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How Yoga and Meditation Can Help Heal Addiction

How Yoga and Meditation Can Help Heal Addiction

Imagine living a life when you are breathing, walking, surviving but not truly present, being remote controlled by an outsider. Except that outsider isn’t a person but a substance which you may take for a temporary high.

Addiction to alcohol, drug, or even internet can change one’s personality for the worse and enslave one, preventing one from leading a healthy and emotionally satisfying life. While initially one may take it just for experimenting, feeling good, stop feeling bad or performing better at work or studies, once your brain gets used to it, it is very difficult to rewire it and convince it to stop craving for it. Even though your rational mind knows that your addiction is eating away your health, the urge to feel that high lurks around, chases you and ultimately makes you surrender to it. 

Why people take drugs despite many harms 

The primary reason people get used to it is because drugs can activate the part of brain that makes you feel good, and then it becomes an addiction and without the daily dose, one may feel lost, anxious, depressed, irritable, angry, and basically horrible. Even the tag of an addict or troublemaker isn’t a deterrent enough to stop one from having it and as a result the decision-making prowess, memory, concentration, mood stability all go for a toss. Drugs don’t just stop at destroying your mental health, they slowly damage all that’s required for the healthy functioning of the body – heart, kidney, lungs, brain. Drug addiction can also impact your immunity and cause neurological issues.

As per The International Classification of Disease-10th Edition, drug dependence is a cluster of physiological, behavioural, and cognitive phenomena in which the use of a substance takes on a much higher priority for an individual than other behaviours that once had a greater value for them.

Dangers of drug addiction

Drug addiction can derail your life completely. It can make you lie, steal, hurt anyone, basically do anything to fulfill the craving. It ruins your relationships completely and makes you utterly lonely. Family of a drug addict suffers greatly as the person is not in control of their behaviour. People who indulge in substance abuse can undergo behavioural changes and develop violent tendencies which can lead them to abuse their family members physically or emotionally. Such people often face law and order trouble as they involve themselves in some mischief or the other. 

Substance use can cause a lot of medical problems from mental health issues, higher rates of suicidal ideation and attempts. According to a study, in 2016, 64,000 Americans died of overdose. Substance use can lead to huge economic toll, loss of productivity, and health care costs. 

According to several studies, drug addiction is much like a chronic illness such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, asthma with a high rate of relapse. So, once you start taking drugs, possibility is that you would never be able to stop their consumption unless you take steps to get your brain out of this deadly trap. Yoga is a highly reliable practice when it comes to treating or managing chronic illnesses. Many people are able to stop the progression of several diseases through Yoga. When it comes to drug addiction, Yoga could be a trusted friend that can help you achieve control on your senses and stop your brain from craving drugs or alcohol. 

Yoga has especially been found to be useful in getting over nicotine addiction. Yoga helps in reducing tobacco withdrawal and craving apart from improving mood. Yoga helps in overall well-being and enhances mood as well as adds to the desire to stop smoke. Yoga isn’t just about physical exercise or asana but has a multidimensional approach which also has elements of meditation, breathing work, as well as concentration. For instance, meditation stimulates the same reward system in the brain as drugs and alcohol without the negative impact on health. No wonder many health experts recommend Yoga as a therapy for getting over addiction.

The primary reason why Yoga may work for people with addictions is because it helps one make mindful. People who struggle with addiction may experience a lack of connection with self and also others. They are trapped in the temporary high or relief that drugs or alcohol bring them but they aren’t really aware of the debilitating effect it has on their physical and emotional life and as a result in social life. Studies show that yoga and meditation can help us control our responses better, reduce impulsive behaviour and better decision-making.

Yoga also helps in introspection and self-observation. When people are addicted, they fail to think of adverse consequences of their decision to consume alcohol or any other drug.  When people are more introspective, they embrace their fears, take responsibility for their actions, and are happier than those who do not stop and reflect.

 Yoga for addiction

  1. Baddha Konasana (Butterfly pose) 

It is important to have the right state of mind when you are ready to deal with addiction. Baddha Konasana or Butterfly pose helps you achieve a state of relaxation and also a focussed mind that could aid you in dealing with cravings of alcohol. 

How to perform it

  • Start by sitting comfortably on your yoga mat keeping your spine straight.
  • Stretch your legs forward.
  • Bend your knees and bring both your feet closer to each other in a way that your soles close together touching each other.
  • Your knees should point outwards
  • Press your legs to the floor 
  • Maintain the pose for a while and then repeat a couple of times.
  1. Vajrasana(Thunderbolt Pose)

Another asana that strengthens the mind and provides stability to it, Vajrasana or Thunderbolt pose also improves blood circulation, provides relief in knee and back pain. Beginners can start practicing it for a couple of minutes and then increase the duration as you get more comfortable with the pose. There are many benefits of practicing this asana after lunch and dinner as it helps with digestion, however it can also be done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

 How to do it

  • Sit comfortably on your Yoga mat
  • Now fold your knees inwards in such a way that your pelvis rests on your heels.
  • The heels should be a bit apart from each other.
  • Now place your palms on your thighs; they should face upwards.
  • Make sure to sit with your spine straight and look in the forward direction.
  • Sit for a few minutes.
  1. Matsyasana or Fish pose

Matsyasana or Fish pose is a very good asana to correct posture and relieve stress in muscles apart from strengthening spine. If you are someone struggling with belly fat, it can help you reduce the abdominal fat. Apart from many benefits for physical health, Matsyasana also works on your mind by making it more optimistic and open to growth. People struggling with addiction can thus conquer their mind with this asana. 

How to do it

  • Lie on your back keeping your hands alongside the body.
  • Now, brings the hands underneath the hips with palms facing down.
  • Lift your head and chest placing the weight on the elbows.
  • While keeping the chest up, move the head backward so that the mount touches the floor.
  • Take a few deep breaths and stay in the position for few minutes.
  • Now, move the head upward, bring the chest down and hands alongside the body. Relax
  1. Pigeon (Kapotasana)

Pigeon Pose or Eka Pada Kapotasana is an excellent pose to release stress, trauma and long-standing addiction and bad habits that you need to overcome. Many people report feeling emotional while doing this pose as it helps tap into all the hidden stress, emotions and patterns and could be a great healer. It is known to be a deep, hip-opening pose. 

 How to do it

  • Begin the asana by coming onto your fours and form a table
  • Now bring you right knee forward in such a way that it is right next to your right wrist
  • Bring your ankle near the groin area. 
  • Now, bring the right foot towards the left hand till the toes touch the left wrist.
  • Your left leg must be slided back while keeping the knee straight and make sure it touches the floor. The soles should face upwards.
  • Your right hip should be lowered to the floor while tailbone should be pressed forward and lengthen your lower back
  • Come out of the asana gently with support of your hands and get back to the tabletop position.
  1. Supta Vajrasana(Reclined Thunderbolt Pose)

 Supta Varasana can deeply relax your mind by providing an effective stretch to multiple muscle groups in the body. It is an advanced version of Vajrasana with some additional benefits for people who are struggling to get over their addiction. Doing vajrasana in a ‘reclined’ state is called Supta Vajrasana. It is very effective for focus and concentration.

How to do it

  • Sit on your Yoga mat in Vajrasana
  • In order to effectively recline, rest your hands on the floor beside your buttocks
  • Now bend back and rest your arms and elbow comfortably on the floor
  • Bring your head to the ground slowly.
  • Place your hands on your thighs.
  • It is imperative to keep your legs together, separating knees a little
  • Try not to strain muscles of your legs
  • Close your eyes and relax the body
  • Come out of the asana slowly by taking support of your elbow and return to Vajrasana.
  • Do not come out of the asana by straightening your legs as it may cause trouble for the knees

Meditation for addiction

Vipassana Meditation to get rid of addiction

It is said that a person is addicted to a certain drug, alcohol, liquor, tobacco, or any other substance. It certainly appears so but the person is actually addicted to certain vibrations of his/her own body. People begin taking drugs or smoking cigarette for a number of reasons — celebrating success, coping with failures or just giving company to a friend in smoking. In many cases, the addict just wants to escape from a particular unpleasant or uncomfortable situation. After regular use, they develop craving for certain drug and eventually it becomes a habit. Now, he becomes habitual to the sensations or vibrations that arise physically and thoughts accompanying them. These sensations and feelings then take their roots in the person’s unconscious mind. This is the reason drug use becomes an automatic response to feel that sensation. 

Vipassana is a kind of meditation which helps the practitioner reach his deepest layer of the mind riding the sensations that arise. Once he reaches the unconscious mind, he becomes aware of the mechanism behind sensation — why it rises and how it disappears. Once, this level of wisdom develops, he understands the entire cycle of craving for a certain drug, its after-effect and futility of the whole experience. Once the drug addict comes out of the ignorance, he does not feel the need for any substance. He or she understands how consumption of drug alters the metabolism which affects both body and mind functions. 

But it must be noted that the path of Vipassana is not easy and requires a lot of will power. In many cases, people leave the program just after 3-4 days seeing no benefits. Since it takes time for the practitioner to understand his/her breathing pattern and reaching the unconscious mind by observing sensations, it is always advised to continue Vipassana meditation for 10 days and complete the Anapana course.

Mindfulness meditation

The term mindfulness is self-explanatory – being mindful or present in the moment without being overwhelmed with worries of future or ruminations about the past. It’s simple going with the flow and observing what’s happening in your surrounding and also in your body.

Mindfulness can be practiced in your daily life either while sitting peacefully at one position and observing your breath and the how each of your body parts is behaving at a particular moment. It can also be practiced while you are going about your daily chores by consciously getting involved in each tiny detail of it without being mechanical about the tasks that you do daily. For example – while brushing teeth, we often get lost in our thoughts. While practicing mindfulness, one can pay attention to how the bristles of the brush are feeling against the teeth and how our facial muscles are behaving.

 According to several studies mindfulness training can help get over addiction and prevent relapses. The practice of mindfulness meditation can rewire our mind to be more mindful of our urges and habits. When you are mindful in general, you also realise what the addiction is doing to your mind and body.

Water meditation

One look at a stream or a lake can leave you mesmerised and calm your mind. Water has been associated with serenity and calm since time immemorial. In water meditation, one uses this calm energy of water to relax their mind and body. The technique first found mention in Taoism, an ancient Chinese tradition founded some 2,500 years ago.

Water meditation can provide a good release to stress, anxiety and promotes calmness. It also helps you get rid of negative patterns and provides relief in mental and physical traumas. In case of addiction, it can strengthen your mind and help you release the repetitive thoughts of consuming the substance.

Moving meditation

The purpose of meditation is to penetrate through the many folds of your complex mind and find the light within. Many a time people who are generally on the go find the traditional way of practicing meditation – by closing your eyes, focusing on breath and observing your thoughts – too monotonous. Moving meditation is something which can be done in natural surroundings as you walk amid the lush green trees and chirping of birds. Connecting with nature has a meditative effect on your mind, helps release negative energy and aid in connecting with the positive centres of your mind. It also promotes mindfulness and helps us get rid of negative habits like substance abuse. Walking amid nature regularly can do wonders for your mental health.

Disclaimer

The information and exercises provided within this web site are to be used at your own discretion and under professional guidance. They are not offered as a replacement or substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Not all exercises are suitable for everyone, and making use of this or any other exercise program may result in injury. If you believe that you may suffer from a physical or emotional impairment, we strongly recommend that you seek advice from a licensed health care professional before embarking on this or any other exercise program. CrystalWind.ca, and its principals, producers, participants, distributors and other servants disclaim any liability or loss in connection with any information or exercises contained in or demonstrated on or via this website, or from the adoption of any instruction or advice expressed therein.

Credit

Himalayan Yoga Association

#1 Best Yoga School in Rishikesh| Himalayan Yoga Association. Source

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