Traditional talk therapies alone don’t have the success rates professionals would like to see, and they often do not provide the client with sufficient coping skills necessary to thwart drug cravings. Applying yoga in clinical settings is rapidly growing, teaching people through their direct practice that they can be free from suffering caused by variations of the mind. At Enlightened Solutions, we have a spiritual space specifically designed for practicing yoga, meditation and other healing arts.
A regular yoga practice also helps people develop the discipline needed to succeed in 12-step programs, which often are used as the primary method of treatment for many substance users. The mindfulness practices taught in yoga and the slow, controlled breathing are tools to help curb impulse control—something with which all substance abusers struggle.
It also empowers clients, providing them with real-world tools they can use anytime, anywhere on their own because yoga asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises) are readily accessible when a therapist or sponsor isn’t. People begin to learn the difference between pain and discomfort, to sit with discomfort instead of running from it as they experience different asanas. They are able to fully control their experience, modifying poses in ways that feel good for them and stopping when it hurts.
Yoga takes advantage of the brain’s neuroplasticity, which is often the same characteristic that makes change so difficult. Depression, anxiety, stress, and other negative emotions activate the body’s nervous system in addition to emotional regions of the brain. The body eventually settles into these patterns, and even if the mind has insight, the body will continue to activate these physiological patterns unless this insight is embodied—literally. While traditional therapies work only with the mind, yoga works with the mind and body simultaneously, allowing for the embodiment of insights. (Social Work Today, Vol. 12 No. 5 P. 8)