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How Yoga and Meditation Take Relapse Prevention to a Whole New Level: A Holistic Approach

September 18, 2023

A holistic recovery plan with yoga and meditation is highly effective for overcoming five of the most common relapse triggers.

Everyone gets advice they never ask for, but people with substance use disorders (SUDs) really take the cake with this one. Wouldn’t you agree?

It seems everywhere you turn, somebody else has the secret to help you finally defeat the addiction monster and the negative self-talk, especially if you’re an addict who’s in the earlier part of their recovery.

“Think of your children.”

“Go to the gym.”

“Don’t let past trauma have such a hold over you.”

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This advice is usually very well-intended but as an early-in-your-recovery person…

You still have plenty of days when we’re feigning more than usual and it’s all you can do to bite your tongue and not tell these people to get lost. (That’s putting it mildly, I know.)

You know relapsing sucks, and detox is scary, but you can probably make it through a rehab program. You may have done it before (multiple times?).

Yet, you seem to always fall back into the same addiction cycle after those 28 or 70 days. And all this “life-changing” and unsolicited advice for what will “definitely help” makes you want to cover your ears and scream.

So, how do you actually end the cycle for good? 

Many of these free-and-in-your-face “therapists” are right in a way, but maybe they’re too nice to tell you the ugly truth behind their suggestions. 

Disclaimer: People who want you to take action ASAP and achieve lasting recovery will bite the bullet and tell you this…

Don’t just treat the addiction. Treat the entire persona. Every area of your life needs work.

Yep. 

Can you think of a single addiction that doesn’t negatively affect a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual health? 

Holistic treatment is an approach to long-term recovery that expands the focus from “just the addiction” to everything an individual is experiencing that could be the root of their addiction (the physical, mental, and spiritual health aspects mentioned above.)

Yoga and meditation are two very effective forms of holistic treatment that have helped people with substance use disorders (SUDs) reach and stay in recovery. 

Keep reading to find out how yoga and meditation help prevent relapse. 

Also, there are some eye-opening statistics, and the exact steps you can take to utilize these exercises and embrace long-term recovery.

How is holistic treatment different from traditional treatment?

Traditional Approach to Recovery

The traditional approach to recovery involves medical-assisted detox, inpatient/outpatient treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and aftercare programs. 

Traditional treatment practice focuses on the individual’s addiction. 

There are therapy activities, and CBT to help you be aware of thought patterns, sure, but a lot of times, not enough focus is placed on your physical and spiritual health in a traditional treatment plan.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Yes, but the traditional approach has kept my uncle sober going on 30 years!”

It very well can.

Nobody’s denying the success of these methods. There’s tons of evidence that a traditional approach works and has helped millions of people.

That’s precisely why the holistic approach to recovery is recommended in addition to traditional treatment.

Most people in long-term recovery are doing some form of holistic treatment. They just call it something else (i.e. working on themselves, getting in touch with their higher power, dual diagnosis, picking up a hobby, and/or taking care of themselves.)

Holistic Approach to Recovery

The holistic approach to treatment openly focuses on the body, mind, and spirit. 

It’s the idea that you first kick the addiction. 

“Awesome! Now what?!” 

Now it’s time to work on other areas (all of them) that influence that behavior to lessen your chances of relapsing.

Holistic treatment is meant to be used in addition to traditional treatment. It’s not a substitute for traditional medicinal treatment in most cases. 

A holistic approach to recovery can never substitute traditional treatment plans, but it can easily enhance them. 

Nobody expects an alcohol-dependent person or heroine-user to detox with yoga and breathing techniques alone. Nor should they.

That’s crazy and dangerous.

Choosing a holistic approach to treatment and recovery helps create a personalized plan that works best for each individual.

Many people have found meditation and yoga to complement their traditional treatment and work wonders for long-lasting sobriety.

Yoga And Meditation for Recovery

yoga for recovery, holistic approach to addiction treatment, relapse prevention

Not everyone who meditates does yoga, but everyone who does yoga meditates.

Yoga is a physical activity that you’re probably familiar with. It incorporates stretching, breathing techniques, and mindfulness. 

The physical poses in yoga are called “asanas.” There’s a name for each asana in English and Sanskrit (i.e., “child’s pose” in English and “bālāsana” in Sanskrit.)

Asanas build strength, increase flexibility, and reduce anxiety.

You’ve also more than likely heard of meditation. It doesn’t have to be performed sitting cross-legged and barefooted in an airy sun-lit room with huge windows and lovely plants placed aesthetically about. 

The important requirement is to cut off all outside distractions and noise, get in a comfortable position, relax, and breathe.

Roughly 80% of successful people (whom Tim Ferris has interviewed), attest to meditation being part of their daily routine and starting their days off on the right foot. (Tim Ferris is a big name in the entrepreneur world, and he talks to the best of the best.)

All successful people, however, set aside time every day to reflect, visualize, or practice gratitude while they make their morning coffee, or when they shower or take a drive.

Meditation is used to promote peace of mind and focus. It can be used for prayer, reflection, visualization, affirmation, gratitude, or breathing techniques.

How Yoga and Meditation Prevent 5 Common Relapse Triggers

You’ve probably guessed by now that traditional approaches to recovery, yoga, and meditation have a lot of overlap.

For instance, CBT, yoga, and meditation are all coping mechanisms and are all used to improve mental health or treat dual diagnosis. 

A holistic approach to addiction treatment is used to address the substance use disorder and aid personal development. 

Yoga and meditation are forms of holistic treatment frequently used together and are phenomenal ways to prevent relapse and face the following triggers head-on.

  1. Stress
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Both meditation and yoga require focus. Often, stress is caused by either fear, overwhelm, or confusion. 

Improving focus helps combat feelings of stress by enabling us to control what we give attention to. It also promotes self-discipline and impulse control.

One survey reported that 69% of participants experienced a positive shift in their mood and temperament.

Peace of mind is one of the big reasons most people start practicing yoga and meditation in the first place, so it might not be surprising that “Yeah, some people experience peace.” 

But most statistics about yoga and physical and mental health are substantial.

Another report found that 28% of people who practice yoga can feel decreased depression symptoms.

  1. Environment 
relapse prevention, yoga and meditation for recovery, holistic approach to treatment

If you’ve relapsed due to going to your old stomping grounds, you know people can try to deny this trigger. 

At some point, everyone in recovery thought they could keep the same friends, hang out in the same places, and do the same activities without using.

However, these are pretty much the worst things you can do for your sobriety.

You have to avoid toxic places you frequented in your addiction.

Yoga and meditation improve a person’s mental clarity. 

As a result of that, anyone practicing meditation and yoga will naturally begin to avoid people, places, and activities that affect them negatively (a.k.a cause them to relapse).

One survey found that 86% of participants who practiced meditation experienced an overall improved sense of mental wellness and clarity.

  1. Illness 
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Yoga and meditation do a lot to prevent illness, but illness is inevitable and sometimes an easy excuse (at the beginning of your recovery) to give up. 

People use yoga to treat chronic pain and inflammation, arthritis, and mental health.

Some studies have shown that yoga reduces cardiovascular problems, back pain, and anxiety.

You don’t have to do yoga when you’re sick, but you can meditate lying down, use visualization to get better, and gratitude to feel better emotionally. 

You can also still do controlled breathing exercises.

A holistic approach to recovery (like yoga and meditation) teaches self-awareness and self-discipline.

Those skills will greatly impact your ability to overcome strong triggers like illness.

  1. Boredom 
bored, relapse trigger, relapse prevention, yoga and meditation for recovery

It’s common for a person with a mental health disorder to do everything possible to not be alone with their thoughts. 

The same goes for people with SUDs who’ve just entered the recovery chapter of life. 

They worry if they’re left alone to dwell on anything for too long, disaster is lurking nearby. 

They may always have the TV on for background noise, or they may lose hours and hours to mindless scrolling on social media.

They need something to occupy their mind constantly.

Oh, look, some more truth: that is a horrible mindset.

It’s not good to always have something occupying your mind and influencing your thoughts.

Being alone, in a quiet place with no distractions (like when you’re meditating), is where your creativity takes off. It’s where ideas come from.

Yes, in the “newly sober” days, your drug of choice takes up most of the space in your head.

But…

If you’re practicing yoga and meditation. You’ll become aware of those thoughts much quicker and learn to redirect them to other, more positive, and productive things. 

You’ll get better at catching yourself thinking negatively long before you reach a dark and hopeless place in your own head.

And who knows what you’ll come up with?! Maybe you’re the next Jeff Bezos.

  1. Isolation 
relapse prevention, yoga and meditation for recovery, holistic approach to treatment

Isolation could easily be a subcategory of environment. And boredom could be a subcategory of isolation if you think about it.

There are all these studies of rats that get addicted to cocaine in very controlled and isolated environments. 

A more recent study found that if the rats were given a drug in a much bigger environment with more options…the majority of them didn’t become addicted.

Isn’t that awesome?!

Triggers can overlap, happen in tiny instances, or come at you all at once.

Yoga and meditation can help you deal with isolation because it’s been proven to lower anxiety and help with mental clarity and decision-making.

If you don’t trust yourself to be alone. That’s some major self-awareness.

A holistic approach to recovery has likely taught you to use alone time in a healthy way, too.

Take Away and Next Steps

Ironic, isn’t it? We were just saying all the unwanted advice is really annoying.

You did click on this post, however, and hopefully, it’s given you some direction.

Join a yoga class and meet some like-minded friends. If you struggle socially, your anxiety won’t be as bad after yoga becomes part of your daily or weekly routine.

If you or a loved one, is suffering from the effects of an addiction, you have to start with the tried and true traditional approach. It’s been proven to work for millions of people.

There are plenty of treatment centers that offer traditional and holistic therapies for successful recovery.

If you’re interested in relapse prevention after traditional treatment, consider a holistic approach you can take with you outside of the treatment center.

There are many holistic treatment therapies to try and create your customized recovery game plan:

Yoga

Meditation

Acupuncture

Animal Therapy

Massage Therapy

Art Therapy

Music Therapy

… and that’s just a few of them.

Without your addiction and its side effects taking up all of your time, you’ll have so many options. 

Learn a trade in your spare time, pick up a hobby you haven’t done in a while, and wait for it… Try a yoga session or a guided meditation.

Even if you don’t end up incorporating yoga and meditation into your lifestyle, nobody ever regrets doing a yoga session or meditation.

Remember, holistic treatment can’t take the place of traditional treatment. Most people with SUDs need clinical care and medication for detox and severe withdrawal symptoms.

If you don’t want to lose another second of your life to a substance use disorder or miss another opportunity because of it, take action now and contact us.

We’re glad to help.

Jazz

Jazz is a dedicated writer specializing in health and wellness topics. She collaborates with experts in the fields of addiction and mental health to bring accurate and compassionate information to InspirationHATC readers. Learn more about her work at jazzygwriting.com.

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