Originating in northern India thousands of years ago, yoga is a type of stretching and posing exercise described in the sacred, ancient texts of Hinduism called the Vedas. Yoga didn’t become well-known in the U.S. until the 1960s counterculture movement introduced the spiritual and meditative benefits of yoga to the general public.
Today, research into yoga’s therapeutic properties encompasses the fields of neuroscience, bioscience, human physiology, and even addiction recovery.
The Science Behind Using Yoga to Support Recovery
Attaining a tranquil state of mindfulness and improving overall health are the two goals of yoga practice. Science actually supports the ability of yoga to create a deep sense of relaxation and well-being while reducing blood pressure and heart rate. Studies show that practicing yoga inhibits activity in certain areas of the hypothalamus that are responsible for increased anxiety, fear, and resentment. Yoga also stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain to naturally boost mood, enhance self-esteem, and regulate strong emotions.
A meta-analysis of research results involving the effectiveness of mindfulness for treating addiction and psychiatric disorders found mindfulness to be “comparable to other standard treatments” and associated with “superior outcomes” during follow-up evaluations with controlled trial participants.
Meditation and yoga should be practiced together, as each application complements the other. Today, the terms “meditation” and “mindfulness” are often used interchangeably, since both emphasize the psychological benefits of living in the present and focusing on your current thoughts and emotions rationally and objectively. Mindfulness is an effective technique that recovering addicts use to stop them from dwelling on the past, criticizing themselves for past mistakes, and concentrating on the positive possibilities in their future.
A Basic Guide to Yoga for People in Recovery
Basic yoga poses are either asymmetrical or symmetrical. Asymmetrical yoga poses are positions that use muscles on one side of the body. Symmetrical poses engage both sides of the body and are designed to focus on the whole body instead of one side of the body.
Example of an Asymmetrical Yoga Pose
The “hero pose” is done by sitting on folded legs, interlocking your hands and fingers, and raising your arms above your head so that your shoulders are stretched. Your arms and fingers should form a square, with palms facing the ceiling. The hero pose is frequently used when practicing mindfulness and accommodates individuals who cannot sit with their legs crossed in a lotus position.
Example of a Symmetrical Yoga Pose
The “bridge pose” involves placing the body into a position that resembles a curved bridge. Start the bridge pose by lying on your back, moving your heels as close as possible to your buttocks, and bending your knees in a way that elevates your pelvis. Your hands should be placed beside your head, palms down, for added support.
Here are more examples of yoga poses used in recovery and beyond: Yoga for Recovery
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