What’s the Link Between Yoga and Addiction Recovery?

Today, many people practice yoga for a variety of reasons. From exercise to devotional practice, yoga has become a phenomenon in American society—including Yin Yoga. Yoga draws its roots from India before the common era and is still very much alive today in Indian traditions.

As a whole, there is ample documentation showing the benefits of yoga. The physical and mental practices of yoga benefit the mind, body, and emotional health of those who do it regularly. According to one summary of literature, yoga reduces stress and anxiety, as well as improves overall mental health.

For those in addiction recovery, yoga has become a mind-body, “holistic intervention.” There are many types of yogic practices, many of which revolve around certain postures and breathing techniques. But one of the most popular in treating substance abuse disorders is called Yin Yoga.

What is Yin Yoga? 

Yin Yoga is a low-impact and relaxed style of yoga that involves holding poses—known as asanas—for longer periods of time than other yoga practices. These steady poses increase your inner awareness, including paying attention to your breath, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

The word “Yin” refers to the Yin and Yang principles in Chinese medicine. These principles are the balancing forces in the universe and oppose one another in their qualities. Yin is associated with coolness, slowness, and receptivity, while Yang is associated with warmth, quickness, and activity.

As you might imagine, Yin yoga is gentle, cooling, slow, and attentive to bodily experience. This is contrast to other yoga practices that are Yang-oriented, i.e. heat-building, quick-moving, and shorter poses. Because of its slow pace, Yin yoga is more meditative in nature and taught in a calming way. Moreover, the practices of Yin poses create a sense of grounding and centeredness.

Who Can Benefit From Yin Yoga? 

Although Yin yoga could be helpful for anyone who wants a reflective and grounding yoga practice, this type of yoga is particularly useful for those in addiction recovery. It can be beneficial for any of the following situations:

  • People who are new to yoga
  • Individuals who want to do balance out their intense workouts
  • Those who have health concerns
  • People who have injuries that require low-intensity and low-impact activities
  • Individuals who have experienced varying levels of trauma

Even if you don’t fit into any of these groups, Yin Yoga can be extremely helpful for anyone who wants to focus on calming their mind and relaxing their body. This goal, although it seems small, can be a very big part of the recovery journey from those coming out of substance abuse.

As a complementary therapy in many programs like the one at Pinnacle Recovery, Yin Yoga is an effective way to heal and recover. It makes for a welcome change in light of the quick-paced and high-pressure environments many people live in each day. These conditions can keep the body in a state of chronic stress. Such stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, commonly known as the fight-or-flight response. And for those in addiction recovery, this nervous system response can either make or break an addiction cycle or relapse.

What Are the Physical Benefits of Doing Yin Yoga?

Many general benefits of yoga have been mentioned throughout this article. But there are plenty of specific and measurable benefits that Yin Toga offers. This wealth of benefits has three main umbrellas: alleviating pain and tension, relieving stress and anxiety, and improving your overall well-being.

Research indicates that Yin Yoga may help cultivate mindfulness while reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, a recent summary of literature on therapeutic yoga states that “consistent yoga practice…can lead to significant increases in serotonin levels coupled with decreases in the levels of monamine oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters and cortisol.” As one of the main “feel-good chemicals,” why wouldn’t you want to increase your serotonin levels naturally and with sustainable results?

Other physical benefits of Yin yoga also include:

  • Balanced emotions
  • Improved flexibility
  • More flexible connective tissue
  • Boosted circulation
  • Improved sleep, in quality and quantity
  • enhance mental focus
  • Promoter of relaxation
  • Developed awareness of breath and thoughts
  • Quicker recovery from injuries

What are the Mental and Emotional Benefits to Doing Yin Yoga?

In addition to the many physical benefits of Yin yoga, a person can benefit emotionally and mentally as well. The practice of holding a pose for a longer period teaches you to sit quietly, which can help you observe uncomfortable emotions. You may also experience thoughts or physical sensations that surprise you.

Overall, Yin Yoga benefits people who have experienced trauma or burnout. It creates a safe space to reconnect to the experiences in the body without being overwhelmed. The practice provides an opportunity to feel and observe the range of emotions that we often push away or hide from. The reasons for avoiding these feeling may include a lack of time, feeling unsupported, or simply not wanting to deal with them. No matter the reason, it’s worthwhile to begin the journey and Yin Yoga can help you start that process.

Yin Yoga and Your Recovery Journey

Pinnacle Recovery offers Yin Yoga as a part of its holistic and integrative therapy programs for addiction recovery. For more information or to start your recovery journey, reach out to a professional at Pinnacle today.