How can Yoga and Meditation Serve as an Alternative to Addiction?

When you hear the word addiction, you most probably think about drugs first. Drug addiction is a very common form of addiction yes, however, the term encompasses much more than that. Addiction is an extremely complex, chronic disease that a lot of people have.  More often than not, people close to us could be addicted to something without us being aware of it. Not every form of addiction is completely life-ruining or fatal.

However, all forms of addiction are malicious and should be treated, managed or overcome. Yoga is like a physical and emotional therapeutic mechanism for dealing with chronic addiction and meditation act as a medicine to treat a broken mind. These activities can be seen as an anti-drug way of altering your mindset and brain patterns.

In this article, we’ll be discussing the various facets of addiction and how it works, then I’ll explain how yoga and meditation, alongside traditional methods, can treat and even heal addiction when commitment and willpower are prevalent enough.

How does addiction work?

Addiction can be described as a chronic dysfunction of the brain and the reward pathway. Within a normal functioning brain, a specific neurotransmitter gets secreted when doing a pleasurable activity, for example, eating nice food, being surrounded by loved ones, watching a good movie etc. Therefore, you feel happy when doing something you like; your brain is filled with the ‘happy hormone’ – dopamine.

When you introduce alcohol, drugs or any other addictive substance to your body, your normal reward pathway gets disturbed. These substances quickly release various happy hormones in your brain, and you feel great! However, this feeling can quickly turn into a compulsive habit. 

When it does turn out to be a more regular use, your brain adapts to the new stimuli and stops secreting as much natural dopamine because it gets an influx of it when you take the substance. When the nice effects of the substance wear off, you might experience sadness, fatigue, and very little motivation. Activities you used to like don’t seem so exciting anymore and you feel down most of the time.

Because your brain adapted to this new reward pathway system you presented, you can’t produce the necessary dopamine to organically feel happy, so what do you do? You go after what made you feel good in an instant. And that is how addiction is born. 

Now, to make things even more compilated, addiction isn’t limited to something you ingest. You can become addicted to a certain behaviour or activity as well. Sex addiction for example. Essentially, you can become addicted to anything that activates a reward response in your brain.

Think about Coffee. Coffee is portrayed as this wonderful morning juice that will elegantly wake you up and tingle your tastebuds. Where in reality, 1 billion people consume coffee every morning of their lives in order to feel happy and motivated enough to start their day. 

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a caffeine addiction to me. Sure, it’s not like you’re drinking a cup of cocaine every morning, but caffeine can still be harmful to your health and it disrupts the natural balance in your brain.

Yoga and Meditation Can Serve as an Alternative to Addiction

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that if you do yoga a few times a week and meditate often that you’ll be cured of your addiction. No, I mean to explain how yoga and meditation can be used as holistic methods in tandem with more traditional methods that help kick addiction to the curb.

Some of these more traditional methods include: 

  • Rehabilitation 
  • Abuse treatment programs
  • AA and DAA (therapy groups with a mentor and other addicts)
  • One-on-one therapy 
  • Psychiatry 
  • Medication and Hospitalization 

These methods will always need to be the foundation of treating addiction, yoga and meditation are additives to the whole mixture. 

The reason I believe yoga is a great way of treating addiction is because of the intense mind-body-soul connection. Through the breath, yoga holistically interlinks the three main parts of your whole existence.  Yoga and meditation take you on a journey inward. You are in control of the whole practice and this brings you face to face with your demons.

Modern yoga is quickly becoming more popular among people all over the world and addiction treatment programs are also catching up to the trend. With yoga rising to fame, people learned that it could help control cravings and, over time, prevent relapse. It can also lessen negative emotions and anxiety.

The fitness part of the discipline can also counteract withdrawal symptoms. Overall, yoga is a great activity for anyone to channel everyday struggles and stressors. For people fighting addiction, yoga can start out as just another treatment plan, and end up becoming their greatest (and healthiest) coping mechanism.

Usually, meditation takes place while doing yoga, however, you can meditate while just sitting in a comfortable seated position too. It’s up to you. The wonderful thing about meditation, and probably the reason why most people do it – the intense calming sensation.

Meditating slows everything down, it brings your racing thoughts to rest and forces you to gain new perspectives on things that trouble you. Suddenly you gain a huge amount of self-awareness, “Who am I?”, “What am I doing to myself?”, “Is this the life I want for myself?”. You can peacefully sit down with yourself and ultimately alter your mental state.

In conjunction, these two disciplines can help you beat addiction. It can help you become the person you were always meant to be. People relapse because they give up on themselves. They accept that they are a slave to a substance and they completely dismiss their divine ability to be stronger than human temptations. 

Take this opportunity to heal and start this new chapter of your life. See it as a metamorphosis. This is your chance to become a beautiful, bright and free entity that rose from the ashes. Start doing yoga just once or twice a week and try to meditate once a day for as long as you like. Go look for yourself and ask yourself the hard questions. Give yourself a chance to excel and be happy.

So, how can yoga and meditation serve as an alternative to addiction? As long as you are truly ready for change, you will pull through. Yoga and mediation are tools to help you ease the struggle. All you have to do is fully commit to the process, understand that there will be hardships and celebrate the small victories.  Your mind is far more powerful than you will ever know. Believe in your ability to conquer anything that no longer serves you or bring you peace.

Isabel Ludick
Isabel is an avid yoga practitioner, who loves travelling, living life to the fullest, and cats. She loves living healthy and inspiring others to be the best they can be. When she's not performing her asanas or writing, you can find her at exquisite wine tastings around the world.