Addiction is a brain disease, but the repercussions of addiction affect much more than just the brain. Biologically it affects your brain, it affects your body physically, and it affects your soul emotionally. For those who are recovering from addiction and working to remain sober, it’s important to be hyper-aware of your body and mind in order to get healthy. Overcoming substance abuse is a marathon, not a sprint, and requires constant inventory of emotions, feelings, and your body. Utilizing yoga and meditation can be a great tool in this endeavor since these activities also affect the mind, body, and soul and keep a full body and mind inventory in the process.
For the Mind
Ultimately, addiction starts in the mind. There are many factors that come into play when dealing with addiction such as environment, biology, and brain development. A person’s environment and social surroundings has a lot to do with the beginning of substance abuse. Living in a home with substance abuse or in an area where substance abuse is common increases the chances of addictive behaviors. Some addicts are also predisposed to addiction due to having a history of addiction in their family or if they were young when they began using. Not only does substance abuse become a natural behavior if they start using early, but since the brain isn’t quite developed yet, the chemical compounds of the drugs being used and their role in the brain alter its development.
Yoga increases both serotonin and dopamine, which is also what happens while using drugs. They affect the reward centers and mood, which is why using substances make you feel good and are difficult to quit using. When dealing with addiction recovery, yoga can be used in place of this craving. Once the brain connects serotonin and dopamine release with yoga instead of drug use, it’ll really help the brain to recover more effectively.
For the Body
Addiction is also a very physical disease and it can have a negative effect on almost every system in the body. Addiction can have an effect on body weight, muscle mass, strength, and stamina. Tooth loss, gum disease, lung disease, heart disease, liver damage, kidney damage, stroke, convulsions, and infection are all physical risks that can stem from substance abuse.
In recovery, it’s important to focus on both physical and mental health. Yoga might not be able to help many of the more serious ailments caused by addiction, but it can help with overall health and wellness. In terms of obtaining a healthy body weight, regaining muscle mass, and increasing strength, and stamina, yoga improves these aspects of health that may have been negatively affected by substance use.
Whereas a more intense cardio or strength workout might be more difficult for those recovering from addiction, yoga is a great low impact exercise that focuses on strengthening the body as well as the mind. You’ll build muscle mass and flexibility while increasing heart rate and lung capacity. The physical damage done by substance abuse may not be able to be repaired, but focusing on relaxing and adaptable exercise like yoga can help to work towards a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t involve substance abuse at all.
For the Soul
Addiction affects the soul. There are many aspects to addiction that involve emotions and self-worth that are incredibly difficult to heal from. Not only is the brain recovering from addiction, but so is the body, and the soul. The brain recovers biologically and learns to rewire its communication and reward centers. The body recovers by detoxing and flushing out toxins and rebuilding physical health. The soul recovers by being held accountable for actions, asking for forgiveness, and forgiving yourself.
Many things happen in the brain when recovering from addiction, and some of the things that can be the most difficult to recover from are the shameful aspects of addiction. Recovering addicts tend to suffer from anxiety and depression stemming from guilt associated with using. Coping skills are extremely important to obtain in addiction recovery and yoga and meditation can be a vital aspect to this part of recovery.
Yoga offers so much more than just the physical perks of exercise. Unlike many workouts, it offers a mental piece of mind as well. Meditation can be a major aspect to yoga and many classes focus on clearing the mind and focusing on positivity. Those practicing yoga will focus on understanding the things their body can do and watch the progress being made, which can be incredibly empowering to those battling addiction. Seeing positive change that you’ve created is really rewarding for those working hard to change the mistakes they may have made while using or questioned their ability to stay clean.
Yoga is an exercise for both the body and the mind which are two things that are in a sensitive state during recovery for many addicts. Yoga and meditation keeps you healthy while focusing on living a healthy and positive life. While maintaining sobriety, it’s essential to focus on these positive aspects of recovery that may help the negative side of recovery. Utilizing yoga as a coping mechanism during this time will offer another tool towards recovery for the mind, the body, and the soul.
Author bio: Chelsy Ranard is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She enjoys yoga, talk radio, and cold coffee. Follow her on Twitter!