Therapeutic yoga is an inherently holistic approach, simultaneously working on the body, mind, and spirit. Various yoga practices systematically strengthen different systems in the body, including the heart and cardiovascular system, the lungs, muscles, and the nervous system. Yoga practices can improve function of the digestive system, foster psychological well-being, and improve oxygen delivery to tissues. Yoga also can help the body more efficiently remove waste products, carcinogens, and cellular toxins.
Most people in the West live stressful lives, and yoga—and by extension yoga therapy—is perhaps the best overall stress reduction system ever invented. Stress has been linked to a wide variety of medical problems, from migraine headaches and irritable bowel syndrome to potentially life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Since persistently high levels of stress hormones, particularly cortisol, can undermine function of the immune system, here too yoga can help.
Yoga and Addiction Recovery
These days it's difficult to find any private rehabilitation facility that doesn't offer some form of yoga or mind-body awareness programming. Some teach meditation, so that recovering addicts can learn to sit quietly and calm the body and mind with the breath, and experience feelings of peace and comfort. Other facilities teach a series of postures that are simple enough for people who have never done yoga and who probably have not taken good care of their bodies. The goal is to give addicts the skills they need to learn in order to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings and sensations that can lead to relapses. (An example of this kind of yoga practice is featured on page 2 of this article.)
"When people take substances, they're seeking a certain experience, whether it's escapist or transcendental or just wanting a different psychological state, to get away from whatever is making them unhappy," explains Sat Bir Khalsa, director of the Kundalini Research Institute and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Khalsa wrote a study on a small pilot program in India that featured yoga as the main intervention in its substance-abuse treatment. "Yoga is an alternative, a positive way to generate a change in consciousness that, instead of providing an escape, empowers people with the ability to access a peaceful, restorative inner state that integrates mind, body, and spirit."
"AN INSPIRING APPROACH"
A good yoga therapist is knowledgeable, but a great one will be able to design a personalized program that motivates you to practice on your own. The key to success in yoga therapy is to feel connected to your own healing.
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