Yoga Nidra and Addiction Recovery
By Evelyn Zak, CSAC, C-IAYT, Master Center for Addiction Medicine
Studies have demonstrated the overall health benefits of yoga, including its effectiveness in the alleviation of stress, anxiety, and relief from addictive tendencies. Mindful and therapeutic yoga practice often has positive effects on our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual condition. When yoga is integrated into addiction recovery, it tends to mirror the larger trend of treating disease holistically. Most addiction specialists agree that yoga complements the therapy of choice, and it is offered at many treatment centers.
Impulse control is a core issue in overcoming addiction. Just as working with the mind can affect the body, working with the body can change the chemistry of the brain. A regular yoga practice that incorporates relaxation and meditation in addition to asana (postures) is reported to reduce cravings, anxiety, and fear – all of which can lead to destructive behavior.
Yoga Nidra is a guided relaxation technique that promotes deep healing. It has been widely studied and shown to alleviate anxiety, depression, and other issues that can arise when a person stops using alcohol and/or drugs. Our brains naturally produce dopamine in many situations, but especially when something good happens. A recent Stanford University study used biochemical research into the neurotransmitter dopamine and its relation to addiction. They examined brain imaging which shows that the practice of Yoga Nidra increased levels of dopamine in areas of the brain involved in emotion and motivation.
Yoga Nidra is best practiced under the guidance of a trained teacher or with a cd produced by an experienced instructor.
Evelyn Zak is a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor at Master Center for Addiction Medicine. She is also a Yoga Therapist. She has been a student of Kripalu yoga since 1986 and is a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. Guided Yoga Nidra practice is downloadable for free through her website, www.evelynzak.com and is listed as a resource at the online Addiction Recovery Guide.