The term yoga, derived from the root word “yuj” in Sanskrit, means to join or unite. Yoga is a set of practices aimed at helping people unify their body, mind, and spirit. Through meditation, breathwork, and postures, yoga expands consciousness and connection.
Yoga first began in India over 5,000 years ago. The earliest archeological evidence of yoga dates back to 3000 BCE. However, yoga started as an oral tradition, so it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when it originated.
The earliest texts that mentioned this practice, the Vedas (1500 BCE) and the Upanishads (500 BCE), referred to yoga as a means to connect physical and spiritual forms. In 150 BCE, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras described how to attain wisdom, personal power, and liberation through yoga. The sutras included breathing, eating, worship, mindfulness, and meditation techniques.
Yoga philosophy and practices continued to evolve, with the early 1800s setting the stage for physical yoga poses. Since then, yoga has taken on many forms and styles.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga, or Ashtanga, were described in the Yoga Sutras. The eight limbs represent yama (moral codes), niyama (self-discipline), asana (postures), pranayama (breath practices), pratyahara (sensory control), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (liberation).1
Yoga operates on the assumption that everything is connected. Yoga builds compassion for the self, as well as for others. This compassion leads to a deepened connection to the worlds within and around us.
Yoga can help heal those struggling with addiction. This chronic disorder can cause people to lose themselves. Addiction recovery yoga provides a path back to oneself, promoting inner peace and well-being. Practicing yoga also helps strengthen the body and boost mood.
A flexible and healthy body is key to a healthy mind. When our bodies are properly cared for, our minds benefit. Emotional wellness can help improve physical health and vice versa. This is an important aspect of addiction recovery yoga, as emotional and physical wellness are necessary for healing.
Yoga can help boost mood and combat anxiety. This is because yoga helps us move out of “fight or flight” mode and into “rest and digest” mode. In this state, we can begin to heal and unwind. Yoga can also stimulate the pleasure centers in the brain and lead to feelings of bliss.2
Low GABA levels can cause anxiety and depression, two common side effects of addiction. Research has shown that yoga can reverse this effect. One study found that one hour of yoga can naturally increase GABA levels in the brain by 27%. Thus, addiction recovery yoga can improve mental health and well-being during addiction treatment.3
The 12-Step program is rooted in the belief in a higher power and the connection between all living things. Addiction recovery yoga operates similarly, with the higher power being the universe and karmic law. Yoga’s foundational principles align with the 12 Steps and can be used with a traditional program.
These principles will be detailed below.
This principle is about choosing compassion and empathy over anger and judgment. Ahimsa asks us to look at how we treat ourselves and others.
Honesty is key in addiction recovery yoga. This principle asks us to live in our truth and keep our integrity. Through satya, we can define our authentic selves. This allows us to tap into our intuition and connect more with life.
This principle is about having faith in ourselves to create and get what we need on our own and acknowledging that we are enough. Note that non-stealing goes beyond material things. Stealing can present itself as “one-upping” or stealing someone’s moment.
We can also steal from ourselves and our futures. An example of this in addiction is the time lost while high or coming down. While getting high can lead to a quick bliss fix, it also steals future contentment.
This principle asks us to find the middle path of moderation. We can lead more sustainably peaceful lives by finding the balance between discipline and pleasure. This principle also asks us to honor everything, including ourselves, as sacred.
Aparigraha asks us to trust the unfolding of life and let go. This is rooted in the belief that we should possess only what is necessary. Practicing aparigraha can teach us to free ourselves from dependence and accept what we have.
Saucha has to do with abstinence, purification, and spiritual cleanliness. This principle asks us to free ourselves from clutter, distraction, and negativity and choose better for ourselves. Saucha means choosing things that feed our soul rather than depleting it. This is a key part of addiction recovery yoga as it encourages staying sober.
Santosha encourages us to build a life we love. This is the practice of acceptance, freedom to pursue life without fear, and being at peace with ourselves. Santosha also asks us to accept difficult emotions like grief and suffering and allow these experiences to enrich our lives instead. Learning how to be content with life without substances is a significant advantage to practicing addiction recovery yoga.
In Sanskrit, tapas directly translates to “heat.” This principle empowers us to change our nature through self-discipline. We must break free from self-doubt and have the courage to do what is best for ourselves. Tapas helps develop motivation to improve and the strength to face challenges.
Self-study, reflection, and meditation are all a part of svadhyaya. This principle asks us to trace the areas of disharmony in our life back into ourselves. By doing this, we can begin to unpack and heal. This requires courage to take an honest look at our lives. In addiction recovery yoga, svadhyaya provides an understanding of how the addiction began in the first place.
The principle of ishvara pranidhana asks us to trust the universe and stop fighting life. Surrendering is not the same as apathy or giving up. Instead, this concept asks us to let go of the need to control every aspect of our lives. Ishvara pranidhana can also encourage flexibility and being present in the moment.
Addiction recovery yoga has many benefits. It promotes calmness, control, a sense of bliss, healthy coping, and discipline.
Yoga helps build self-control. For example, a main component of yoga is breathwork. This practice is centered around controlling the breath to produce certain effects in the body. By learning how to control the breath, one begins to learn the basics of self-control. These skills can then be taken off the yoga mat and into the real world.
Yoga plays a significant role in coping with life’s difficulties. The principles of yoga teach valuable techniques to cope with problems and challenging emotions. Addiction recovery yoga is full of practices that can be taken off the mat to deal with stress.
Addiction recovery yoga teaches how to cultivate self-discipline. Control, non-possessiveness, and contentment are examples of essential principles taught through yoga that can be implemented in fostering self-discipline. Addiction recovery yoga helps us build resilience and create routines to prevent relapse.
Yoga is a versatile and flexible practice. It can be done inside, outside, alone, in a group, at a studio, or at home. Further, there are a variety of poses, levels, and types to suit each individual’s capabilities and needs.
There are many beginner poses helpful in melting away stress and depression. Some poses for beginners in addiction recovery yoga include:
Start by standing at the edge of your mat with your hands by your sides and your feet hip-width apart. Ground down through your feet, spreading your toes for balance. Inhale deeply and lengthen your spine by engaging your belly. Open your palms so they are facing forward. Stand tall and breathe deeply for four to eight rounds of breath.
From mountain pose, begin to bend down and reach your hands toward the floor. Move slowly to prevent injury. Once bent over, touch your hands to the mat or as far as you can reach. For a deeper stretch, you can go into a ragdoll pose by crossing your arms and allowing your upper body to hang while swaying side to side.
Begin by kneeling on the mat, keeping your knees hip-width apart. Bring your toes together behind you. On an exhale, melt your torso over your knees and fold. Stretch your arms out in front of you and relax into the pose.
Begin by lying on your back and sliding your legs up the wall, keeping your legs hip-width apart. If you have a sensitive lower back or hips, put a blanket underneath you for support.
From a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall open to the side. Your knees and feet should make a diamond shape. You can support the knees with yoga blocks or a rolled blanket if you have tight hips.
Nestled in Woodland Hills, California, Iris Healing® provides comprehensive, holistic treatment that addresses the whole person. Our compassionate and spiritually-based approach helps individuals find meaning and develop a higher quality of life.
Treatment at Iris Healing® goes beyond the addiction by focusing on all aspects of the person. Our doctorate-level clinical team focuses on mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. We offer dual diagnosis treatment and evidence-based treatment methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), sensorimotor psychotherapy, neurofeedback, and equine-assisted therapy.
Our trained staff is available round the clock to support you on your journey and is committed to helping you live your best life. If you have questions about addiction recovery yoga, our programs, or how to start treatment with Iris Healing®, contact us at (844)-663-4747.