Caroline Farrell, LSW, is the Community Outreach Specialist for Maryland Addiction Recovery Center. She is also a licensed social worker, person in long-term recovery, and a 200-hour certified yoga instructor who has completed training for yoga in trauma and addiction.
Yoga is used as a healing tool to decrease depression, insomnia, pain, anxiety, and fatigue, and has been proven to help strengthen an individual’s physical and mental well-being, improve cognitive functioning, and reduce stress. Caroline has seen the many benefits of practicing yoga on both a personal level and a professional level. Here, she offers a glimpse of how yoga can also offer numerous benefits for individuals in recovery from addiction and substance use disorders.
“Over the last decade, Yoga has become a popular practice for many in the US. In 2016, the Yoga Alliance conducted a study that stated there are over 36 million American yoga practitioners. But why? What has made the practice of yoga so popular over the last several years? What is yoga and why are so many people attracted to the practice? And how can yoga specifically benefit those individuals dealing with addiction and mental health issues? Well, let me tell you a little bit about my journey as a person in recovery, a licensed social worker, a yoga student, and now a yoga teacher.
The first time I was ever introduced to yoga was in a residential treatment facility when I was 18 years old. The only thing I remember is that I hated it. It was hard for me to sit still, be present, and connect with my body. If you would have told me at that in my life that yoga would be a tool that changed my entire life for the better, I would have never believed you. I would have called you a liar. But throughout my journey, a few months after treatment, a friend invited me to a yoga class. During this time, I was still struggling with regulating my emotions, cravings, and other symptoms of Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS.) I was also struggling with negative body image, disordered eating, and debilitating OCD.
I cannot tell you what I felt emotionally leaving that first yoga class with only a few months of sobriety, but what I can tell you is that a few months after I developed a consistent practice of yoga that included movement, breathwork, community, and spirituality, I started to notice a shift. I began to feel better about myself, emotionally and physically. My mental health improved, and I felt a greater sense of being able to sit with myself. I was able to take a pause before reacting, rather than acting out immediately out of whatever I was feeling emotionally, which had been my pattern in the past. I began to sleep better at night and both my cravings and OCD nearly disappeared. For the first time in my life, I felt at home in my body.
Because of the profound impact yoga has had on my physical, emotional, and spiritual life, I knew I wanted to become a certified yoga teacher and help others adopt the practice. Over the last few years, I have received my 200-hour CYT, certification for “Yoga for Trauma and Addiction” and my Master of Social Service (MSS) from Bryn Mawr College, which has enabled me to successfully guide new students. Over the past few years of teaching yoga in the community, on college campuses, and utilizing certain aspects of the practice in my clinical work, I have witnessed the same change that I have experienced in many individuals.
What is yoga?
The most simplistic explanation is that yoga is an ancient practice that supports the mind body connection through postures and breathwork. The term is derived from a Sanskrit word that means unity. There are many different styles of practice including Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin and many more that have been developed over the years.
What are the benefits of yoga?
The benefits of yoga are supported by science and can benefit individuals on their journeys of recovery.
- Yoga can reduce stress and support emotional regulation and overall wellness.
- Yoga can support overall sleep hygiene.
- Yoga can support managing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health diagnosis.
- Yoga can support in managing chronic pain and other medical concerns.
- Yoga can provide you with a deeper connection to yourself and others around you.
- Yoga can provide structure and commitment in your daily life.
Can I benefit form yoga?
Yes! Anyone can do yoga, there are many different types of practice that may include the physical postures, breath-work, spirituality, etc. I would encourage you to find a teacher you connect with and an environment that provides a feeling of safety and security. “
- Yoga of 12 Step Recovery – Wisdom of yoga & the Tools of 12 Step (y12sr.com)
- Recovery Yoga | Unity Yoga
- Yoga – Sober Activity – The Phoenix
- Insight Timer Yoga | Insight Timer
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.