Yoga is gaining more and more traction in the recovery community. People are beginning to realize the benefits of a regular yoga practice for people who are getting sober. In fact, many holistic addiction treatment facilities are offering yoga as a supplementary service to their clients suffering from alcoholism, drug abuse, and polysubstance abuse.
People who have addiction issues often have lots of other symptoms that accompany addiction. Sometimes this means having a co-occurring disorder, or just being prone to other difficulties. These difficulties might include anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and more. Here we offer some poses that are helpful for these types of issues. We learned some poses from the recovery coaches at The Vitality Group, a team of sober coaches and companions. Additionally, yoga can be a great way to cultivate physical and mental qualities that are useful for recovery like strength, balance, and flexibility. We have compiled a list of seven yoga poses that are helpful for recovery.
Many people who have a history of addiction issues also struggle with stress or anxiety . It can be important to the process of recovery to also address symptoms of anxiety or overwhelm. One great way to do this is by finding your way into savasana pose. Also called corpse pose, this is one of the most gentle and relaxing yoga poses you can do. It can be hard to find time for rest and relaxation but doing this pose for just a couple minutes a day might give you that much needed “ahh” feeling.
Allow yourself to find a blanket or yoga mat to settle into. When you are ready lie down on your back. Allow your arms to rest slightly away from your body with the palms facing up. Take a few moments here to notice the feeling of being supported by the floor. You might pay attention to the contact of the back of the body with the mat or blanket. You might also take an opportunity here to breathe deeply.
One of the great things about yoga is that it allows you to practice both inner and physical balance. Actually doing balance poses can be a great metaphor for life. You might fall off a little bit from the center and have to come back to the pose. You might also notice how much effort it takes to actually stay balanced. These things are true of the physical body as well as recovery.
In order to do tree pose you can find a comfortable way to stand on your mat. Take a moment to distribute the weight of your body evenly between your two feet. Press all parts of your foot into the mat equally. Then when you are ready shift your weight into one foot. Gently slide the other foot up the side of your leg and allow it to come to rest with your knee pointing to the side. Your foot should rest either on your inner thigh or calf. Take some time here to feel into your sense of balance.
Many of us in recovery have an incredible amount of inner strength. Getting sober and living life without drugs and alcohol takes requires a lot of inner power. Doing poses that cultivate outer strength can allow us to tap into our inner strength as well. Additionally, building strength by exercising can be helpful for well-being overall. In fact, according to a 2005 study people who exercise also have better quality of life and health outcomes (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16639173).
In order to do plank pose you will want to have a mat on the floor or a very cushioned blanket. Find your way down to your hands and knees. When you are ready come onto your forearms. Allow the legs to extend out behind your body so that they are in line with the hips. Be sure to keep your hips in line with your back and legs. This pose will build strength in the arms, core, and legs. Spend some time feeling the burn and allowing your heart rate to rise before coming out of it.
Who doesn’t want to be a little more flexible? Both in daily life and the physical body. Being flexible in life allows us the ability to roll with whatever is happening and not get too attached to expectations. Having the physical body be more flexible is beneficial for people with shoulder or back pain and it can help muscles recover faster from exercise. Practicing flexibility in yoga might allow you to feel a little more flexible in your recovery in general.
To practice extended puppy pose come to your hands and knees on a mat. Gently walk your hands forward. Allow your shoulders to extend but make sure they do not creep up toward your ears. You should feel a stretch in the arms as well as the back. You can hang out here for a few breaths or until you feel ready to come out of it.
Some people might find themselves abusing substances in order to treat insomnia or problems sleeping (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2766287/). Other people might develop sleep problems as a side effect of using drugs or alcohol. Whatever the reason, people with addiction issues often struggle with getting to sleep or staying asleep. Sleep is a restorative process and we have all felt the pain when we don’t get enough. Practicing some yoga poses, like this one, might make sleeping a little easier.
For legs-up-the-wall pose, bring your mat so that it is touching a wall. Lie down on your back with your arms out to the sides. Gently bring your legs up so that they are resting on the wall. If you are more flexible you might want to scoot so that your butt is right up against the base of the wall. For people who are less flexible just let your legs come up to where it is a slight stretch but still very comfortable.