In a personal essay published in the New York Times, Jeanne Heaton writes candidly about her struggle with alcohol and heroin abuse and addiction rehab. Her essay starts with a different kind of struggle, though one that is arguably just as physically and emotionally trying as substance abuse rehab. Heaton writes, “It’s 10:30 a.m. on a Monday, the seventh week of a nine-week Bikram yoga teacher training course. I am lying face down on my smelly mat and I feel my will escaping.” This is not addiction rehab, but a yoga class.
Yoga originated in India, and the discipline asks the physical body and mind to be strong, present, and relaxed. It is not just a great workout, but a yoga practice is a lifestyle and a new way of thinking. By forcing you to focus inward, and on yourself, yoga can be an effective part of addiction rehab. Here are some basic poses that, coupled with deep inhalations and exhalations, can be a healing and restorative addition to any substance abuse rehab.
This is a pose of surrender. It is also calming and healing for the lower back. With your knees on the floor, sit back on your heels, keeping the tops of your feet on the floor. Then pitch your torso completely forward so that your face is on the floor. Your arms should also be on the floor, either alongside your body or out in front of your head.
This pose is a gentle stretch of the spine and a great position to relieve stress. To assume Cat Pose, put your hands and knees on the floor, and be sure to keep your neck in line with your back as if your body were a table. Then on an inhale, arch your back and curve your neck, making sure to look towards your navel. Exhale, and return to a table position. Repeat to increase energy and circulation.
Crescent Moon Pose
Crescent Moon Pose is an invigorating stretch for the entire body, and will help an anxiety-ridden mind to concentrate. Begin with knees on the floor and a straight back. Choose either your left leg or right leg to go first (you should execute the pose on both sides), and step forward so that the thigh of the front leg is parallel to the ground and the knee of the back leg is still on the floor. Then transfer your weight even more forward, lifting the knee of your back leg off the floor so that you assume a low lunge position. Then raise both arms above your head, reaching toward the sky. Be sure to breathe into the vigorous stretch.
The most important thing about any part of an addiction rehab programme is that it becomes a daily habit. Yoga is no different. Should yoga prove to be a helpful practice during substance abuse rehab, it should be practiced every day, and with the same diligence and attention.