I received an email by Mel Fryer, an author and writer, who told me a little bit of her story and asked me if I could publish a small article about yoga for recovery. I was very happy to do so, because yoga has been helping me to deal with my own issues, and I know it can be a true treasure to people dealing with addiction too. Here is the article she sent me:
Yoga For Recovery – How Does It Work?
by Mel Fryer
Plenty of studies have proven time and again that practices like yoga can really help people who are struggling to overcome substance abuse, trauma, or (surprisingly often) both. It’s often advised as a therapy for suffering individuals looking to turn their lives around. However, quite why it has the incredible effect that it does is less well known. How and why is yoga so very good at aiding the recovery of troubled individuals?
If practised as a philosophy as well as something purely to benefit the physique, yoga can bring a valuable unity between mind and body. The Western world suffers from a dualist philosophy in which body and mind are considered to be more or less separate entities. In fact, what happens to the body affects the mind, and vice versa.
Yoga is good at activating the parasympathetic nervous system – which alters the state of the mind according to the actions of the body. If the heartrate is high and the breath fast and shallow, for example, the mind responds by becoming excited and/or agitated.
If, however, the yoga practitioner uses the breathing techniques of pranayama and the slow, smooth movements that are associated with it, the heartrate lowers, the breathing becomes regular, deep, and steady, and the brain relaxes accordingly.
Often, substance abusers turn to problematic substances in the first place in order to bring about a similar effect – perhaps their parasympathetic nervous system was too active, perhaps they were unable to quiet their minds through natural means, and turned to drugs or alcohol as a way of inducing a certain state of mind.
Yoga, if practiced in the correct therapeutic manner, allows the mind to calm and achieve a certain clarity naturally and healthily, eliminating the need for substance use. All too often in the West, the emphasis with yoga is on improving the way we look. Yoga, in its truest forms, can be as much about improving the way we feel and think as the way our bodies work.
Of course, yoga as therapy should never be attempted without a degree of instruction. Trauma sufferers in particular may find that some poses are too much too soon, and take the brain somewhere it’s not quite ready for. Yoga can help the psyche and the body to heal in harmony – but it needs to be done in the right way!