Holistic approaches to mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder, are often practiced in congruence with psychotherapy and medication-assisted treatment. The practice of Yoga dates back over 3,000 years. It is not only a form of exercise, but it is also a philosophy and lifestyle that uses meditative practices to create mindfulness. Yoga often involves physical, spiritual, and mental components that all work together to improve aspects of a person’s health. The philosophy of yoga is grounded in living a purposeful life where yoga can help a person live a moral, ethical, and self-disciplined life.
Benefits of Regular Yoga Practice
Yoga exercises a person’s both mental and physical state and can help in the treatment of substance use disorders (SUD). Usually, yoga involves concentrated muscular activity involved with the particular yoga movement or position along with a mindful focus on the self, breath, and energy. Yoga emphasizes understanding your body’s needs and limits by using focused meditation to feel the effect that a yoga pose or movement might have on an individual’s body. Yoga also decreases blood pressure, thins the blood, lowers heart rate, and increases blood flow to the intestines and other vital organs. Yoga can even reduce pain for chronic illness and can even reduce a person’s need for prescription pain medication. Since many people use substances as a way to self-medicate chronic emotional or physical pain, yoga gives a person struggling with substance use a healthy alternative for managing his or her symptoms.
One of the most popular yoga practices is Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga includes “asana” or body and posture movements as well as “pranayama” or breathing techniques. Hatha yoga primarily focuses on the conscious prolongation of inhalation, breath extensions, and exhalation. The regular practice of yoga can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, and symptoms of chronic illness or pain.
Mindfulness and Stress Management
Managing stress is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Stress can cause many mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, substance use problems, and more. For someone suffering from substance use disorder, managing stressful situations is key to avoiding relapse. Stress can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and depressive and anxiety symptoms. Stress can also negatively impact your physical health such as heart disease, cancer, strokes, and other chronic conditions.
Stress management often involves the practice of mindfulness in order to negate obsessive, negative, or worrisome thought patterns. Through the practice of mindfulness, yoga teaches people how to relax. When practicing self-care, a person should set aside time to relax and indulge in activities that bring them joy. However, it is easy for a person to be unable to de-stress during enjoyable or relaxing activities if their mind is distracted by stressful, negative, or worrisome thoughts. A person’s ability to separate themselves from stressful thoughts can be achieved through the practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is an important aspect of yoga culture. Being mindful means being present and cognizant of one’s surroundings. In yoga, mindfulness includes mentally entering a space that is non-judgmental, non-reactive, present-centered, and an intense self-consciousness of the person’s thoughts, emotions, sensations, and perceptions. Mindfulness may also be practiced in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as a way to negate negative thought patterns. Practicing mindfulness often helps people who tend to obsess and worry about future events or things out of their control. Practicing yoga puts people in a state that interrupts their flight-or-fight stress response by forcing the person to be present and focus on their muscle movement or breathing techniques. This causes a shift in the nervous system of the brain that allows the person to fully relax.
Practicing yoga regularly may lead to better impulse control which can significantly decrease the odds of someone relapsing who is recovering from substance use disorder. Substance use can change the function of reward circuitry in a person’s brain. This affects a person’s ability to learn, manage stress levels, make decisions, and control impulses. Yoga can improve a person’s impulse control and habitual responses by reconnecting the prefrontal control regions and striatal brain circuitry in a person’s brain.
Yoga exercises the brain through the practice of mindfulness. Holding poses for an extended period of time and pushing a person’s body without going over the body’s natural limits increases a person’s natural reward response system, which can reduce a person’s cravings for unhealthy substances or behaviors. Impulse control may also improve negative behaviors in a person who has a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder because impulsivity is often a cause of extreme shifts in a person’s mood.
Yoga is an effective holistic treatment when used alongside other types of psychotherapy and medicated treatments. The practice of mindfulness may help improve behavioral symptoms of mental disorders, especially impulsivity. At Shoreline Recovery Center, we offer several holistic modalities, including yoga and meditation, because we understand that different combinations of treatments will have a different effect on each of our clients.
Our professionals specialize client treatment plans so that they are specific to each client’s individual needs. In the case of dual diagnosis, Shoreline believes in treating both disorders simultaneously because we know that one affects the other. The holistic amenities that Shoreline provides teach our clients skills that stick with them even after their time at our facility and continuously guide our clients in their recovery journey. If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health disorder such as substance use, please call us at (866) 278-8495 to learn more about our programs.