Addiction is a complicated disease involving a broad range of mental and biological factors. Because of this, it’s important that treatment doesn’t only solve the immediate problem of substance abuse. Adequate addiction care must also offer long-term strategies for coping for lifelong recovery to be possible.

That’s where yoga comes in. When incorporated into a comprehensive recovery plan, yoga can help people stay supported and encouraged during long-term recovery. This September, during National Yoga Month, consider the benefits that a regular yoga practice could bring to your recovery.  

1. Multitude of Benefits, Minimal Equipment

When considering the substantial ways that yoga can improve physical and mental health, one might assume that a person needs expensive equipment or professional training to practice yoga. While participating in group classes and buying extra gear — like straps and blocks — can enhance a yoga experience, the only equipment needed to do yoga is a mat. Even a mat isn’t truly required, as most yoga postures can be done on any solid surface.

2. Different Practices for Different People

Many people believe that yoga is always a vigorous, fast-paced exercise that can only be performed if you are flexible or physically fit. However, a yoga practice can be as rigorous or relaxed as each person would like it to be. Part of the beauty of yoga is the wide variety of different practices for people of all skill levels and goals.

While there hundreds of types of yoga, some of the most popular include:

  • Hatha yoga: Hatha yoga is a broad term that refers to any yoga practice that uses physical postures. While nearly every yoga class taught in the West can be classified as Hatha yoga, the Hatha yoga label generally signals that a class will be a gentle introduction to basic yoga postures.
  • Vinyasa yoga: Vinyasa yoga is known for its fluid movements, or “flows.” During Vinyasa yoga, practitioners move quickly through a series of poses, linking each movement with their breath.
  • Ashtanga yoga: Similar to Vinyasa yoga, Ashtanga yoga is a fast-paced, physical practice that involves moving quickly through different postures. However, while Vinyasa yoga can involve a wide range of poses, Ashtanga yoga practitioners move through a specific series of poses, in the exact same order.
  • Hot yoga: Hot yoga is an intensive yoga practice performed in a room that is heated to a temperature between 95 and 100 degrees. The heat combined with fast-moving flows makes this class perfect for participants looking to push themselves physically.
  • Restorative yoga: One of the more relaxing and meditative forms of yoga, restorative yoga emphasises passive postures that are held for several minutes at a time. Participants are encouraged to relax into each posture, stretching more deeply with each breath. This type of practice may also be referred to as Yin yoga.

3. Improved Physical Health

Yoga has long been celebrated for its physical benefits. However, recent research has uncovered even more unexpected upsides to a routine yoga practice. For example, yoga can help combat lower back pain, a problem that nearly 80 percent of Americans will struggle with at some point in their lives. A 2013 meta-analysis of 10 randomized controlled trials found that there was “strong evidence for short-term effectiveness and moderate evidence for long term-effectiveness of yoga for chronic low-back pain.”

Yoga offers a wide range of other physical benefits to those who practice it regularly, including:

  • Improved cardio and circulatory health.
  • Lowered blood pressure.
  • Improved lipid profiles.
  • Lowered blood sugar levels.
  • Increased flexibility.
  • Improved muscle strength and tone.
  • Improved energy and respiration.
  • Improved athletic performance.
  • Improved metabolism.

While many of these benefits come directly from the movements and postures associated with yoga, the benefits to physical health don’t stop there. Yoga can even make it easier to diet and stay fit by altering the way people look at and consume food. According to Harvard Health Publishing, people who practice yoga tend to be more mindful eaters, which means that they stop eating when they’re full, and take time to savor every bite of food. This can improve the experience of eating, while aiding in weight control and weight loss.  

4. Improved Mental Health

There’s a growing body of research that supports the wide range of ways that yoga can bolster mental health. Regardless of the type of yoga practice, most yoga involves focusing on the present moment, playing close attention to breathing and the sensations of the body. One study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry showed that regular yoga practice can significantly lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, bringing people relief from the symptoms of depression.

The powerful stress-relieving effects of yoga have the potential to relax the mind, sharpen concentration, break the cycle of negative or anxious thoughts and improve mood. This is all particularly important to those in recovery, who may be struggling to maintain a positive outlook and manage negative emotions.

It’s never too late to get the help you need. The Recovery Village offers a comprehensive, full continuum of care that helps clients work through their addictions and develop the skills they need to stay sober for life. Yoga and other reflective activities are an important part of this process at many of our centers. Reach out to a representative at The Recovery Village today for more information, and to take the first step toward a better life.

Megan Hull
By – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.