Yoga combines body movement, mental techniques, and emotional awareness into one relaxing, sometimes frustrating, whole-self activity.
Many in recovery find the use of yoga a therapeutic source of healing, a way to restore balance and promote rejuvenation.
Consider that addiction is disconnection, particularly from one’s own body, mind, and spirit.
Reclaiming your relationship with all parts brings the healthy self to the forefront and builds confidence to step farther and farther from substances that no longer serve the same purpose or place while working toward true goals. Respecting the self and the body makes self-destructive tendencies less attractive and healthy self-care more likely.
Plus, yoga has an ever-growing list of benefits: stress reduction, flexibility, listening to internal body cues, introspection, and learning to slow thoughts for improved impulse control.
While the science is still ongoing, anecdotal evidence has led mental health treatment to include practices like yoga in their models and schedules for clients.
Expert yogis and instructors may study on a foreign excursion and dig deep into the roots of yoga to guide their practice.
The good news is, even as a novice, practitioners have created seven laws of yoga that can inspire not only your time on the mat but also the work done throughout your life.
Try applying these principles to addiction recovery as described here or brainstorm the ways you interpret them and how you might put it into use in your journey.
Law of pure potentiality:
The idea encapsulated here is that you have, just as a human being, infinite sources of anything and everything. You contain the possibility of anything and everything.
While at times emotions and thoughts convince you that you can’t do things, you won’t reach any goals, or you aren’t enough, this is the quip back.
It may not be something you’ve tapped into, you might need help or training, or there are things you aren’t confident about…..yet. That is a small way to reframe thoughts and doubts to be reflective of the fact that while something might be new or difficult right now, it’s a matter of time and practice to meet those goals.
You are enough and you can do it. You matter in this world.
Particularly in the early days of recovery, it can seem there is no chance of success. But it may be that you don’t have all the tools and support you need yet. Allow yourself to at least contemplate the possibility and leave it open-ended.
As thoughts are reframed through cognitive behavioral therapy or other strategies, it’s a process to shift black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking to a middle-ground, grey-area. Open-mindedness is a skill that can be honed and toned, just like a yoga pose.
Do keep in mind that you can do anything but not everything all at once. Choose and prioritize accordingly.
Law of giving and receiving:
In yogi language, giving and receiving live in a dynamic coexistence, and we can affect what circulates in our life based on how we tap into them.
At the core, while it may seem a little too lofty to think that energies rule the world, how you approach every day and your interactions and choices do have this two-way influence.
Perhaps you find it easy to give help to others, but hard to accept it for yourself. Or, it seems safer to receive love and affirmations from someone else, but too vulnerable to say to another person.
If a desire to be open and connected guides your choices, it has a positive impact on you and those around you. Being vulnerable and authentic can allow others to show the same to you.
Remember, though, it’s not an equal scale or payback system. At times in life, you might receive more help than usual. It can feel necessary to make this up to those people, ensuring they receive equal or better in return. It’s not a 1 to 1 ratio, and it’s unlikely to ever hit a true balance. This is an ebb and flow, where the energy and support may be coming from and going to all different sources all the time.
Know that it’s okay to be on the receiving end of gifts, particularly of treatment, care, and recovery. By stepping back to a life of health and wholeness, you open the chance for you to give to others in the future. Others may take without giving back, but feel grounded in your desire to move forward regardless.
Law of Karma:
No, this isn’t where you get a punishment for past behaviors. Nor, is it an acceptable place for our underlying fear, anxiety, and shame to hang out.
Rather, this is a reminder about cause and effect.
Understanding how your decisions reach beyond only you, affecting many other people, is important to acknowledge the way addiction can wreak havoc you didn’t intend.
And while the goal isn’t to make you feel poorly, it is a helpful source of motivation for when you aren’t inspired to do it for yourself and a way to make different choices in the future.
The positive side of this is that what you give out is often returned to you. Treating a member of your support network with respect and patience will more likely see that same reaction towards you. By showing personal vulnerability during a process group or group therapy session, another member of your recovery community may feel capable of sharing something that is weighing on their heart.
This doesn’t need to be a retroactive battle to reverse or make-up for all the things you may have “done wrong” in the past. Moving forward, choosing to look beyond yourself, opting to make changes when staying the same might feel more comfortable – it all adds up to boosting the effect for the better.
Law of least effort:
While a class instructor or guru might plug this as a way to release expectations or stress in yoga positions to allow for better practice in the studio, this has a strong connection to principles of mindfulness and therapy tools.
It can feel unnatural and frustrating to be in stillness, to not be pushing to the next work deadline or have time for rest, especially in our culture of productivity and the idolization of “busy”. It can bring up fears of what might arise in the silence, especially if constant movement or drug and alcohol use has kept you from having to feel or listen. Know that your thoughts and emotions may be intense or uncomfortable, but they cannot hurt you.
The great thing about taking a moment to pause, to breath, to be still, is the chance to check-in with self-care, internal dialogues, and release the stress that is often self-imposed.
Recovery doesn’t happen overnight, and it can be tempting to believe every moment of the day or every minute of treatment will be spent doing hard work or “fixing something.” Some of the most important discoveries are areas where things are being forced, hurried, or done without thought or intention. Checking-off the list of what you “should do” or rushing through treatment to be done as quickly as possible might be tempting but give yourself the chance to really be present in the here-and-now.
It is possible to live in this moment and find a more sustainable way to move forward, without having to push to burn-out to accomplish things. Thoughts and emotions can be recognized and then let go, without the need to act or react.
Law of intention and desire:
Manifesting and setting intentions are common elements of a yoga routine, aimed to guide and push forward to the universe what is most wanted.
It can be powerful to use affirmations and intentions to set a tone for the day, push through difficult moments in recovery, and check-in with the reasons behind urges or behaviors.
Consider when affronted with a decision – as options are weighed and outcomes are envisioned, the “why” is just as significant as the “how”, “when”, and “what”.
To that end, having a plan, a goal and how we believe we’ll get there helps take intentions from nice words to real, actionable statements. Plus, in recovery, there may be times motivation is low or we don’t believe so much in those affirmations, so having that path prepared can let habit guide through the rough patches.
Law of detachment:
A guru might connect this back to the law of least effort or law of potentiality, with overlap in believing things happen as we allow them, that no struggle is necessary.
In recovery, we can take this idea in a couple of different directions. Certainly, it is helpful to know the inner expectations and desires but that flexibility to adapt is key. It can also relate to how to approach anxiety about the future, having faith that things happen in time and opportunities will pop-up.
It’s also worth noting that the yoga principle promotes taking action with the belief that it will be okay; things will be alright. Mental illness can distort and persuade that the emotions and possible bad outcomes are impossible to cope with, impossible to survive, so it’s better to play it safe on the side of inaction. Despite the best hopes, it’s not possible to know or control exactly what will happen. Take solace in the fact that preparation and radical acceptance are tools to tackle the unknown.
Detachment can also be relevant moving from addiction to an evolved identity and life or in how to let thoughts and emotions float by without needing to become them. This takes a bit of the intensity away, where the distance from an uncomfortable or distressing thought gives space and time rather than immediacy and split-second reactions.
Law of dharma:
What is Dharma, you might ask? By yoga principles, it is the purpose in life, something the laws say everyone possesses.
This might seem like an overly optimistic viewpoint, but there are some good points behind the theory.
While it may not be a specific job or task or goal to meet, you do have skills and talents and a unique self to share with the world. How can you use this in service to others? This might mean making an impact in your community, helping someone else along their recovery journey, or being a positive influence and presence in your immediate family.
Perhaps more than searching for some kind of magnificent way to change the whole world, it’s about tapping into what you do on a daily basis and finding ways for these simple things to be fulfilling.
By being true to yourself and using your strengths, recovery, and life without addiction is a chance to grow and bloom.
Consider these tenants as they relate to your recovery or your experience with yoga.
Even for those that find time on the mat less pleasurable, there are definite correlations between the purpose and strategy of a yoga practice and the pathway of addiction recovery.
Some see overlap between yoga and the 12-Step program as well, where there must be a willingness, awareness, and commitment.
This has even inspired the creation of Y12SR – Yoga of 12-Step Recovery. Meetings across the United States welcome people to join in a community practice connected to the traditional AA model.
While they confirm it’s not a replacement for any of your current program, it can be a helpful add-on to integrate movement and other tools through the recovery process. Families and supports are also invited to join for the sessions.
If this organization doesn’t run a meeting in your area, consider checking out some of the yoga studios in your area or ask others in the community for their recommendations. Online videos and recorded guided-sessions can be a good option too, especially if travel, time, and cost are considerations. It could even become part of your morning routine or go-to coping skill in times of high-stress.
Rediscovering your body, mind, and spirit during addiction recovery is a healing process. Yoga is one way to tap into your inner self and connect back to what is important and true in this moment. Steps Recovery Centers use yoga to promote rejuvenation and balance, during and after treatment, giving clients another tool and chance to mend. Just like yoga, recovery is a practice that we refine and improve each day. Call us today – 385-250-1701 – to talk with a trained clinician about our levels of care and how we can continue to support your recovery. There is peace and power for waiting for you.