Ashta Anga refers to the eight limbs of Yoga. According to the ancient texts, “The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali,” and “The Hatha Yoga Pradipika,” all eight must be practiced in order for Yoga to occur. Yoga is both the means and the end. It is the combination of the practices of right action, speech and thought. What is right is defined by the eight limbs. When we follow the guidelines provided by the ancient Yogis we are more likely to be upon the right path.
The Right Practice for You
Every body is different and each one of us is unique. Just because all of your friends are taking “Hot Yoga” or “Vinyasa,” style classes that does not mean it is the right practice for you. In fact, it is rare that a hot or active practice is the best place for any of us to begin. The additional stress placed upon your body due to warm temperatures and new, challenging movements can actually hurt you. As with anything new, your first Yoga practice should be slow and well directed. You should be given the opportunity to attempt simple movements, ask questions and provide feedback to your teacher about how you are feeling throughout the session.
Living in Pain
I began practicing Yoga because all of my friends were enrolled in the class and it fulfilled a course requirement. I continued practicing because it initially reduced and then eliminated my debilitating back pain.
My pain had begun in high school as a result of scoliosis and growth spurts while competitively running in track and cross country. I continued to run while in college and continued to damage my back further. Adding insult to injury; my role as a teacher for children with autism required that I lean forward to reach desks and be at eye level with my students. There were days during which, due to the pain, I couldn't stand up straight, sit comfortably or sleep.
Yoga for Healing
Yoga Asana as well as the calming effects of breathing consciously and mindfulness practices helped me to heal. The movement was the perfect prescription for my back. The breathing helped me to remain calm when managing stressful situations and aggressive students. The mindfulness practices helped me learn to slow down and focus so that I could pause before putting my body into an unsafe position or activity.
As I continued to practice I learned the differences between the various modern styles and began to explore the various practices. When I met my teacher, in New York, I was granted access to the lineage of Rajahatha Yoga and began to develop my own practices in a way that best works for my life.
Continuing the Healing
Although I enjoy attending group classes at Yoga studios, my personal practice is what keeps me healthy. I spend less time moving actively and more time slowing down. The more slowly I move, the more awareness I have, and the better I am at addressing whatever issues; physical, emotional, energetic or mindful, that I am dealing with.
If you are ready to begin healing and to feel better through Yoga you might consider seeking out a teacher who has experience in more than just teaching classes. That which you experience physically could be a manifestation of something deeper and vice versa. Seek someone who can offer more than just poses. Find a Guru: a guide who sheds light where it is currently darkness.
You have probably already heard that you should exercise to support your addiction recovery, and you have maybe told yourself you’ll work on that when you get better. However, the benefits of exercise in addiction recovery are extensive, proven, and tangible, and the sooner you start building fitness into your recovery program, the better.
How Fitness Helps Recovery
Scientists have been researching the impact of exercise on addiction for years, and the take away keeps getting clearer: physical fitness can be an invaluable tool toward recovery and can help people avoid relapse and stay sober. There are several reasons for this, from simple brain chemistry to complex psycho-social and environmental factors.
The Best Types of Exercise for Addiction Recovery
The most important thing when choosing your exercise is to do something you enjoy. However, there are a few types of workout that have been shown to be particularly effective with recovering addicts. Essentially, there are two popular approaches, both of which have their benefits.
One option is to do something that is low-impact but has meditative or soothing properties: Yoga is a great example, as are cycling and hiking. Another is to go in the opposite direction, aiming for an intense workout that will get you that “high”: running, CrossFit, and HIIT are good options.
Improving Mental Health
Although classified as a mental health issue itself, substance abuse disorder is closely related to other mental illnesses, particularly anxiety and depression. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 7.9 million people have co-occurring depression and addiction disorders.
As explained above, exercise is great for your mental health, as it reduces stress. It is also proven to help with depression and anxiety, particularly when combined with more traditional medical forms of treatment. Many recovering addicts fear taking medications like antidepressants, believing they have to be “100% sober,” but if you have a mental health issue you should do everything in your power to get better, which can include getting a medical prescription.
A Healthy Routine
While exercise can get you a long way in helping you stay sober, it is only part of a healthy routine. It is a great first step, but there are other areas in your life you should also be aiming to improve, including your diet, sleep schedule, relationships with others, and how you choose to spend your free time.
The good news is that exercise has been proven to be a keystone habit, meaning people who successfully build an exercise habit are more likely to follow suit in other areas of their lives. Focus on integrating your workout routine into your schedule, and you may see that the rest comes naturally. If it doesn’t, choose one new habit at a time, giving yourself a few weeks or even months to adjust. This allows you to build a stable routine that will stick to, instead of overwhelming yourself with too many resolutions at once.
Whether it’s working on your flexibility and balance on a yoga mat or sweating out the stress with a run, throwing yourself into a regular exercise routine is one of the best things you can do in your journey toward recovery. Take some time to find what works for you and incorporate it into your schedule, while taking time to address any mental health issues, and you will soon find yourself on a path to a healthy, full life free from addiction.