Medically Reviewed by Dr. Elizabeth Drew, MD
Last Updated: April 17, 2021

Many drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs in and around Philadelphia offer yoga therapy, and for good reason. Not only is yoga a great way to get some exercise, but it can help promote mindfulness and relaxation as well. It can be a great way for people to learn some valuable coping skills as they progress in addiction recovery.

When you think of yoga, does yoga therapy for addiction come to mind? Most people think of a difficult practice of touching your toes and twisting yourself into challenging shapes. It might not seem like a great fit for someone who just stopped drinking or using drugs.

But you would be surprised.

Yoga therapy for addiction is an incredible practice, whether someone is newly sober or has been clean for years. It’s a beneficial practice for anybody to take up but there are a few reasons yoga is an excellent option for people in recovery.

Many addiction treatment facilities incorporate yoga therapy into their treatment programs. Why is yoga such a positive practice when you’re trying to get sober? There is a lasting impact when you build a yoga practice during the first few weeks of recovery.

Yoga Therapy During Addiction Recovery in Pennsylvania

Yoga Therapy for Addiction Treatment

People who struggle with substance or alcohol use disorder often use or drink as a way to escape. Drugs and alcohol relieve their worries and give them a way to escape their usual mental state.

Addicts and alcoholics spend years numbing themselves with substances. Once they get sober, they’re overwhelmed by the sudden ability to feel things. They can’t turn to the coping mechanism they used for so long. Now they need something new to replace it.

This is where yoga therapy for addiction treatment comes into play.

How Can Yoga Help People in Recovery?

Developing a yoga practice gives addicts and alcoholics a new, healthier alternative to their old way of life. They no longer have the ability to cope with drugs and alcohol but they can use the yoga mat as a coping mechanism instead. Where substances used to provide an escape, or rather a mind-numbing relief, yoga steps in to take their place.

Cultivating Mindfulness

Meditation is a common suggestion when learning to cultivate mindfulness. It’s difficult to sink straight into sitting still for minutes of meditation. The misunderstandings of mindfulness and meditation make people want to quit before they even begin.

It’s difficult for many addicts and alcoholics to sit still for periods of time without their minds wandering. If this is the case for you, yoga provides a gentle introduction to the practice of cultivating mindfulness.

Mindfulness is all about living in the present moment exactly the way it is. Yoga requires you to live in the moment as you move through the session’s poses. It gently guides you into practicing mindfulness without even realizing that you are.

Connection With Self

Using drugs and alcohol for months or years separates you from yourself physically, psychologically, and spiritually. It often feels like there is a disconnect between your mind and your body that drugs and alcohol both made worse and helped you avoid.

Yoga offers the opposite effect. It is a practice centered around cultivating a quiet, calm, peaceful connection with your body. You receive the opportunity to integrate your mind, body, and spirit to restore or develop a sense of inner peace.

Additionally, there are numerous health benefits to yoga that help during early recovery. Withdrawal symptoms are a painful part of the detox process. Starting a yoga practice early on can offer some relief from the pain caused by substances leaving your body.

Dedication to Practice and Ritual

Some people report their favorite part of drinking or using was the ritualistic aspect of their process. They have a certain way they like their fix or their drink prepared, and carrying out the ritual of preparing it provided a sense of calm and ease.

Yoga is a healthier ritual that can replace old habits. It also requires dedication, consistency, and practice, three helpful things to work on during early recovery. Facilities that offer yoga therapy for addiction as a part of their treatment program give their patients a great opportunity.

There is a spiritual aspect to the practice and ritual of yoga as well. This aligns with the search for a spiritual approach to life that some seek once they get sober. They can find their unique path to spirituality on the yoga mat.

Yoga Therapy for Addiction Treatment

Why Should Yoga be a Part of All Drug and Alcohol Rehab Programs?

Yoga has been found to be extremely effective at regulating the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. When these hormones are out of balance, they have been known to contribute to various mental health conditions. Among these are:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic disorder
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Substance abuse

When stress hormones are high, they create a toxic environment within the body and central nervous system, in particular. Yoga can help by relieving tension through reducing or balancing the amount of stress hormones. When people are less stressed out, they are not quite as quick to turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cope with what they are feeling.

Yoga and Brain Chemistry Changes

Yoga has been shown to change a person’s brain chemistry in positive ways, which is the opposite of what happens when they abuse substances. When a client is performing yoga, their brain is releasing many chemicals to help them relax, lower their stress levels and lower their anxiety. Chemicals like GABA, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins all play a role.

GABA is a neurotransmitter that acts as the brain’s chemical messenger. It suppresses neural activity as a way of preventing the brain from getting too excited. This controls stress, anxiety, nervousness and even fear. During yoga, GABA can increase by as much as 27%.

The other chemicals are known as the “happiness hormones.” Their job is to make a person feel better about themselves. Dopamine is released when people participate in an activity they enjoy, such as when they have a delicious dinner with friends. Serotonin’s job is to reduce tension in the body, which effectively relieves stress and anxiety.

During yoga, there are certain parts of the brain that slow down. This can result in less stress. While stress can be a good thing because it allows people to focus in emergency situations, too much stress can be problematic. A lifestyle that is constantly under a lot of stress and tension can be harmful to one’s health and we have seen how it contributes to substance abuse and addiction. It can also result in serious medical conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Facts and Statistics in the Philadelphia Area

The NSDUH Report from SAMHSA sheds some light on how real the addiction problem is in the Philadelphia/Camden/Wilmington metropolitan area. It is very tempting to think that substance abuse is something that only happens to “other people,” but it is very present in our own communities.

Their report tells us that out of the 5 million people who live in this area:

  • Each year, about 825,000 people ages 12 and older state they have used an illicit drug within the last year.
  • This represents about 16.6% of the population, and it is higher than the state and national rates.
  • 4.7% of people in this area have abused a prescription pain medication at some point within the last year.
  • 12.6% of people report having used marijuana within the last year.
  • This is also higher than the statewide and national rates.
  • 25.7% of people within this age group have participated in binge drinking at some point within the last 30 days.
  • Again, this rate is higher than the statewide and national rates.
  • 5.9% of adults in the Philadelphia metro area have had a major depressive episode within the last year.
  • 9.5% of people ages 12 and older have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder within the last year.
  • That means that 472,000 people have been diagnosed with some type of addiction.

So many people in the Philadelphia area can benefit from yoga therapy during their drug and alcohol rehab program. It is a great tool that can help them cope and learn to live a life that is substance-free.

Yoga Therapy for Addiction in Pennsylvania

At Peace Valley Recovery, we want everyone to have the opportunity to discover how yoga can aid in their healing process. Would you like to know more about our addiction recovery program? Please contact us today.

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