Yoga: that’s just something for new age hippies and older people looking to stay limber- right? There’s not benefit in it for other people, let alone someone recovering from substance abuse.
Nope. Not even slightly true. People from all walks of life practice yoga- from the cashier at your local grocery store to the world-class athletes competing for Olympic gold. Yoga increases flexibility, aids the circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body, and can actually burn a few calories.
Yoga is an ancient practice with roots in India meant to synchronize the mind, body, and spirit. For people in recovery, yoga is a fantastic self-care tool that helps reduce anxiety. Becoming attuned with your body and mind gives you the control to cope with cravings and urges without resorting to old habits.
Incorporate yoga into your aftercare plan! Find your center with our easy yoga guide:
Patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to getting started with yoga. You won’t be able to pull off The Hummingbird on your first day or even your first week. That’s why we start with the basics: getting used to the practices. These moves may be simple, but the goal is to learn the breathing methods and meditation. Here’s where you can start:
Keep your shoulders square above your hips, feet together, and arms straight above your head. This pose opens your chest for greater circulation of oxygen. Take deep slow breaths, imagine light filling your body with each inhale and negativity and dark thoughts leaving with every exhale.
This is one of the first poses one learns in yoga because of it’s full body benefits: releasing tension, stretching the spine and hamstrings, strengthening the arms, shoulders, and back, and relieving stress. Start in crouching position, place your hands on the ground then lift your hips and extend your legs, keeping your soles pressed firmly to the ground. Your back and legs should be straight, with your head between your shoulders. Continue your breathing practices and hold for at least one minute.
First Warrior Pose
Warrior pose is deceptively simple: one leg bent at a 90 degree angle, the other straight, shoulders back, arms extended above your head and hands pressed together. Keep your gaze on your hands and your pelvis facing forward. Focus on the rise and fall of your chest as you continue your deep breathing, clear your mind of everything else. Let the tension ease from your body.
Ready for a little test in flexibility? Try the cobra pose: begin by laying flat on your stomach, place your palms on the floor next to your shoulders, and gently push upward. This pose opens up your chest and elongates your abdominal muscles. Focus your eyes straight ahead; this pose will elevate your mood, help with lower back stiffness and menstrual irregularities, and invigorate your heart.
This is a test in balance: begin in mountain pose, bring your hands together above your head, then lift your leg, resting your foot against the opposite thigh, creating the number 4. Hold your balance as best you can; keep your center. This pose is excellent for really feeling the way your breath and energy is circulating through your body.
Once you have those poses down, here’s your first taste at more intermediate poses. The bridge pose is great for strengthening the core, calming the brain and central nervous system, and alleviating mild depression and stress. Lay on your back, plant your feet firmly on the floor and touch the back of your ankles. Lift your hips until your body forms a triangular shape; keep your shoulders low and away from your ears. Challenge yourself but don’t overdo it.
Once you’ve mastered these poses as well as the breathing techniques and meditative practices related to yoga, don’t be afraid to explore intermediate and advanced yoga. Getting in touch with yourself spiritually and mentally will enhance your continued sober journey and life overall! Be patient, breathe, drink plenty of water, and get started!