There is no one path to recovery from substance abuse; addicts must chart their own course to healing based on their individual history.  Many inpatient rehabilitation centers offer a holistic approach to treatment, including group therapy, individual counseling, and supplementary approaches such as reiki, nutritional therapy, and wellness training.  One approach that has helped many addicts in recovery is yoga and chakra balancing.  Yoga and chakra balancing work to balance the body and the mind, a connection that is often thrown off-balance by substance abuse, making this approach a perfect complement to traditional drug and alcohol rehab.

What is Yoga and Chakra Balancing?

Both yoga and chakra balancing are founded in the traditional Indian idea that each person has two bodies: a physical body and a subtle body.  The subtle body is a nonphysical body including the mind and emotions.  It is a form of energy, and that energy flows and can be manipulated through yoga and chakra balancing.  Yoga is an umbrella term that encompasses a group of spiritual, mental, and physical practices or disciplines.  In the Western world, most yoga practice focuses on specific exercises and postures designed to build physical and mental strength by uniting physical poses with mental exercises, including meditation.

Chakra balancing also comes from ancient Indian traditions, rooted in the belief that the body contains seven chakras, or energy sources, that hold specific spiritual powers. When balanced, the chakras should be in a vertical alignment along the spinal cord.  Unbalanced chakras can lead to illness, disease, or emotional unrest.  Individuals with unbalanced chakras may attempt to restore their system through substance abuse; chakra healing benefits include recovery from addiction as the person’s energy can flow freely, producing a feeling of peace and wholeness.

What Are the Seven Chakras?

Each of the seven chakras represents a different spiritual power and is found in a different location in the body.  When aligned, energy flows freely through the body; when any are blocked or unbalanced, negative symptoms will arise.  The chakras are:

  • Root Chakra: located at the base of the spine and associated with smell.  The root chakra provides our foundation and a feeling of groundedness.  It is associated with addictions to heroin, cocaine, and alcohol.
  • Sacral Chakra: located in the lower abdomen and associated with taste.  The sacral chakra represents our connection to others and the ability to accept others and new experiences.
  • Solar Plexus Chakra: located in the upper abdomen and associated with sight.  The solar plexus chakra represents our sense of confidence and self-control.  It is associated with cannabis and cocaine addiction.
  • Heart Chakra: located in the center of the chest, just above the heart, and associated with touch.  The heart chakra represents our ability to love. It is associated with ecstasy addiction.
  • Throat Chakra: located in the throat and associated with hearing.  The throat chakra represents our ability to communicate with others.
  • Third Eye Chakra: located in the forehead, between the eyes and associated with light and vision.  The third eye chakra represents our ability to focus and see the larger picture.
  • Crown Chakra: located at the top of the head and associated with consciousness.  The crown chakra represents our ability to be fully connected spiritually.

When any of the chakras are misalignment or blocked, toxins may build up and energy cannot flow.  Chakra balancing can alleviate this condition.

How to Balance Your Chakras

You can balance your chakras through yoga, which includes specific breathing techniques, meditations, and physical postures that will restore the chakras to the proper alignment.  Once restored, energy will flow through the body, unobstructed.  Chakra balancing can be done through individual practice or yoga or under the direction of an experienced yogi, depending on the needs and comfort level of the addict in recovery.

Benefits of Chakra Balancing

Chakra balancing provides many tangible benefits to people recovering from substance abuse.  Yoga teaches that when the chakras are in alignment and energy flows freely, individuals can achieve inner peace, a sense of wholeness, and the ability to reach their full potential.  Students new to yoga will require the guidance of an instructor at first, but with time and experience, anyone can practice yoga on their own.  The breathing, mindfulness, and meditation components can be practiced anytime, anyplace.  Specific benefits for recovering addicts include:

  • Healthy Coping Skills: many addicts become addicted by turning to substance abuse in times of stress, loneliness, depression, or other negative feelings.  Yoga provides a healthy alternative means of coping with these feelings.
  • Increased Control Over Stress and Anxiety: Certain yoga practices specifically stimulate the nervous system in stressful ways, calling on the body to sweat, tremble, and mimic other symptoms of stress and anxiety.  By practicing these responses in a controlled fashion, the individual gains control over them in stressful circumstances.  They can also implement meditations or breathing techniques learned in yoga.  This control allows them to mediate the response so that they do not overreact, preventing unnecessary stress or anxiety attacks.
  • Control Over One’s Own Mind: yoga builds strength in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that is responsible for decision making.  Many people with a weak prefrontal cortex make impulsive decisions, which can lead to substance abuse in the first place; furthermore, substance abuse damages this area of the brain.  Yoga acts like exercise for the prefrontal cortex, strengthening it for improved decision making in the future, a critical skill for recovering addicts.
  • Eliminate Reactiveness: yoga teaches a control over the body that allows individuals to control their response to other people.  Everyone experiences conflict; through the inner calm that comes with balanced chakra and the control learned in yoga, people can handle that conflict and react to it appropriately, instead of flying off the handle or resorting to substance abuse.
  • Provides a Natural High: when the chakras are balanced, individuals feel an inner peace such that they no longer need to seek out external fulfillment.  Many people who practice yoga are able to replace the artificial high of drugs or alcohol with the peaceful feelings yoga provides.
  • Determination: many of the physical postures of yoga are difficult to achieve and even more difficult to hold for prolonged periods.  Successfully pushing the body to its physical limits teaches the individual that he or she can endure discomfort, push through the challenge, and accomplish what seemed out of reach.  This determination is an important skill in recovery, when the addict will have to push through the discomfort of withdrawal, cravings during recovery, and resisting temptation for years to come.
  • Community: taking yoga classes provides an opportunity for addicts in recovery to make connections within the community, whether it is with other recovering addicts or not.  These connections are an important part of overall wellness, and are especially important to addicts newly in recovery.  Being a part of a healthy community makes it easier for the individual to resist the urge to reconnect with friends who are still using.
  • Spiritual Teachings: the ideas behind yoga and chakra balancing are not inherently linked to any one religion.  Many people who are not interested in organized religion benefit from the loose concept of a higher power associated with yoga.

If you are interested in yoga and chakra balancing as part of substance abuse treatment, contact us today.