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Yoga and Meditation in Recovery

reviewed by Emmeline Massey MSW, LSW

Yoga and meditation are holistic, mindfulness-based interventions that can support recovery from addiction. Beyond recovery from addiction, yoga and meditation provide multiple positive benefits for physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

Moreover, yoga and meditation’s effects on the brain provide a path toward sustained recovery, specifically by re-wiring neural pathways that elicit long-term behavior change. Incorporating alternative modalities with conventional treatment methods makes it possible to tackle addiction with a more holistic approach.

Yoga, Meditation, and Connection

People who struggle with addiction often experience a lack of connection to self and community. While drugs and alcohol can offer temporary relief from debilitating or confusing emotions, substance use only deepens the root disconnect in the long term.

Mindfulness-based practices can help develop a personal spiritual connection and sense of meaning. Yoga and meditation promote a deeper connection to mind, body, and soul, thereby facilitating personal growth and empowerment. This effect can be a profound pivot for people feeling powerless or out of control.

The Science Behind Mindfulness-Based Interventions

Research shows that yoga and meditation strengthen our ability to control our responses. When we reduce impulsive behavior, we are more likely to avoid risky choices and make more intentional decisions that align with our long-term goals.

While yoga and meditation have been around for over 5,000 years, research has only recently started to document and acknowledge their benefits. As approaches like yoga and meditation become more prevalent in western medicine, further understanding of the scientific effects on the brain could support integrated models for recovery.

Benefits of Yoga

Derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuj,” meaning “to unite,” yoga is traditionally defined as the union of the individual self with the supreme self. According to the classical definition by Patanjali, an ascetic of Ancient India, yoga means transcendence of the obstacles of the mind. Yoga includes the combination of asanas (postures) and breathwork, the result of which can be highly meditative.

Benefits of yoga include:

  • Improved resilience and focus
  • Development of coping skills and strategies for stress
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Healthy energy levels
  • Emotional healing

Take a yoga break with All Points North Therapist and Yoga Instructor Laura Tucker, MS, LPC.

Yoga in Addiction Treatment

Yoga is a healthy coping mechanism that promotes deeper introspection and strengthened inner resolve; it can help us process difficult emotions, overcome cravings, and move past urges to act out in addictive patterns. The yoga philosophy offers a holistic approach to addiction treatment that can complement western standards of care.

For example, one tenet of yoga is known as pratyahara, or self-inquiry, a practice that can help one discover the power within to overcome addictive cravings. Recovery challenges us to reflect on different aspects of our lives, and mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation provide an outlet for safe self-discovery.

Yogic asanas involve a combination of physical exercise and relaxation that can benefit individuals in addiction treatment and recovery. Asanas build strength, flexibility, and resilience while reducing anxiety and depression symptoms for a more balanced and relaxed psychological state. Researchers have even studied the influence of yoga practices on patients undergoing methadone maintenance treatment, with patients showing positive outcomes in overcoming opioid addiction.

A client practices meditation outside of All Points North Lodge overlooking the Colorado mountains.

Meditation in Addiction Treatment

Meditation stimulates the same reward system in the brain as drugs and alcohol without adverse health impacts. Addiction is dependent on external stimuli, while meditation switches the focus internally, promoting a deeper mind-body connection.

Meditation is used as a tool in healthcare to promote internal psychological healing. There are various types of meditation one can practice; exploring a few different options allows you to find what works best for your specific needs.

Different types of meditation include:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Focused meditation
  • Movement meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Guided meditation

Sahaj Samadhi meditation is a transcendental mantra-based meditation that promotes energy and creativity. In Sanskrit, “Sahaj” means effortless. This particular type of meditation trains the mind to cultivate intuition and develop deep stillness, allowing the body to relax.

While addiction can contribute to anxiety, depression, stress, and other mental health issues, meditation can generate energy, clarity, joy, and deep inner peace, instilling a renewed lease on life.

Mindfulness-Based Interventions in a Clinical Setting

Yoga and meditation have become more popular clinical interventions in recent years. Mindfulness meditation is associated with multiple measures of well-being, including reductions in depressive symptoms and perceptions of stress and pain as well as improved immune function.

Moreover, mindfulness enhances our ability to regulate cognitive and emotional behavior: those who practice mindfulness exhibit greater cognitive flexibility and emotion regulation than those who do not practice meditation. These outcomes are essential for neuroplasticity and long-term recovery from addiction.

Impacts on Neuroplasticity

Repeated drug use may influence the transmission of signals between neurons in the brain, leading to more habitual and compulsive drug use. As a result, it can be difficult to stop substance use despite its harmful effects.

We can increase neuroplasticity by learning new skills and behaviors and then repeating these behaviors until they become habits. When we learn to practice yoga and meditation, we can stimulate the dopamine reward centers in the brain without substances.

Further Interventions to Support Neuroplasticity

Of course, mindfulness-based interventions can only go so far. Interventional psychiatry and neurotechnology can help address the root issues of behavioral health issues. Services like deep TMS, ketamine-assisted therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, neurofeedback, and stellate ganglion blocks can promote a deeper level of healing and complement the benefits of meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness-based interventions.

Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Treatment

At All Points North, we utilize a multi-pronged treatment approach to heal the mind, body, and spirit. We combine mindfulness-based interventions like yoga and meditation with cutting-edge technology and evidence-based therapies from Plus by APN. The result is an optimal healing environment with higher client improvement outcomes and a greater likelihood for sustained recovery.

If you’re interested in learning more about how mindfulness-based interventions can promote deeper healing in treatment and recovery, you can contact us via or at 855-510-4585. Healing is possible when we have the conditions we need to thrive.

Reference

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  • Rosenthal, A., Levin, M.E., Garland, E.L. et al. Mindfulness in Treatment Approaches for Addiction — Underlying Mechanisms and Future Directions. Curr Addict Rep 8, 282–297 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40429-021-00372-w
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