Yoga as addiction recovery pathway for persons seeking recovery is gaining credence and acceptance. In the recovery coaching world, the best practice model we employ is “Multiple Pathways of Recovery.” What does that mean? Multiple pathways honors each individual’s determination of their way forward – leaving addictive behaviors behind – to a full and healthy life.
Multiple pathways represents an evolution in our understanding of “what works,” and also an acknowledgement of the complexity of addiction in our times. There are no panaceas in addiction recovery, but there is new knowledge and learning. Early in recovery – when first confronting an addictive pattern – many supports are needed. Only by trying out a number of approaches, 12-Step, group psychosocial education, one-on-one coaching, medically assisted therapies, mental health and/or trauma counseling, and so on, can one determine what will “work.”
It is the rare instance where a person struggling with addiction enters of the path from using, to detox-stabilization-recovery, as a “once and done.” The process nature of recovery – the inevitable trial-and-error aspect of it – is the challenge. Harm reduction advises that the greatest threats to life and health are dealt with first. This is critically important to save lives. It is when the person in recovery has moved out of the extreme danger zone that their specific recovery pathway can emerge.
We have thought of mind-body approaches as helpful and healing supports to addiction recovery, and they are that, but they are also more. Science continues to reveal the healing aspects of yoga (and tai chi, qigong, dance, connection to nature, gardening, and myriad other mindfulness disciplines, but especially yoga). Beyond supporting the health of the physical body – strength, flexibility, joint health, reduced blood pressure, less pain, and so on – the psychological benefits are also being revealed in trauma clinics, community recovery centers, hospitals, and rehabs. Evidence is plenty for stress release, reduced anxiety, enhanced mood, positive outlook, improved sleep, and empathy and connection generated by consistent yoga practice. (See more outcomes here: https://www.jenreviews.com/yoga/).
How would a person in recovery find out if yoga is their addiction recovery pathway? Recovery is a journey of self-discovery, and despite the million of self-help guides available, in the end the school of experience is the only education that has value here. Society is changing, there is more acceptance of both the person struggling, and availability of yoga as a recovery pathway is expanding. Most find that a combination of supports works best. And for some, yoga will be the hidden jewel in their recovery treasure box that leads to a fuller, healthier, and more satisfying life.