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Yoga and Meditation as Tools in Recovery

Yoga is an ancient practice that involves breathing, positional techniques, and mindfulness. It can also be a helpful tool in the recovery process for those who use it. Yoga falls under the broader umbrella of “mindfulness practices,” which, according to Neuroreport, strengthen the prefrontal cortex, allowing the brain to exercise greater discipline and control over regions associated with addiction. Meditation is another mindfulness practice that goes “hand-in-hand” with yoga. 

Through correct and routine practice, these techniques can augment anyone’s recovery and train their brain over time to be more effective at overcoming cravings. Think of mindfulness practices as similar to a weightlifting regimen for your brain. These practices can help make your prefrontal cortex thicker. The thicker your prefrontal cortex, the more capable you will be at suppressing cravings.

What Is Yoga?

The history of yoga dates back over 5,000 years. “Yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word for “union.” In the eastern tradition, yoga is thought to facilitate oneness between an individual’s soul and the divine consciousness. Yoga involves a combination of both breathing techniques (pranayamas) and postures (asanas). A study in the Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice found that yoga has an empirically positive effect as an intervention in substance use disorders (SUDs). 

Benefits of Yoga

There are a variety of proven scientific benefits from yoga. The most important benefit for those in recovery is the strengthened ability to overcome cravings. However, the benefits of yoga are expansive – from improved mood and stress levels to better immunity and enhanced concentration. Yoga is a wholesome activity that nourishes not only the mind and body but also the spirit. According to Frontiers in Psychology, while the spiritual benefits are difficult to scientifically document, there is no doubt that for those who practice, yoga enhances their relationship with the universe. 

Yoga Breathing Techniques (Pranayamas)

Breathing techniques will facilitate your ability to be mindful and focus on the eternal “now.” This is an eastern concept, which holds that the future and the past are merely constructs of our mind’s eye and that the present is only what truly exists. These techniques are ideally accompanied by postures called asanas. 

  • Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nodi Sodhana): Seal your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Exhale through your right nostril by removing your thumb and sealing your left nostril with your ring finger. Inhale through the right nostril. 
  • Skull Shining Breath (Kapalbhati): Breathe in slowly through your nose. Exhale in a forceful yet abrupt manner also through your nostrils, pulling your belly button in towards your spine. 
  • Rhythmic Chant (Ugdeeth): Sit in a comfortable position with your spine upright. Focus on your diaphragm. Allow it to rise and fall without tension. Inhale through your nostrils, then exhale; chanting or repeating a mantra can help keep you focused and regulate your breathing. 

Yoga Postures (Asanas)

The combination of pranayamas and asanas will create a powerful meditative space working to clear the mind, reduce stress and ultimately enhance the ability of your brain to suppress cravings. 

  • Child’s Pose (Balasana): Kneel on the ground and sit your thighs against your calves. Lean forward so your forehead is touching the ground. Extend your arms out in front of you. 
  • Corpse Pose (Shavasana): Lie down with your back against the ground. Put your hands out diagonally from your body with your palms up. Relax your entire body and meditate. 
  • Cobra Pose (Bujangasana): Lay down with your chest facing the ground. Slowly raise the top half of your body by pushing down on the ground with your arms creating an arched back. 

Practice Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a component of yoga and involves focusing on the present. To practice mindfulness through meditation, focus on the now; your body as it contorts itself in different asanas, and your breath as you practice different pranayamas. Notice how each part of your body feels. Allow yourself to be fully present in the moment; as you notice your mind wander, calmly redirect it. 

Body Scan Meditative Technique

The body scan involves starting at one part of your body, your toes, for example, and working your way up your body. You may start at your toes, thinking of each individual one, noticing how they connect to the floor, perhaps how they ache. Then you move to your legs, thighs, torso, and so on. As you notice other thoughts enter your mind, don’t fight them, be with them and gently redirect yourself to your body. Remember to be kind to yourself. Don’t get frustrated that your mind has wandered; accept these thoughts and slowly redirect yourself back to the task. 

Loving Kindness Meditation

This meditation technique involves sending positive thoughts to yourself or those around you. Simply think about a person in your head and say a positive mantra aloud. For example, you may think of a sibling and say, “May you be successful, content, and happy.” The point of the meditative technique is to embrace the power of thinking to create a positive frame of mind towards others and, ultimately yourself. 


Yoga and meditation practices can be essential in the treatment and recovery process. That’s why Malibu Wellness Ranch offers programs that incorporate yoga and meditation. We take a whole-person approach to care and believe yoga has a variety of proven benefits to help you understand your mind and body and overcome challenging thoughts. From beginner poses to expert breathing techniques, our staff welcomes all. Committing just a few minutes a day to the practice of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can greatly enhance your quality of life and the success of your recovery. If you or a loved one currently need a whole-person approach to care, call Malibu Wellness Ranch today at (800) 862-5428