Self-Care, Yoga Practice, Yoga Teacher

Yoga for Addiction and Recovery

In the alternative care world, most describe addiction, as the disease of disconnection. There is not a gene responsible for addiction, we don’t automatically inherit addiction from our ancestors the way we inherit our blue eyes or brown hair. Yet, millions of people are at the mercy of their addictive behaviour.

In the throes of addiction, the motivation to complete the addictive behaviour overpowers even the most basic human needs for food, shelter, money or relationships. Seeking an external “fix” to what our body should be naturally producing and isn’t, or not enough of. Opioid attachment (cuddle hormone) and dopamine incentive receptors (reward based) are either underdeveloped due in part to childhood neglect or trauma, or have been destroyed such as the case in long-term cocaine use.

Yoga offers a way to rebuild the stores of our “happy” chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins), and in certain held postures a way to release them for immediate satisfaction and lasting feelings of vitality and connection. Hot Yoga is said to increase production of all four of these chemicals. Another reason this practice is cherished by so many in recovery – though all yoga is good yoga! 90% of the serotonin and 70% of the dopamine production comes from our gut. Poses that involve compression of the abdomen such as forward folds and twists are often done in a typical hatha or vinyasa style yoga class. Prone positions such as sleeping crocodile for relaxation (an option for savasana lying on your tummy) can have a profound effect. Another empowering pose, which can easily be done at home is lying on the belly with a rolled-up blanket horizontally at the line of the lower ribs.

Inversion postures can also create a good surge of happy chemicals. Common inversions such as shoulderstand, headstand and handstand tend to be for more advanced practitioners. A little simpler, and achievable by all is child’s pose while gently rocking the forehead side to side, or rabbit pose sitting up a little higher to bring a gentle rock on the crown of the head. Legs up the wall is another option that also brings deep relaxation.

The word yoga means union. According to Patanjali from The Sutras of Patanjali 450 BCE, yoga is science of the mind. By overcoming the obstacles of our chitta vritti or mind-stuff, we find clarity of mind, are able to think rationally and thereby feel connected to our true self. Where addiction is disconnection, yoga is connection. While 12-step programs are integral in helping people find healing and community, adding in yoga in some form whether a gentle chair based class or the rigors of a hot yoga class will benefit anyone looking to connect and heal.

Join me in Vancouver May 26-27, 2018 at Stretch Yoga for a 2-day Training in Yoga for Addiction and Recovery.  Learn how Yoga can be used with our clients, or in our own self-practice to build on the path of recovery. More trainings offered across Canada and Internationally




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