why yoga could be one of the best treatments for addiction

Taken at Holmes Falls in Maine. 

Taken at Holmes Falls in Maine. 

I THINK IT’S SAFE TO SAY most people in the Western world know someone who struggles or who has struggled with substance abuse. In my modest 25 years, I’ve personally lost count of all the people who’ve come in and out of my life high as a kite on a regular basis. And two people from that group have deeply impacted my life, as I’ve been a close witness to their ongoing struggle. Although this problem is rampant in our population, there seems to be only one mainstream-encouraged road to recovery: the 12-step program.

According to Social Work Today, 12-step recovery programs, like the one created by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), depend on the individual seeking outside help rather than focusing on making the change from within. Addicts are told to primarily depend on their sponsors, therapists, doctors, medications, and local meetings instead of their own minds. These programs also rely heavily on the belief in a higher power. In fact, the second step of the Alcoholics Anonymous program literally instructs us “to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

So where does that leave those who don’t want their recovery to depend on a “Higher Power” that’s totally outside of their body and may or may not even exist?

Laura Didyk, writer of the Kripalu column “Off the Mat”, tells us that “the Eastern perspective on addiction is that it’s not a separate ailment, but rather a condition on the continuum of human suffering.” What’s missing from the typical Western 12-step method is the mind and body connection.

Yoga and meditation, traditions that date back more than 5,000 years in the East, allow us to acknowledge this important inner relationship. They teach us to look within ourselves and realize we’re not “powerless” in the face of our addictions, as the first step of AA suggests. Which is why many forward-thinking doctors, psychologists, and social workers are finally starting to borrow a few lessons from the East and suggest that yoga be an important supplement to the Western 12-step methods we’ve come to so heavily depend on. [read more]