13 July 2012

Yoga Nidra and Addiction Recovery

Many recent studies have demonstrated the overall health benefits of yoga, including its effectiveness in the alleviation of stress, anxiety and relief from addictive tendencies. The support a person receives from a mindful and therapeutic yoga practice positively affects their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual condition. When yoga is integrated into addiction recovery, it mirrors the larger trend of treating disease holistically. Most addiction specialists agree that yoga complements the therapy of choice, and it is currently offered at many treatment centers. Developing a yoga practice is also a move away from mistreating the physical body and helps deepen spiritual aspects of recovery.
            Impulse control is a core issue in overcoming addiction. Just as working with the mind can affect the body, working with the body can change the chemistry of the brain. Regular yoga practice that incorporates relaxation and meditation in addition to asana (postures) helps reduce cravings, anxiety, and fear - all of which often lead to destructive behavior.
            Yoga nidra is a guided relaxation technique which promotes deep healing. It has been widely studied and shown to alleviate anxiety and depression and other issues that can arise when a person stops using alcohol or drugs. A recent Stanford University study used biochemical research into the neurotransmitter dopamine and its relation to addiction. They examined brain imaging which shows that the practice of Yoga Nidra increased levels of dopamine in areas of the brain involved in emotion and motivation. The human brain naturally produces dopamine in response to many situations, but especially when something good happens. People prone to addiction often have low dopamine levels.
In my work as a substance abuse counselor, I am fortunate to be able to offer this practice to clients every day. The feedback I have received over the past 4 years is always positive and many people continue to practice after they leave treatment. It is an activity that can be practiced anywhere, anytime, by anybody. Couples and families often find it helpful to practice together as it is a way to share quality time without having to enter into discussion. This is particularly important when family systems have been damaged by addiction. It is a safe way to begin to reconnect. I recently received this note from a former patient: 
My son loves to do Yoga Nidra with me. He is the one who usually initiates it. He asked me last night after a session, "Where did you find this" meaning your CD. I told him that I knew the lady who made it & he was thrilled. So am I.
My work is rewarding and am fortunate to be able to share it. Yoga Nidra is best practice under the guidance of a teacher or with a cd, which is available through my website and is recommended by The Addiction Recovery Guide.