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How Yoga Is Used as a Therapeutic Technique

Multiple therapeutic techniques have gained popularity over the years. Yoga is a technique that has been proven to be effective for multiple ailments. Before we dive into all the benefits yoga offers, we must examine what it is and how it works.

What Is Yoga?

Yoga originally began as a spiritual practice; however, it is now widely accepted as a holistic therapeutic technique. MedlinePlus defines yoga as “a practice that connects the body, breath, and mind. It uses physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to improve overall health.”

How Does Yoga Work?

Classes are typically held at a studio or gym. Yoga instructors lead the students through various poses as they concentrate on controlling their breathing. The students also focus on moving their bodies in a way that feels good. While some poses may be challenging, pain is never the goal while practicing yoga. Yoga is meant to use the muscles to promote relaxation and controlled strength. This is often done through diaphragmatic breathing, mindfulness, and reconnecting with the body.

Breathing Through the Diaphragm

A large aspect of yoga is learning to control breathing. The more a person breathes deeply into their diaphragm, the more oxygen circulates through their bloodstream and reaches their brain and muscles. This is referred to as diaphragmatic breathing.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) explains, “Diaphragmatic breathing is sometimes referred to as belly, deep, relaxed, or abdominal breathing. It optimizes use of the main muscle of breathing, the diaphragm, resulting in slower, deeper breathing.” This type of breathwork can be helpful to people who are chronically stressed, recovering from a traumatic experience, or managing chronic pain symptoms.

When coping with high stress levels, a person’s breathing can change. Some people inadvertently hold their breath or breathe shallowly during stressful situations. A person may also go into fight-or-flight mode. This is where yoga can be helpful.

Diaphragmatic breathing can help counteract stress by lowering heart rate, slowing breathing, and allowing the blood vessels to expand. All of these actions can aid in resetting the nervous system back to a healthier state.

Staying Present With Mindfulness

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) explains that mindfulness “involves maintaining attention or awareness on the present moment without making judgments.” Mindfulness is crucial in yoga because it encourages the person to stay in a present state of mind without focusing too much on the past or future.

During a yoga session, a person can simply be where they are. They don’t have to be happy or accept where they are in life. Instead, they are just present in that moment. Mindfulness encourages the person to acknowledge any feelings or memories that come up, and then refocus on breathing through them.

This practice is often paired with other therapeutic techniques, such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). MBCT allows the person to process their feelings with the help of a licensed professional. As a result, yoga and mindfulness-based techniques are often used as complementary approaches, which can result in better healing than stand-alone techniques. The overall goal of these approaches is to decrease stress and stay mentally balanced.

Reconnecting With the Body

It is common for some people who have been through a traumatic experience to disconnect from the body. Sometimes it’s an unconscious defense mechanism called dissociation that numbs intense emotions like stress, grief, sadness, or anger. For others, it can be a conscious decision to avoid physical, mental, or emotional pain.

Because it focuses so heavily on breathwork and mindfulness, yoga creates opportunities to reconnect with the body. As previously stated, the goal is never to be in pain but to notice what poses help the body feel good.

Yoga poses affect and stretch different parts of the body and sometimes activate different parts of the nervous system. As such, a person should verify with their care team that yoga is safe and beneficial for them. Working with a trauma-informed yoga instructor might be beneficial to those who are using yoga to heal from trauma.

What Are the Benefits of Yoga?

Since yoga focuses heavily on breath, mindfulness, and physical movement, the benefits can be abundant. Not only can physical movement provide a myriad of mental health benefits, but the NCCIH also suggests that the benefits of yoga can include:

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also conducted a study that found yoga to help relieve post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in veterans.

Why Individualized Care Is Important

Here at Sage Recovery, we firmly believe that everyone deserves treatment that is as unique as the person receiving it. That’s why we pride ourselves on specializing in innovative treatments, like yoga, to ensure that clients get the individualized care they need to heal.

At Sage Recovery, we’re here to help you heal your mind. We know how hard it can be to take the first step toward recovery. Our professional, empathetic staff is here to walk alongside you every step of the way. We offer a variety of innovative treatments, such as music therapy, art therapy, nature immersion, and acupuncture. We are also extensively trained in traditional methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), group therapy, and couples therapy. We offer outpatient and residential services for adults. With our help, you can be sure to get the exact treatment you need. Take the first step toward healing. Reach out to us at (512) 306-1394 whenever you’re ready.