Can yoga help in addiction recovery?
Can yoga help in addiction recovery? Yes! As with any good exercise routine, yoga offers many benefits during the recovery process.
Addiction is a chronic disease that over time can cause serious damage to a person’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being. The whole purpose of the ancient discipline of yoga is to unite and heal the mind, body, and spirit – a perfect complement to addiction recovery.
To depict some of these great benefits of yoga on your health, we’ve summarized 10 of the greatest benefits of regular yoga practice.
The Health Benefits of Yoga in Addiction Recovery
1. Improved Flexibility
Increased range of motion is one of the first and most noticeable benefits of yoga. Flexibility improves your posture, balance, dexterity, blood flow and mobility in joints.
2. Enhanced Brain Function
Yoga has been hailed as a great way to enhance your brain function. As yoga becomes part of your regular exercise routine you will experience increased cognitive function, memory and focus, just to name a few. You will also be introduced to a new language; Sanskrit!
3. Build Strong Muscles
Yoga helps build muscle as your body holds poses or asanas. With increased flexibility comes access to more muscle fibres, and an enhanced ability to build those muscles. Yoga also helps you to define your existing muscle.
4. Stress Relief
Yoga is a wonderful stress-buster. It loosens up tense muscles, and the controlled and focused breathing alone helps you focus your mind, relax and de-stress.
5. Increased Energy
Regular practice of yoga will keep you energized, recharged and fresh even after a long day.
6. Sleep Better
Yoga can help improve your quality of sleep. In addition to helping you decrease stress, which helps improve sleep, certain yoga postures increase blood circulation to the sleep center in the brain. This helps normalize the sleep cycle.
7. Healthy Body Chemistry
As with any good exercise program, regular practice of yoga helps improve several aspects of our body chemistry such as lowering cholesterol, triglycerides, sodium and blood glucose levels; promoting a strong lymphatic system; and increasing the body’s production of red blood cells.
8. Improved Mood
Feeling down? Yoga is a great way to bring a smile back to your face. Many studies suggest that yoga can effect positive states of your mind and boost your mood. Regular practice has also shown to improve scores for life satisfaction, and lower scores for aggressiveness and depression.
9. Every Size, Every Age
Yoga practiced appropriately can be beneficial to all adults, whether you are a 6’5” 250-pound basketball player or a 5’1” 70-pound senior citizen. The secret is finding a level of yoga that suites you. Additionally, due to the low impact of most yoga poses, the risk of injury is quite low.
10. Natural Pain Relief
Studies have found yoga to be an effective treatment for chronic pain. Yoga can benefit many types of pain, including joint pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. Moreover, Yoga is also known to create a higher tolerance for pain.
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Exercise for Addiction Recovery
As a physical health instructor working with individuals overcoming addiction, I have seen first-hand how exercise can have a positive impact on mood and energy levels. Spending time with my clients everyday also provides me with the opportunity to see how they change as exercise becomes a bigger part of their daily routine. My clients appear to feel more connected and alive. They’re getting out and moving and realizing that by exercising and taking care of themselves, they’re also saying, “I’m worth it.” This in turn impacts their self-esteem and feelings of shame and isolation — feelings that once dominated their self-concept. Working in this role as I have for so many years, I can see how exercise and physical health can really benefit those who struggle with addiction.
The number of Canadians struggling with alcoholism and other addictions is staggering. Current research estimates the prevalence of substance abuse in Canada at 11 per cent (about one in ten adults). Many addiction treatment centres require patients to abstain from all mood-altering substances while they are in treatment. This may be challenging, but in order to provide adequate care, the treatment centre should offer physical and emotional support from doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to help patients stay in treatment and minimize the likelihood that they will seek out alcohol or drugs.
After the clients have stabilized (usually about a week into treatment), a major focus of the therapists becomes teaching self-care techniques that clients can practice before they leave treatment. These must include behaviours that the client can realistically continue after they leave treatment and return to daily life. One of these behaviours is healthy exercise. When a person with an addiction completes treatment, it is ideal that he/she is already in the habit of working out several times a week. At the end of treatment, the client should be confident that they have acquired a variety of tools that will help them remain in recovery, one of which is physical exercise.
Exercise is important because it can help regulate and establish physical and emotional well being. The benefits of following a structured fitness program are many; improved cardiovascular health, better strength and balance, improved sense of well being, maintaining healthy body weight and better self-esteem. For many people, regular exercise paired with weekly support meetings, regular communication with their sponsor, healthy diet and adequate sleep provide a successful recovery experience.
Unfortunately, a large number of individuals suffering from addiction also suffer from depression. Many are prescribed with medication, but that alone is often not enough to help individuals establish meaningful recovery from addiction. In addition to abstaining from mood-altering substances, a regular cardiovascular exercise routine can provide a natural, effective alleviation of depression. In his book, The Depression Cure, Stephen Ilardi calls aerobic exercise a potent antidepressant. He recommends keeping one’s heart rate (HR) elevated to between 120 to 160 bpm (about 70-80 per cent of max HR) for 35 minutes three times a week. Endorphin levels peak approximately 30 minutes after the start of aerobic exercise. This is a great starting point and with a physician’s approval, these numbers can be gradually increased.
One of the main reasons why cardiovascular exercise helps to elevate mood is because certain chemical changes that occur in the body affect how we feel during and after strenuous exercise. Endorphins are classified as “endogenous opioid polypeptides” and they are thought to be produced by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus during strenuous exercise, and in response to pain, excitement and other stress stimuli. Once produced, endorphins are distributed throughout the nervous system where they interact with the opiate receptors to reduce our perception of pain. These natural pain relievers not only reduce the perception of pain, but they are also linked with an increased sense of euphoria and well-being. The amount of endorphins released depends on our physical fitness and regular cardiovascular exercise maximizes the potential benefit of endorphins.
Research studies suggest that those who suffer from depression may benefit more from group cardio classes than they do from exercising alone. The social benefits of group classes may further increase the endorphins released by the body during exercise. These findings suggest that it would be more beneficial to have people who are in treatment for addictions exercise together, rather than individually. If individuals recovering from addiction experience positive, energizing results from group cardio classes, they will be encouraged to continue with them after treatment.
Successful recovery from an addiction requires a comprehensive approach to physical, psychological, social and spiritual well being. Ideally, addiction treatment centres will offer a variety of cardio and yoga-type classes to help clients realize the benefits of frequent physical activity. It also works well if clients can choose to add additional independent sessions in a weight room or workout room. These sessions could include strength training and cardiovascular workouts.
Individuals in treatment should be encouraged to write down a detailed weekly exercise routine, including the type, location and frequency of exercise in which the client will engage. Treatment providers should also recommend that clients find a workout partner and/or take classes as part of their plan. It is harder to skip workouts when someone is waiting for you.
Finding a suitable fitness partner is invaluable. There are many organizations where you may speak to people or send an email regarding an interest in regular walking or attending a gym together. Those who are attending AA/NA meetings or other support programs could find a partner there. For some, having a co-worker for daily lunchtime walks works well. Churches, synagogues and other spiritual organizations may provide a great opportunity. It is advisable to exercise with someone who has goals and values that are similar to yours.
If you are planning to go to a recreation centre, you can make an appointment with a personal trainer on your first visit. Ask the trainer to help you set up a routine of cardiovascular exercise and resistance training that you can follow. Also, the personal trainer can recommend appropriate group classes for your level of fitness. If you are planning to start walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming independently, consider speaking to your family physician or a kinesiologist about frequency and intensity. If you aren’t able to exercise consistently for 35 minutes, gradually increase the length of your workout to maximize the benefits from endorphin release. Regular, enjoyable exercise can be an important factor in a person’s recovery from addiction and their commitment to the process. Just as missing support meetings are a red flag for relapse, so is missing workouts (for no real reason). Reach out for help and support to get back into your regular, healthy routine. Everyone, at every age is encouraged to include some cardiovascular exercise (i.e. walking) in his/her weekly schedule.
By Wendy Lee, BA Kin, CK, FIS.
The benefits of exercise in recovering from addiction
How important is it for someone in treatment for an addiction to exercise regularly? How about post-treatment?
These are great questions. Whether you are suffering from an addiction yourself or trying to help a family member or loved one recover from an addiction.
Just as a regular fitness program can help you to improve your overall quality of life, regular exercise is important for someone fighting to overcome an addiction. The benefits of a well structured fitness program when recovering from an addiction are many; such as improved cardiovascular health, better strength and balance, improved sense of well being, maintaining healthy body weight and better self-esteem.
Unfortunately, many who suffer from addiction miss these benefits. Many suffer from depression and are prescribed with medication.
A regular cardiovascular exercise routine (a minimum of four times per week) plus abstinence, can provide a natural, effective alleviation of depression.
Recovering from an addiction requires a comprehensive approach to physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being. For example at Bellwood, we ensure our clients follow a well structured fitness program together with their daily schedule of lectures, group therapy, one-on-one counseling, relaxation, meditation, meals and snacks. Our group fitness classes include options of circuit training and yoga. Many clients also choose to attend additional independent sessions in the weight room, which include strength training and cardio.
Clients frequently tell us how much better they feel physically and mentally after a few weeks of exercise.
Exercise and fitness while in treatment is only the first step in a life of recovery. Maintaining a health physical fitness program post-treatment is equally important to maintain sobriety.
In second last week of treatment, our clients are guided through a realistic fitness plan, health plan and a detailed weekly schedule for the week after they graduate. This schedule includes their detailed exercise routine, with specifics about what type and where they will do it. A backup plan for a missed exercise session is also discussed with the clients.
Many of our clients tell us that they continue with much or all of the exercise that they started many years after completing treatment. Almost all of our clients who relapse and return for treatment share that they did not continue with their regular exercise routine after they left Bellwood.
Exercise is definitely an important part of moving into recovery from addiction as well as staying healthy!
For more great info on this topic, please check out: https://blog.crchealth.com/2012/03/19/five-benefits-of-exercise-in-addiction-recovery/