Benefits of Practicing Yoga and Meditation in Recovery
Author credit Patricia Moceo
Today, the words yoga or meditation can produce stereotypical images of Buddha, in the lotus position, striking up weird humming noises. In its origin, this is a very small part of the Eastern framework of the primary purpose of yoga/meditation. In fact, these practices serve the purpose of teaching people how to live in communion with everyone and everything around them. Meditation requires surrender and acceptance of what was, what is, and what’s to come. Yoga is a holistic exercise that focuses on connecting the mind and body together in harmony despite seemingly negative resistance.
For an addict, such as myself, the last thing I wanted to do when I first got sober was to be physically active. In fact, I preferred to hide away in isolation. Countless studies have shown the unlimited benefits of yoga and addiction recovery. Within the rooms of The Fellowship, it's been said "move your feet, change your thoughts" This still rings true today. When I find myself in a messy headspace I have found physical activity to be the remedy.
According to Psychology Today: "Exercise directly affects the brain. Regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions — in part through better blood supply that improves neuronal health by improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients; and through an increase in neurotrophic factors and neurohormones that support neuron signaling, growth, and connections." In other words, yoga can directly impact mood improvement while decreasing anxieties. Yoga has also been directly correlated with neuroplasticity. Research has proven that repetitive behaviors can be attributed to the brain’s reliance upon neuroplasticity. Yoga practices incorporate awareness of the mind and body in perpetual patterns. In other words, practicing yoga can replace unhealthy patterns with healthy insights on body behaviors and thinking.
I vividly remember the first time I was introduced to meditation in sobriety. I envisioned Buddha, in the lotus position, making weird humming noises. I wasn't convinced that meditation would work for me. We were instructed to SIT STILL for 5 minutes and “just be”. At this point, I knew this must have been initiation day, a cult-like ritual mimicking the "kool-aid". The corny timer bell chimed and the guide on the tape led us into a field, bringing awareness to every inch of our physical bodies. I found myself distracted by the slightest sounds and thoughts of evening plans flooded my mind. Frustrated and seemingly defeated, the meditation guide calmly said: “Don’t let your thoughts distract and frustrate you, let them freely come and go.” Trivial as this statement may sound, the entire experience shifted. I was welcoming my thoughts to operate freely and my willingness cultivated space to clear my thoughts.
Countless studies have been done proving that meditation is beneficial to one’s overall quality of life, both physically and mentally. Studies have proven that practicing meditation will actually increase gray matter in the brain. This will help with decision making, reactiveness, and memory. It is so important to have a strong mental standing in early recovery and will help one have an overall higher quality of life. Once someone gets into a strong routine and is actively practicing mindfulness meditation on a regular basis they will see a variety of improvements in their life, including; can help with many things; improved brain function and memory, a strong inner peace throughout the day, reduced cortisol, healthy blood pressure, better sleeping patterns, lowered risk of heart attack/stroke and reduced anxiety and depression.
Bodymind practices, such as yoga and meditation, have been proven to help the overall mental wellbeing of any individual especially those in recovery. Both of these practices implement radical acceptance which coincides with the principles behind 12 Step fellowships. The relationship of 12 Step recovery programs with yoga/meditation has been dubbed the perfect marriage for cultivating healing. Studies have proven an overwhelming amount of benefits from actively practicing Buddhist teachings and traditions when combatting addictive behaviors.
Anyone can meditate, at any time, anywhere. If you are new to meditation and not sure where to start, the internet is full of suggestions. Meditation is not limited to any one specific form. When practiced consistently, countless benefits have been proven to last long term. Just a few minutes, daily, of mindfulness meditation can cultivate the foundation for long term recovery.
Mindfulness meditation has been an ever-evolving practice that I turn to when I find myself drowning in irritability, restlessness, and discontentment. Meditation requires surrender and acceptance of what was, what is, and what’s to come. Practicing meditation has taught me how to pause before reacting. Before I indulge in committing to any major decision, I try to pray and wait quietly, anticipating a response. Through the practice of mindfulness meditation, a connective awareness has been established. Today I am able to reflect on how my actions may affect others and ultimately I am able to avoid an abundance of unnecessary pain.
Tricia Moceo advocates long-term sobriety by writing for websites like https://www.detoxlocal.com/mindfulness-meditation-sobriety/, providing resources to recovering addicts and shedding light on the disease of addiction. Tricia is a mother of two, actively involved in her local recovery community, and is passionate about helping other women find hope in seemingly hopeless situations.