If you’re struggling with an addiction, you’re not alone. In the US around 22 million people are believed to be dependent on alcohol or drugs, but, encouragingly, a similar number have managed to overcome these problems. Although traditionally addiction was managed in a medical manner, it’s now known that a holistic approach that encompasses a range of therapies is more effective. The benefits of yoga to help in the recovery process have been acknowledged and taking part in a yoga retreat could be just what you need to support your rehabilitation; particularly as the 12 Steps program to recovery encourages a spiritual approach, including meditation. As an activity that can be maintained once you’re home, something that most people can take part in even if they have other medical problems and one that offers a range of additional health gains, yoga offers great promise.
Benefits to mental well-being
Yoga has been shown to be an effective adjunct to treatment for the management of addiction to tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Participation in yoga encourages mindfulness which increases self-awareness allowing you to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. This is helpful as if not managed appropriately negative feelings can contribute to substance abuse; when the mind and body work together it provides you with the discipline you need to be strong to resist a relapse. However, this isn’t the only benefit. Yoga is well-known for its ability to induce a state of calm and encourage relaxation, helping to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol which is otherwise associated with anxiety; drug and alcohol use are frequently used as a means to manage stress, so this offers a natural release for stress. Practicing yoga is also linked to increased production of serotonin, one of the body’s feel-good chemicals and may explain why participants report improved mood. When you have a brighter outlook, this helps to boost your self-esteem and belief in yourself so you are more likely to be successful in your recovery. Continuing with yoga once you have beaten your addiction may also reduce the likelihood of relapse or turning to other addictions owing to its ability to keep anxiety and low mood at bay.
A means of coping
Yoga can additionally be seen as a positive activity and one that you can turn to during your journey of recovery and even once this is complete. One of the themes of drug and alcohol rehabilitation is that you find new hobbies and activities to engage in – those that you don’t associate with substance abuse. Not only can this help to fill your spare time, when you might be tempted to relapse if you have a lot of time on your hands, it can help you to form new friendships with people not connected to your old habits. Particularly owing to yoga’s ability to boost your mental well-being, it is the perfect activity to take part in when cravings set in. Usually if you can distract yourself with an activity this will help your alcohol or drug cravings pass without you feeling the need to act on them. This helps to offer you life-long coping strategies.
Specific benefits of a yoga retreat
A yoga retreat offers additional advantages with regards to addiction recovery above and beyond attending yoga classes in your local area.
Firstly, a change of scenery helps to remove you from the factors that may have led to your drug or alcohol abuse. While problems at home, your social circle or money worries will still be there on your return, having developed your focus and with a greater commitment to recovery you will be better prepared to develop strategies to manage these.
Retreats are more often than not located amidst beautiful surroundings, which in themselves can have a positive impact on how you feel and your outlook, particularly if you live in a built up area with limited access to green open spaces.
You will also have the chance to meet others, possibly forming close relationships, and this will provide an additional source of support; they may not be in the same situation as you, but will be able to draw on their own experiences.
Besides practicing yoga when on retreat you can develop other healthy strategies such as eating well, which will hopefully help to spur you on to adopting an all-round healthier lifestyle once you have returned home. This will support your recovery efforts as nourishing your body is important for your mental well-being as well.