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How simple yoga practices can help in getting rid of addictions

Addiction is a sad story, both for the addict and the people around the person. Finding solutions becomes a bigger challenge as not only are the reasons for the problem myriad and intractable, but the moral, legal and social implications make it a greater challenge for the addicted person.

Yoga, along with other concerted efforts like counselling and social organisations like AA, can work miracles both for the person and the care-givers. Here we will see how and why yoga works at different levels to not only detoxify the person but also help integrate the personality of the person by cutting out the root of the problem, be it psychological, emotional, hereditary or circumstantial.

The multi-pronged, layered yoga will involve the following:

1. Detox through the six Shatkarmas of Hatha Yoga: These detoxify, purify the internal environment to start the person off on a path of experiencing a cleansed body with layers of toxicity being thrown out. Body cleansing brings about balance in the nervous system of the person, thus engendering a feeling of health and general good feeling. This helps the person in experiencing a good state other than when he/she is under the spell of whatever the addiction, be it alcohol, drugs, substance abuse or even socio-psychological addictions like gambling, workaholism, compulsive shopping and so on.

2. Simple asana practices: Followed up with the Shatkarmas, these further help in removing the bodily stiffness, bringing about flexibility in the joints, muscles and releasing accumulated stress and tension in the different parts of the body. Asanas also get the various systems, the nervous system, endocrine system, hormonal and digestive system into a better state. This helps correct the physical, mental and emotional state of the person as it brings in a feel-good factor of looking better with the skin and general appearance of the person, bringing in confidence and self-assurance.

3. Pranayama helps in invigorating the life force or prana of the person and most importantly, brings about self-awareness, starting with the simple act of watching your own breath. Most acts of addiction are compulsive. As you progress in the practice of breath observation, you automatically imbibe self-awareness. This starts to impact your life as your presence of mind becomes sharp. A smoker without awareness compulsively picks a cigarette, or an alcoholic pours himself a drink. With practice, they are more aware of this act. They become an observer of their thoughts and acts. This helps them break the compulsive, unthinking act of indulgence.

Besides, pranayama impacts the brain, activating latent neurons. It clears the subtle pathways within the body which carry the life-force, prana, in the whole body assisting in all the bodily functions.

4. Shavasana, Yoga Nidra: In today’s razzle-dazzle urban life, even non-addicts struggle with stress, tension, both physical and mental, in trying to cope with fulfilling a never-ending list of aspirations, achievements and acquisitions. Thus, a huge panacea for many problems, including addiction, is relaxation. Both are wonderful practices where you lie down on your back and give the reins of your mind to the instructor. You mechanically follow some instructions of the yoga teacher to relax every part of the body. It activates the reverse pathway of communication between body and brain. Normally, the senses, the organs of action, serve the commands of the brain. But, through Shavasana and Yoga Nidra, the reverse happens and a relaxed body helps relax the brain and mind.

What addicts seek in their addiction is relaxation at all levels and an escape route from the reality into an induced alternate reality. Shavasana and Yoga Nidra provide this not as an escape route but grounding yourself into yourself.

Pranayama

1. Breath awareness: Sit in any relaxed pose. This can be practised almost anytime, anywhere without distracting or disturbing anyone around. Just watch your incoming and out-going breath at the once tip. Watch for at least 10-20 rounds. Initially, the mind will wander off, or a trail of thought might hijack your practices. But then you must bring your awareness back to observing your breath.

2. Anulom Vilom: Alternate nostril breathing which is a well-known practice of pranayama now.

3. Sheetali: Sit in any relaxed or meditation pose, make a funnel of your tongue and breathe in through this funnel and breathe out through the nose. You will feel air being cooled through the funnel as you inhale and air being warmed as it comes out through the nose. Do 10 rounds.

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4. Sheetkari: Continue in the above pose, put your upper and lower row of teeth together, open your mouth, and breathe in with a hissing sound through the extreme sides of the mouth, through the gap in the clenched teeth and breathe out through the nose. Do 10 rounds.

5. Om chanting: Can end with Om chanting, starting with five rounds and keep building up the capacity to do more rounds.

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(Kamini Bobde is a Kundalini practitioner who follows the Swami Satyananda Saraswati tradition of yoga. She is the author of Kundalini Yoga for All: Unlock the Power of Your Body and Brain. Published by Penguin)

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