Right after waking up every morning I do 5-10 minutes of yoga. I’ve been doing it for almost a decade now, it has become part of my daily routine, and it comes as natural to me as taking a shower or brushing my teeth. Believe it or not, this simple practice has changed my life over the years in ways you wouldn’t imagine.
I used to be an alcohol and drug addict. I struggled with substance abuse all through my preteen and teenage years and I even spent two years in prison when I was 23 for drug-related charges. Only then realized I had to turn my life around and start the journey to recovery.
Getting clean was terribly difficult, especially drug detox and withdrawal. There were times when I thought I wouldn’t make it. But I did it, I completed the treatment and kept going to AA meetings; eventually, I got a job, things were starting to look up… until I relapsed.
I felt so guilty. I felt like a failure. But with the help of my family, who were always there for me through it all, I managed to build up enough courage and willpower to check myself back into rehab, and this time, I was determined to make it my last.
When my therapist recommended yoga, I was pretty much open to anything that could help me stay sober, so I decided I would give it a try. Little did I know it would help me in so many other ways too. Here are 6 amazing self-improvement benefits I learned through yoga.
- Less Stress
As an addict, I was constantly under high levels of stress. During recovery, sometimes that stress was even worse since I couldn’t turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with it. Stress is a natural response to challenging situations, and though sometimes it can be the motivation that pushes you to do something -when you’re working under a deadline, for examples, it can also be detrimental for your mental and physical health.
Yoga exercises based on conscious breathing and meditation can help you clear your mind from whatever it is that’s causing you stress. In my experience, learning to focus on my inner self through yoga helped me look at my problems in a more objective way, which, ultimately helped me make better decisions for myself. I started analyzing situations instead of impulsively reacting to them like before.
- Weight Loss
When you’re an addict you stop caring about your appearance and your health. The only thing you care about is when you’re getting your next hit. Naturally, when I decided to get clean I wasn’t in good shape at all. Yoga helps you burn calories. Some exercises burn more calories than others depending on their difficulty. Pairing yoga with regular cardio -such as running, cycling, swimming, etc-, and a well-balanced diet is guaranteed to not only help you lose weight but also tone your muscles while gaining strength.
- Better Posture
When I was a teenager there was a time when I was suffering from chronic back pain. My mom took me to her chiropractor and he told me I had a slight deviation in my spine, or, scoliosis. He said it wasn’t serious, but he insisted I do physiotherapy to correct it. I didn’t do it. Instead, every time my back hurt I would smoke pot to help me relax. But when I started practicing yoga, I realized how bad my posture had been all my life.
There are many yoga exercises that help realign your spine and strengthen your back muscles. It has been almost a decade, and I haven’t felt any back pain since I started practicing Yoga.
- Better Sleep
One of the many things that come with addiction is sleeping problems. Even after I got clean, I still had some trouble falling asleep and I used to wake up in the middle of the night looking for anything that might help me fall asleep again.
Lack of quality sleep can interfere with your daily activities since you’re tired and probably unable to concentrate or give as much as you would if you were well rested.
Yoga did wonders for me in this area. I’m not the only one it has helped with their sleep troubles though. According to a to a national survey, over 55% of people who do yoga confirm that it helps them get better sleep.
- More Energy
Given that yoga can help you get real quality sleep, you’ll feel more energetic throughout the day. After a few months of practicing yoga, I could really tell the difference: I wasn’t yawning constantly during the day, I didn’t feel like my body was tired anymore and I wasn’t fighting to fall asleep during different activities.
Also, some yoga poses help adjust the cortisol hormone, which, can drain your body of energy when it’s not released in the right amount.
- Healthier Relationships
When all aspects of your life are aligned, you feel healthy and happy with yourself. Chances are, you are going to be able to develop more genuine, wholesome relationships with others.
As an addict, I destroyed many of the relationships that were important to me with my reckless behavior. Once I embarked on the road to recovery and found yoga, I became a more serene, compassionate and understanding person, which helped me repair some of my past relationships and build new ones with real, strong foundations.
Yoga changed my life in ways you couldn’t even imagine. These 6 things are only the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure it can change yours if you give it a chance. You can start with small routines and build up from there, and before you know it, you’ll be looking better and feeling better, physically, mentally and spiritually.
Do you know any other benefits of practicing yoga? If you’d like to share your experience in yoga with us, please leave a comment below.