Mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation, and Tai chi promote mental clarity and physical strength, making them positive complementary treatments to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), 12-Step programs, and group therapy. Rehabilitation facilities are expanding their treatment options to include alternative and complementary therapies, thereby offering a more holistic approach to recovery.
Yoga Journal characterizes yoga as a sequence of physical postures executed to connect mind, body, and breath, sending thoughts inward. Research shows that the practice can relieve stress, strengthen muscle, diminish pain, improve sleep, and increase energy levels. According to a 2012 study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, over 80% of subjects who regularly practiced yoga reported reduced stress as a result of the activity. By balancing the production of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, yoga can mitigate symptoms of stress like increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.
The most popular form of yoga in the United States is hatha yoga, which focuses on breathing techniques and poses. Hatha yoga is a slow-paced practice that encourages control of breath as the body flows from one posture to the next. Stretching the muscles is a major focus of hatha yoga. Vinyasa yoga, also popular in the United States, calls practitioners to move at a faster pace, thereby requiring greater breathing control. Many fitness-style yoga classes are structured in the style of vinyasa.
Yoga is becoming an increasingly popular treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) for its stress-relieving properties. Yoga has also been shown to curb cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Within rehabilitation facilities, yoga classes are led by licensed instructors who oftentimes specialize in guiding classes that cater to the specific needs of individuals with histories of substance abuse. Not only does yoga alleviate symptoms of withdrawal, such as stress or depression, but the practice also allows individuals to take ownership of their health, promoting positive feelings of autonomy and self-control.
Like yoga, meditation can reduce stress, relaxing both mind and body. Meditation can be guided by the self or by an outside party and the practice can be solitary or performed with a group of people. Most meditation sessions share the common principles of quietude, comfort, internal focus, and an open mind. Repetition of a mantra or phrase is the central activity of meditation. You should accept all thoughts and feelings that arise during meditation with understanding and respect but always return to the original mantra. Yoga classes typically last from 30 minutes up to an hour and a half, but meditation does not need to last for any set amount of time.
According to Recovery.com, a resource provided by American Addiction Centers, meditation cultivates inner peace, increases self-awareness, improves mental functioning, and removes an individual from impulsive thoughts, thereby reducing the risk of relapse. The physical effects of meditation include lowered blood pressure, anxiety relief, better sleep, and decreased symptoms of depression. Some studies show changes in brain function as a result of long-term meditation. Memory, information processing speed, and decision making were all improved through meditation.
In rehabilitation centers, meditation is commonly used as a complementary treatment to group counseling, individual therapy, and addiction education. Formal classes are often led by members of the staff, but you can meditate anywhere and at any time. Accessories like a meditation mat are not required for practice, but if you find that you benefit from the addition of props, then they might be a worthwhile investment. When feeling overwhelmed in your recovery journey, you can rely on meditation as an effective strategy to mitigate negative thoughts and feelings.
Tai Chi and Qigong
Drs. Ryan Abbott and Helen Lavretsky define Tai chi and Qigong as “traditional Chinese exercises that are widely practiced for their health benefits and as martial arts.” The aerobic practices are low-impact and moderate-intensity, meaning that they put minimal strain on the joints and require average levels of physical ability, similar to a long walk.
Sessions are typically guided. Like yoga and meditation, practitioners are called to control their breathing and focus their gaze inward, allowing the mind and body to relax. Studies show that Tai chi and Qigong reduce anxiety, depression, blood pressure, and aid in recovery from immune-mediated diseases.
A 1996 study found that adults who practiced Tai chi for 2 hours per week for ten weeks showed lower levels of stress than adults who regularly engaged in other methods of physical activity. Endorphins released during Tai chi and Qigong exercises reduce pain and increase pleasure, causing feelings of happiness. Randomized controlled trials suggest that the practices may also improve bone density, cardiopulmonary health, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and headaches.
Mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation, Tai chi, and Qigong instill mental clarity and physical strength, making them positive complementary treatments to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), complementary therapies, such as art therapy, and group therapy. At Silver Lining Recovery, we believe that understanding your addiction is the first step to treatment. We want to walk beside you as you address your underlying causes of SUD and AUD, providing you with the emotional and spiritual support you need in your earliest stages of recovery. We will also accommodate any financial needs though Health Net insurance services. Your recovery is our priority and we want to provide you with the tools you need to sustain self-care in a balanced and healthy life. If you are interested in tracking control of your addiction, call us today at (866) 884-5758 for a consultation.