Yoga Therapy For Addiction

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It seems that every day I hear a new tragic story about a person falling prey to their addiction. Stories of people dying or losing friends and family due to opioid and heroin use are everywhere. This is in addition to alcohol addiction, food addictions, and others. These addictions ruin the lives of the people who get too caught up in them and their families.

I also am constantly hearing stories of hope. Former addicts who have turn their lives around. Increasingly I’m hearing the word “yoga” with these stories. How it was a first step, how it saved a life, how it enabled someone to turn things around. Why would this be? How can yoga, and more specifically yoga therapy help such a difficult situation?

The beginning of this lies in the fundamentals of yoga practice. Yoga citta vritti nirodhah.”Yoga is experienced in the mind which had ceased to identify itself with it’s vacillating waves of perception”. In other words we can experience peace and clarity when we are not hijacked by our vrittis, or thoughts. This truth is just as true for a person addicted to heroine as it is for President Obama.

Yoga sees all people as addicts. We are all addicted to paying attention to potentially unreliable thought patterns. Yoga practice is aimed at helping us be less addicted to these thoughts, so that we can make decisions from a deeper, more reliable place.

In yoga therapy, we use many [yoga] techniques including different types of asana, pranayama, and meditation all geared to help each mind understand the nature of it’s thoughts. These practices are customized by a Yoga Therapist to work efficiently with any individual. This way of working  is helpful and works for addiction because addiction to thoughts is at the root of all of our mental afflictions.

There have been many pilot studies that look at yoga and it’s effects on addiction. Some focus on the chemistry changes like increased GABA production. Others look at yoga’s efficacy with helping depression and anxiety, both of which can contribute to addictive behaviors. While studies are important for convincing the treatment world to use these ancient yoga techniques, we need to remember how imperative it is to address an individual’s imbalance as an essential key to a positive outcome.

In my yoga therapy practice, I have seen addicted individuals respond well to movement. I have also seen meditation and breathwork have strong effects. Different combinations work best based on an individual’s physical, energetic and mental makeup and are taught to help create more clarity and focus in terms of changing patterns. The common denominator is an individual understanding that they are not flawed for being addicted. We are all addicted just in different ways. Yoga was developed to reduce suffering, because we all suffer. A good Yoga Therapist can help by offering practices that make it easier to handle the mind’s voices, and in turn, act from our best selves.

May the wisdom of Yoga be available to all that are suffering.


Yoga Therapy For Pain Management: A Real Opportunity [Outside Of Opioids]

pilltrayThere has been so much news this year on the raging opioid epidemic in the US. Doctors have over prescribed addictive opioids for pain syndromes for years. The result is a population needlessly addicted to pharmaceutical drugs—drugs that often stop providing the pain relief they were prescribed for.

The nation (and world) is now looking for alternatives. How can people work with and take charge of their pain without dangerous drugs?

Yoga therapy is an extremely effective treatment for so many pain syndromes. On a physical level, properly prescribed asana (postures) can realign structures, create strength in weak muscles, stretch muscles and reshape fascia to facilitate joint mobility. Asana has provided relief for many musculoskeletal complaints including back pain that affect 80 percent of adults lives.

Studies have also begun to confirm that yoga including meditative practices increase pain tolerance dramatically. In one study, adults who practiced yoga regularly increased their pain tolerance by 2x. Another study found that pain and anxiety tolerance increased in individuals after a 3 day meditation retreat. And there are dozens more of these studies. The take away is that yoga therapy is uniquely positioned to help with conditions that affect most people and is a lower cost remedy, without the extensive lists of side effects.

So is yoga addictive? Well that’s for another day.

Please find me (here) if you are looking for help in this arena. May we all find health, peace, and light today.