Yoga is a mind-body practice that is made up of eight sutras, or paths. All of these paths are designed to lead the follower to inner peace and enlightenment, and they address several physical and philosophical principles. Because yoga nurtures the whole person, it is an ideal activity for those living in recovery.
What Are the Sutras?
Most westerners focus on just five.
Asanas are the physical poses that you do, to prepare your body for meditation. The asanas are what most westerners mean when they speak of practicing yoga.
Pranayama is a series of breathing exercises that can be done alone, with the asanas, or as part of the meditative path.
Pratyahara, dharana, and dyana are all part of the meditative path. Pratayahara means detachment; Dharana means concentration; and Dyana means meditation.
For a person in recovery, the principles of yoga—with its emphasis on physical, mental, and spiritual purity—can be very attractive. Doing yoga poses—along with the breathing and meditation—is a great way to start, for the following reasons:
- Releasing Nervous Energy - As a person in recovery, you might find that you have a lot of excess nervous energy, which can be very distracting. Doing yoga asanas will release that energy, and help calm your mind.
- Focusing on the Now - When you coordinate the yoga asanas with the pranayama breathing exercises, it forces you to focus on what your body is doing right now. This keeps your mind anchored in the moment, so that it doesn't drift into dangerous territory. It also makes you more aware of your body, how it feels when it is stressed vs. relaxed, how it responds to movement, and how it feels as it starts to heal.
- Physical Conditioning - Everyone knows that yoga makes you more flexible, but it can also make you stronger and improve your balance. Many yoga asanas require you to support your body weight on your hands, or do the equivalent of squats, which strengthens your arms and legs. Yoga also strengthens and tones the core muscles.Addiction takes its toll on your body in several ways, including muscle loss and damage to the cardiovascular system. Yoga is a gentle, yet effective, path to physical restoration.
- Relaxation - The stresses of daily life can be difficult for most people to handle, for people in recovery, that stress could result in a relapse. In addition to releasing nervous energy, yoga asanas, breathing and meditation induce physical and mental relaxation, to help you cope.