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Yoga and Mindful Meditation Classes
Drug abuse and substance dependence not only cause mental and emotional suffering for addicts but often there is profound physical repercussions too. People usually take drugs as a form of escapism, in response to the desire to have a transcendental experience or simply as a means to get away from inner unhappiness and painful feelings.
Whatever the underlying motivation may be, drug misuse disconnects users from their bodily sensations and needs. Yoga has proven to be an easy, gentle way to slowly reintroduce our clients to their physical sensations. Yoga is also very relaxing and helps reduce the anxiety, stress and depression that can arise from resisting the recurring desire to use that is so often experienced during the early days of addiction recovery.
David Simon, director of the Chopra Center for Well Being and co-author of ‘Freedom From Addiction’ believes that if a person does not know how to regulate their anxiety, depression, or fatigue via healthy means, then the likelihood of an addict turning to drugs in order to cope is greatly increased. Drugs such as: sedatives, pain relievers, amphetamines and alcohol are often imbibed to help an addict cope with, what seem to be, otherwise intolerable emotional and visceral feelings.
- Gentle movement
- Sitting quietly
- Calming breathing
Our Yoga classes also teach a series of postures simple to achieve by those who have never practised Yoga before and/or those who probably have not cared well for their bodies; the goal is to give recovering addicts the skills needed in order to tolerate the bodily sensations and uncomfortable visceral feelings that can lead to relapse.
Sat Bir Khalsa, the director of the Kundalini Research Institute and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School conducted a study on a small rehabilitation program in India that featured Yoga as its main intervention in substance abuse treatment, he concluded that:
“Yoga is an alternative, a positive way to generate a change in consciousness that, instead of providing an escape, empowers people with the ability to access a peaceful, restorative inner state that integrates mind, body, and spirit.”
The practice of Yoga is a valuable aspect of our whole-body, mind, emotion and spirit approach to recovery; an ethos that addresses ‘the whole person’ and Yoga specifically helps alleviate the physical maladies and imbalances recovering addicts so often suffer from. It is highly effective in moderating the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline; an imbalance of which has been linked to anxiety disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as substance abuse.
High levels of these hormones are chronically toxic to the body and the central nervous system. Yoga is known to help balance-out the levels of these stress hormones in the body; and it makes clear-cut sense that if our clients are less stressed and anxious, they increase their ability to avoid seeking-out substances to use in order cope.
Mindfulness Meditation Classes
Addicts in the early stages of recovery often experience a kind of ‘cerebral fuzziness’ and rational thought can be hard to achieve or maintain; we refer to this period as “Being in fuddledment”.
It can be a serious struggle for the addict to think clearly as the mind adjusts to making sense, directing rational action and managing life without the use of drugs. Being in the fuddledment stage also means an addict’s emotions are frequently erratic; and often a lack of sleep, caused by the body’s restlessness as it rebalances to the addict’s new ‘clean living’ ways, increases the level of confusion. Those who fail to cope with this challenging phase during the early period of recovery run a higher risk of relapse.
Mindfulness meditation can be a great stabilizing mechanism at any stage of sobriety; however, it is especially helpful during the early period as it provides our clients with the tools to increase their mental clarity and effectively cope with their emotions.
The practice of Mindfulness involves:
- Purposely paying attention to the present moment (the here and now experience)
- Increasing awareness of feelings as they occur without being overwhelmed by them
- Non-judgemental self-observation
Mindfulness is a Sati a very old Pali (tool/method) and is a key instrument for Buddhists who are trying to reach enlightenment. There are three focused rudiments in practising Mindfulness:
During classes our clients are facilitated to:
- Be aware of an object they wish to focus on
- Then to focus their attention on this object
- And then remember to keep their attention on this object
Whilst, this ancient art is customarily used by disciples following a spiritual path, in recent years it has become increasingly popular with individuals who are not traditional ‘spiritual seekers’ but have an interest in the healthy physical and psychological gains that mindfulness meditation brings.
The general benefits of Mindfulness Meditation are multiple and include:
- Reduction of anxiety
- Facilitates an individual in becoming more aware of the tendency to anticipate (imagine) future problems; once this tendency is noted it becomes easier to manage and even avoid
- Is beneficial in the treatment and prevention of depression
- Increases a person’s ability to manage stress
- It allows an individual to release negative thought patterns
- People become far more aware of bodily sensations; allowing a person to acknowledge any warning signs arising when something is not quite right in their physical or mental functioning
- Increases a person’s awareness of their own thoughts; which enhances the decision making process therefore, reduces the anxiety caused by procrastination
- Individuals who are mindful begin to experience emotions as transitory in nature; strong emotions then become easier to manage because the person knows that feelings pass
There is also strong indication that Mindfulness increases a person’s ability to cope with physical pain and that it enhances the body’s ability to fight off disease.
Mindfulness has proven to be a highly useful tool for recovering addicts, as those who are sober and/or clean face many challenges; and any means that help an addict face these challenges is of irrefutable value.
Because early recovery is a physical and emotional rollercoaster and substance cravings usually continue to manifest, addicts need to recognize if their hold on recovery is diminishing. Personal renascence also depends on the addict finding new ways to live and enjoy life without drugs (including alcohol) and relationships with family and friends often need to be rebuilt. Therefore, the specific benefits of Mindful Meditation to our clients include:
- Facilitation of the individual’s ability to cope with the highs and lows of early recovery
- Allows the individual to observe cravings and thoughts of using without needing to act on them
- Learning that thoughts come and go but the individual does not have to be a victim to them
- Learning that feelings come and go but the individual does not have to be a victim to them
- Enhanced ability to spot the warning signs that they are losing their grip on recovery
- Avoiding relapse
- Enhanced ability to intra- and inter- personally manage personal relationships
The practice of Mindfulness has been reported by many recovering addicts to make life in sobriety far more enjoyable and opens up the pathways to finding joy and pleasure from even the simplest things in life.