man doing yoga outdoors

June 21 marked the International Day of Yoga, originally declared by the United Nations in 2015. Yoga, a spiritual and physical discipline developed in India, is paramount in drug treatment programs because it’s a holistic way to relieve stress.

Since yoga improves flexibility, control, and focus, it helps clients learn how to control their cravings during recovery. This exercise is known to be compatible with 12-step programs because it teaches clients how to cope during treatment and achieve inner peace.         

Yoga is not just the pretzel-wrapping meditation glamorized by millennials on social media. Actually, it entails many healing and physical properties. According to MSN, it relieves joint pain, boosts the immune system, and improves cardiovascular health. It is also useful for weight loss, and mental illnesses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.           

The process of detoxification, medication, and treatment can cause additional stress to a recovering addict. But meditations can be just the right therapeutic practice to help clients throughout treatment and recovery. Many treatment facilities, including Ocean Breeze Recovery, offer yoga therapy to curb drug cravings that drive many recovering addicts back into addiction.

According to a new survey by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in the past decade the population of Americans who practice yoga has nearly doubled to 21 million people, making it the fastest growing trend in natural therapy.

Holistic Therapies and Why It’s Used in Treatment           

Holistic therapies are often used as alternatives or complementary treatment options. It is recommended that holistic therapy does not replace medicine, but is coupled with it, especially if the recovering addict has been diagnosed as a dual-diagnosis client. Although, holistic approaches are often associated with nature or spirituality, the purpose of natural therapy is to, ultimately, help the client find a sense of balance as they transition into recovery.           

So, you may ask, how exactly does yoga help with sobriety?           

According to the Yoga Journal,  it’s a modality that causes recovering addicts to become more aware of their reactions by becoming in tune to their physical “cues.”   


One instance of this was seen on the VH1 reality show, Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew [Pinsky]. Taxi and Grease star Jeff Conaway was seen on two seasons of the show struggling with a prescription, cocaine, and alcohol addiction. Physically unable to move and disabled by pain, Conaway was eventually able to walk with the aid of yoga therapy.  “Because of the biological changes in addicts’ brain[s], motivational priorities are distorted,” Pinsky said in Yoga Journal’s article, “Yoga for Addiction Recovery.”

Attuning to bodily based cues through active modalities such as yoga can go a long way to helping patients begin to be more mindful to their responses.”- Pinsky, “Yoga for Addiction Recovery”           

Though Conaway died in 2011 from pneumonia and other health issues caused by his addiction, his physical recovery through meditation mirrored the strength other clients can attain from it.           

Sat Bir Khalsa, director of the Kundalini Research Institute, wrote a study about a program in India that used yoga as the main intervention for substance-abuse treatment. Khalsa found that yoga often empowers clients going through treatment.           

“’Yoga is an alternative, a positive way to generate a change in consciousness that…empowers people with the ability to access a peaceful, restorative inner state that integrates mind, body, and spirit,’” wrote Khalsa, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.           

Like other holistic approaches, there isn’t much medical research that connects the benefits of holistic therapy with recovery and treatment. But, medical professionals and researchers have found that it can be the key to regulating hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, that are associated with addiction and mental illnesses.

Statistics About the Benefits of Yoga           

According to Seattle Yoga News, a 2016 report released by the Yoga Alliance showed that yoga practitioners are 20 percent more likely to have a positive self-image than the general population.           

The Yoga Alliance also showed the increase in interest among Americans. According to their study, 34 percent (80 million) of Americans say they are somewhat or likely to practice it in the next 12 months.          

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) funded a study in 2011 that compared yoga with conventional stretching and self-care books. The study was conducted on 228 adults with chronic lower back pain, and it found that yoga was more effective in reducing pain and symptoms then the book and other exercises.   

mindful meditation  The alleviation of pain is important for clients who are going through withdrawal or detox. Clients detoxing from opiates, such as heroin and prescription pills, may feel joint pain while detoxing. Therefore, yoga therapy is a useful tool to stretch aching joints and to redirect a client’s perspective from their pain.           

The NCCIH study also showed that 12-weeks of meditation resulted in better function for those suffering from pain than medical prevention.           

In Yoga for anxiety and depression, an article featured in the Harvard Health Publications, a 2005 German study tested 24 women who described themselves as “emotionally distressed.” The women were instructed to take two 90-minute yoga classes a week for three months.           

At the end of the three months, the women were described as having improvements in their overall well-being. According to the article, depression scores improved by 50 percent, anxiety scores by 30 percent, and well-being scores by 65 percent.           

Another study examined the benefits of controlled breathing practiced in yoga on alcohol-dependent men. After a week at a detox program in a mental health facility, the men were split and assigned to either a program known as Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) or standard alcohol treatment.

After three weeks, depression was reduced by 75 percent within the SKY clients and 65 percent within the treatment clients. Also, levels of two stress hormones, cortisol, and corticotropin, dropped within the SKY clients, but not within the treatment clients.           

Melissa D’Angelo, a college grad who ended up losing her job and family to a severe opioid addiction, best summed up her experience with yoga at a women’s treatment facility.          

“’I absolutely loved it. It was an hour where I could relax with my thoughts…And it gave me a grip on my life, an inner strength that allowed me to accept who I am and where I am and be OK with that,’” she said in Yoga for Addiction Recovery.

Seeking Treatment           

At Ocean Breeze Recovery, we offer a variety of therapeutic options that best accommodates each client. Located right next to the serene view of the clear, blue beach in Pompano Beach, Fla., our facility’s mission is to heal the mind, body and spirit of each client. Using holistic practices help the clients to connect with their spirituality or inner peace to overcome the adversities of addiction.           

If you are struggling with a severe addiction and looking for a place that integrates yoga therapy in their treatment, call our specialists today at 855-960-5341. They are available 24-7 to assist anyone seeking help from an addiction. Seeking help through holistic practices can be the right treatment plan to gain empowerment and self-control from a crippling substance abuse problem.

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