Yin Yoga & Healing

How Yin Yoga Helps During Recovery by Mel Young

Yoga has become an important part of the recovery process for many people, with doctors and therapists often recommending yoga and meditation during rehab. The key to recovering from addiction, as from any illness or mental strain, is to look after both the mind and the body, and yoga enables us to do this.

 Yin Yoga and Healing

Yoga is about much more than just physical fitness, and it doesn’t have to be about hot, fast-paced exercise that gives our muscles a work out. We can cultivate other parts of our bodies instead, focusing on flexibility and our joints by practicing yin yoga. We can also focus on meditation, breathing, self discipline, and other aspects of our spiritual well-being, as well as on the physical yoga postures.

Yin yoga is particularly well-suited to the recovery process. The Tattvas or principles of Yin Yoga encourage a slow, gentle, cooling practice that is ideal for beginners and for generating the mindfulness that can support recovery. According to these principles, Yin Yoga asks us to take each pose to the right depth, to resolve to be still, and to hold our poses for longer as well as to release the pose with care.

The slow movements and grounded postures that these principles inspire are ideal for recovery. During this delicate time, grounding poses are particularly important as they can generate a sense of security that is often lacking. Holding these sitting or lying poses for several minutes, without pushing our bodies too hard, can help us to feel strong and stable. At the same time, we gain a new perspective on the world, and re-familiarize ourselves with our bodies.

The sense of calm that Yin Yoga produces during these long poses can also be important. Yoga is most effective during recovery when it includes a focus on meditation and breathing, which many teachers will incorporate into the time while poses are being held. Finding stillness during these minutes can enable us to overcome the physical and mental effects of recovery.

As we control our breathing and keep our minds and bodies still, we focus on our parasympathetic nervous system, which is often weakened during recovery. The parasympathetic system helps to keep our heart rate down, to lower the levels of stress hormones, and to keep us balanced. By giving it a boost, we can let go of stress and learn to relax. During recovery, we can also reduce the risk of relapsing by removing the drive to seek stimulants or sedatives to get the sympathetic nervous system under control.

Yin Yoga can also give us a chance to focus on mindfulness and meditation, which can produce benefits that will last for much longer than the poses themselves. We can leave a Yin Yoga class with the ability to break out of negative thought patterns and to let the past go. Incorporating yin yoga into the recovery process can change the way that we live. It can help to free us from dependence on harmful substances and from the negative memories and emotions that drove us to addiction.