yoga are also encouraged to focus on their breathing. They might be asked to breathe in a specific, rhythmic pattern in unison with everyone else in the class, or they might be asked to focus on the oxygen needs of their own bodies, and how they might breathe in order to meet those demands. Classes can become quite meditative, if students are intensely focused on their breath and their movements, and it’s not unusual for the classes to be almost completely silent, with only the teacher’s voice and some background music to break the spell.

Why Yoga Helps in Treatment

Focusing on the needs of the body might be vital for people who have a history of addiction, particularly if they’ve previously used drugs in order to:

  • Relax
  • Soothe stress
  • Fall asleep
  • Obliterate pain

The movements can, at times, help to stretch taut muscles and painful joints to such a degree that pain disappears altogether, and that might reduce a person’s need for addictive painkillers. In a study of the issue funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that people with chronic low-back pain who practiced yoga had significantly less pain after six months of classes. It’s easy to see how this might break the link to addiction for some people, especially those who use substances to self-medicate their pain.

In addition to soothing a trigger with movement, the deep relaxation that comes from focused breathing might help some people to recover from trauma. For example, a study conducted on returning veterans who had post-traumatic stress disorder found that yoga helped to drop symptom severity from severe to mild after about six weeks. If people use drugs to soothe mental distress, yoga might show them another way to do that.

Yoga isn’t right for everyone, and it certainly shouldn’t be used in place of formal therapies for addiction. But it’s clear that the movements and breathing techniques involved in yoga could help some people to experience a reduction in their addiction triggers, and that might allow people to heal in deep and profound ways that they never thought possible.

If you’d like to know more about how we incorporate yoga into our programs at Michael’s House, please call. Our admissions coordinators are always available, and we’d love to tell you more about it.