I was still detoxing from opiates when I tried yoga for the first time. My entire body hurt and no amount of medication was able to fix that. As soon as the yoga instructor began the session, I struggled to hold the positions he was telling me to hold, but this completely distracted me from the withdrawal symptoms I was experiencing at the time. By the end of the session, my body felt loose and relaxed. The 30-minute yoga session had immensely reduced nearly all of the symptoms I was experiencing.
Throughout my sobriety, yoga has been an extremely beneficial part of my recovery. I have continued to incorporate yoga into my regular routine, and have found that it has helped me heal from addiction mentally, physically, and spiritually.
I often hear people in recovery say “if you bring the body, the mind will follow.” The concept behind this phrase is basically that even though it may be difficult to convince yourself to accept and do the things you need to do, if you simply put forth the effort, the mental benefits will follow. By pushing myself through these challenging sessions and postures, I would be rewarded by being able to find a peaceful state of mind.
When I first started doing yoga, it wasn’t easy. However, as it became a more important part of my routine, my mind and focus became clearer. By placing my concentration on my breath, it was impossible to focus on any other worries that were racing through my brain. My obsessive, drug-related thoughts became easy to identify and control. I used the mindful techniques that I learned to help control feelings of anxiety and stress. I started to feel stronger as the different positions became easier, so I felt more confident overall.
As yoga became a regular part of my routine, I stopped feeling fragile and weak. My strength and balance returned. I had done a lot of damage to my body due to the effects of opiate abuse, but yoga helped me get my body healthy again. It was the first activity where every muscle in my body truly felt relaxed.
Through the various positions, I was able to feel the release of tension that I held in my neck and shoulders. I found myself experiencing less stress, less pain, and more energy. I had struggled with insomnia since stepping away from the drugs, but I found that I was able to fall asleep quickly and sleep throughout the night if I had done yoga and meditation that day. As my body felt better, I started to eat healthier as well. It was like a ripple effect – my overall mental and physical health was getting better and better as time went on.
Spirituality has profound effects on the success of a person in recovery being able to maintain long term sobriety. In most yoga sessions I have participated in, my instructor has told me to set an intention to my practice. Since spirituality is something I have always struggled with, my intention is usually to connect my mind, body, and spirit through the practice of yoga and meditation.
Many instructors will describe the importance of quieting the mind. Pushing through difficult postures allows me to let go of my thoughts and emotions to create a sacred space within myself. By gaining awareness of the energy and capabilities of my body, I am able to focus inward on my body’s demands allowing me to connect with my body while distancing my mind from negative thoughts and energy.
When I am in control of my mental focus and emotions, I am able to be grateful for the body and for the life I have been given. Having a grateful attitude and spiritual awareness provides me with an understanding of my motives behind the things I do. It reminds me of why I got sober in the first place – to live a better, happier life. Spending the last few minutes of each yoga session in a meditation has allowed me to transform my thoughts and change my outlook on life for the better.