Yoga is said to help with many things.
In it’s ancient history, it was used as a method to help cure many ailments of the human condition in addition to the other physical benefits of the practice.
Fast forward and now we’re wearing cute yoga outfits to Hot Yoga classes to get our sweat on.
But does yoga still hold up to the notion that it can help with human ailments? Yes….the anecdotal and scientific proof is stating just that: yoga has been a resource and tool for people suffering from conditions like depression, anxiety, and trauma.
Here’s another to add to the list – addiction.
More of That, Please
Addiction, as we know, comes in many forms; a person may be addicted to drugs, alcohol, food, or shopping, to name a few.
Being addicted to something is often about finding a connection to something, usually an external object, person, substance, or idea, that offers comfort and relief for internal dilemmas.
Addiction is usually a symptom of other deep-seeded ailments like depression or trauma.
Unfortunately, covering up or hiding from those dark emotions with an addiction is limited and temporary. And because the results don’t last long, the behavior becomes repetitive, thus, the addiction.
Time To Go Inside
Yoga can be a wonderful alternative and possible treatment for addiction.
Instead of seeking something on the outside to provide emotional relief, yoga guides us inward – to help us recognize the power we have within ourselves to begin great healing.
While addiction leads us away from our true selves, yoga reminds us of those truths – who we really are. Yoga opens our minds to a greater potential – that potential we often seek when we are in need or deeply hurting. Addiction hides that pain, well, temporarily hides it.
Having an addiction to something, whether it’s social media, a substance, or an activity, like playing online video games, is usually about numbing emotions that remind us of the past or avoiding future consequences.
It’s an act of removing us from the present.
- Yoga, on the other hand, helps us to stay in the moment. It’s about living fully in the present.
- Yoga helps to reveal that pain, but gives us the tools and strengths to move through them.
So, what are some ways that yoga can guide someone away from addictive behavior?
Put Your Smartphone Down
It may be a hard thing to do, but it’s time to step away from those external distractions and deal with those inner thoughts. It won’t be easy, but important if you want to live a long healthy life: physically and mentally.
What can you do first?
Why not try Mindfulness Meditation. (Wow! Talk about, “right outta the gate!”) It can sound quite intimidating, but it may be a good place to begin. The exercise calls for you to sit in stillness for some time ( start with 2-5 minutes first and build up from there), focus on your breath, and take note of the many random thoughts that are running through your mind. It’s a way to take inventory of the thoughts and feelings you’ve been avoiding. Just do it every day for 2-3 weeks…That is really effective.
A Parade of Thoughts
Just take a few minutes, sit still, and focus on your breath. You’ll probably feel very uncomfortable at first.
That’s ok. It may be a challenge to only focus on your breathing. What will come up instead are all those packed away thoughts. That’s a good thing!
Let them rise to the surface. Watch them stream by your consciousness like you’re watching a parade of random thoughts. The main part for you is to sit back with your mental bag of popcorn, and watch the colorful parade.
Just observe the thoughts, and the most important thing…don’t judge them.
These are just thoughts; they do not make up your reality. Just watch them pass by. The more you do this, the more your consciousness clears. It’s a way to process feelings in a fairly simple way.
Then Shake it All About
Now that you’ve been plagued with all those locked away thoughts and feelings, what do you do with them as they start stirring around your body?
You do the Hokey Pokey?
Not really, but you do want to move your body. That’s where yoga comes into play.
When you add a physical yoga practice to the mix, you begin to learn a new process of dealing with uncomfortable emotions that you used to avoid through engaging in addictive behavior.
Some yoga postures are intended to be challenging to the body: they maybe hard to get into or hold for a period of time.
But that’s the point.
In yoga, you are asked to stay fully in the moment when you are holding that balancing pose. In that moment, you allow all those nagging, frustrating thoughts to arise. But rather than succumb to them, you breathe through them. Using the techniques from your Mindfulness Meditation practice, you can actually learn to calm your mind and body so that you can remain composed in the posture.
A moving yoga practice can help you process all those deep-seeded feelings.
The fact that the body is in motion is quite therapeutic. Holding particular postures can also be a resourceful tool.
Many of the poses that we practice have their own meanings, interpretations, and histories. Although mythological, the lessons in these stories can be symbols for healing and growing, especially for someone who may be having a hard time.
Dig Yourself Out of the Ground, Warrior
Warrior 1: The background of this pose comes from the story of a warrior that was created from a lock of hair. The Lord Shiva tore a dreadlock from his head, tossed it into the mud, and a warrior emerged from the ground.
As you emerge out of the darkness of addiction, Warrior 1 can be the perfect yoga pose to embody that expression of the new self.
Stand with your right foot forward at the top of your mat. Your knee should be bent and aligned over your heel or ankle. Your left leg extends behind you in a lunge position. Your foot is turned at a 45 degree angle with the whole foot pressed into the mat. Your upper body is facing forward with your arms extending into the air. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths. Imagine that you’re that warrior that was birthed from the ground. You’re ready to step into a new life. (Oh, don’t forget to do the pose on the other side.)
How Can a Fish Help Me Heal?
Fish Pose is another posture that has it’s own story.
One interpretation of the pose is that it represents the destroyer of diseases. Some consider addiction an illness so this pose seems appropriate.
Start this pose lying on your back: legs extending out in front of you on your mat with your arms down by your side. You’ll want to get your arms underneath you for this. Gently rock left and right until you’re able to get your arms and shoulders mostly underneath you. You’ll end up sitting directly on your hands (palms down.). Now, press your elbows into the floor to raise your upper body. (Imagine you’re in lounge chair that was lying flat, but you’re adjusting it up to about 45 degrees.) You’ll be propped up on your elbows. Tip your head back and allow the top of your head to rest softly on the mat. (The wall behind you will appear upside down.)
This pose is related to healing diseases because it was thought that illness was associated with the spine.
So, by bringing health to your spine, you can send that sensation throughout the body.
Fish Pose is a back bend that definitely effects the spine. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths to get the full healing nature of the experience.
These are just a couple of poses that can bring enlightenment to someone who is dealing with the hardship of addiction.
There are many other poses that be added to this process. But mainly, a little bit of breath work and a little bit of yoga movement can go a long way, baby!
The yoganum family