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Can Yoga Help with Addiction Recovery?

Everyone knows exercise is good for recovery. Many would even say it’s essential. It lowers stress and raises your heart rate. It helps reduce pain and body fat. It’s good for your brain, especially the prefrontal cortex, which helps you control yourself, and the hippocampus, which helps you learn. What about yoga? Is there anything about yoga specifically that can help with recovery? It appears there may be. Here are some ways yoga can help with recovery.

You learn to relax.

More specifically, you learn to relax when you really, really don’t feel like relaxing. Yoga entails an unusual mix of tension and relaxation. For example, you may have to hold a twist in a deep stance. You can’t twist without relaxing but you can’t hold the position without tension. And, of course, you still have to breathe. You certainly can–and probably should–just relax without yoga, but finding relaxation under pressure is a useful skill.

Yoga lowers stress.

Learning to relax is a big part of this but it’s not the only part. Your muscles can hold a lot of tension even when you’re relaxing. There are certain places–neck, shoulders, chest, lower back, hips–where tension is associated with stress. Many people have tension in these areas without even realizing and it’s as if there’s a low level of stress constantly in the background. Stretching these muscles relieves the tension and lets you relax more deeply. You can’t stretch while tense; you have to let go of the tension. In fact, stretching is mostly learning to untense your muscles and only a little about actually stretching them.

Aside from deeper relaxation, yoga can be vigorous as well. You can get similar endorphins and cardiovascular benefits to walking or running.

You learn to breathe.

It sounds weird, but most people breathe wrong. They breathe shallowly, into the chest, and sometimes through the mouth. Yoga emphasizes proper breathing, both in regular practice and through breathing exercises called pranayama. In addition to helping you relax, proper breathing gives you more energy and clears your head.

It’s a way to connect with others.

If you join a class, which is a good idea, you can regularly spend an hour with other people trying to wring out their stress and make room for peace. Just as in meetings, you’re sharing something with the other people in the class. It’s a great way to make friends around a healthy activity that supports your recovery.

These benefits and more are why yoga classes are becoming more common in treatment centers. Yoga is as hard or easy as you want to make it. There are a lot of variations and you can probably find something that works for you. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.