You’ve stopped using, begun to address your demons in treatment and been released back into the real world with a tentative spring in your step and a resolution to keep on the right path, so what do you do now? Formerly your existence was timetabled by drinking and using, ducking and diving and lying and conniving, so what do you do with all this time you have been gifted? Sitting alone in your own head is a perilous place to be, so how do you find peace in your mind and reconnect to the good stuff in life? Yoga, in short, might just be part of the answer but how can pulling a few ridiculous looking poses with even more ludicrous names and learning to breathe calmly in them help?
The word ‘yoga’ is Sanskrit for ‘yoke’ which in this context implies a union between mind body and spirit. This ancient Indian practice has been around since at least 3000 BC and in recent years has become very popular in the West because of its benefits to health and wellbeing. If you accept the disease concept advocated by the medical community and elaborated upon by 12 step fellowships it is clear that yoga addresses the spiritual, mental and physical aspects of the malady. In fact the rejuvenating qualities of this discipline are so widely recognised that it is included in many of the best treatment programs.
‘Bloody hippy hogwash’ or ‘you need to be flexible’ or ‘I’m too old to try something new’ or ‘that’s not extreme enough for me, I like a good sweat’ and ‘I’ll feel like an awkward insect’, are just some of the plausible but closeminded excuses given for not giving this advantageous practice a go. The addict/alcoholic mind has an unequivocal ability to come up with a million ways to pick holes in something before ever having tried it or to be an expert on something they have totally no knowledge about.
There are countless different forms of yoga to choose from depending on your preferences and personal aims. Some of the most popular ones include: Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Hatha, Yin and Kundalini. The best idea is to go to a few classes and see what you connect with. You’ll soon find out if you enjoy being yogaed to within an inch of your life in a power class or whether if something more mellow fits the bill. It is probably best to start with a teacher but there is plenty of information on the internet and many books on the topic.
Calming the Mind
The civilian mind can whir through a pretty much incessant wheel of internal dialogue, chattering away about a million things. For those who have had a life in the trenches, this can include a waterfall of negative self-talk: I’m stupid, ugly, crazy, I’ve wasted my life, and I’ll never be enough, blah, blah, blah. This is one of the aspects of the disease that yoga really helps with. In the words of the Season’s yoga teacher, Sagi Jesse Degon: ‘It helps get your head out of your backside’. There is something about the movement of body with breath that helps to slow down the breakneck buzz of the mind which can be pretty overwhelming, especially in early recovery. This fosters a connection with yourself and your body and is a really healthy thing for recovering addicts who often spend vast amounts of time ‘living in their heads’.
Connecting to Yourself
Reconnecting to the good stuff in life includes reconnecting to yourself and once you push through the fear of doing something new and the uncomfortable feelings of not being good enough, this is a practice which really helps you stretch out into your new improved recovery skin. Taking any sort of class regularly is also a good way to start the terrifying process of meeting and talking to new people and requires a bit of commitment.
Research has shown that yoga helps reduce cortisol otherwise referred to as the stress hormone. This is just one of the chemical messengers released by the adrenal glands, which are two petite pieces of tissue perched above the kidneys. Using drugs and alcohol can seriously impede their function and practising yoga can actually help stimulate them to do their jobs properly again. Cortisol and adrenaline are both produced here, along with other regulators that help control body fluid balance, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
You don’t have stop eating pies, go all in and wear white cheese cloth to get the full benefit of this past time. Being a weekend warrior can be just as medicinal; studies conducted by the University of Illinois showed that just 20 minutes of Hatha yoga helps improve concentration and memory retention. And we all know that using drugs and alcohol have serious consequences for these aspects of brain function.
Doing any sort of exercise is a kind of living amends to yourself and your body. Addicts and alcoholics have a tendency to focus on all the people they have harmed and forget the deep scars that they have inflicted on themselves. Doing something good for yourself also nurtures a growing sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Added to this exercise in any form helps promote the natural production of the brains feel good chemicals which prolonged drinking and using destroys.
Yoga, in many ways reflects the process of recovery and indeed life in the wider sense. There is no way you are going to be perfect at it from the get go. There will be days when your balance is faulty and you’re not in the mood, in exactly the same way that you can lack equilibrium in other areas of your life and want to just stay in bed. Just like life, you suit up, show up and give it a shot. It requires self-discipline, self-acceptance and often a healthy dose of humility.
So if you or somebody you know has a problem with drugs or alcohol call Seasons Bali today and speak to a member of our expert team to see how we can help. Treatment is just the beginning of a whole new life.