By Faye Martins
How can meditation rid addictions? With Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras we are taught the higher value of meditation. Yet, Hatha Yoga classes are filled with people who focus on the physical body. You can’t blame the masses for taking care of themselves physically, but the mental and emotional Yogic benefits are worth consideration. Yoga meditation is being taught to support groups for the purpose of eliminating addictions.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of every eight Americans has a problem with drugs or alcohol; and at least ten percent of all young people have used illicit substances by the time they reach the age of eighteen. Our society spends billions of dollars on the compulsive consumption of food, cigarettes, games, gambling and other risky behaviors every year.
The successful treatment and management of addictions require a wide range of medical and behavioral therapies, and studies show that meditation is one of the most effective complementary practices. Not only does it help to re-program the brain’s software, but it also eases symptoms of withdrawal and reduces the chances of relapse.
How does meditation help with addictions?
• Overwhelmed by the need to satisfy their cravings, addicts often take poor care of themselves. Meditation encourages a healthier lifestyle.
• The spiritual aspects of meditation blend well with self-help programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or support groups.
• Addictions numb the senses. Meditation encourages awareness of bodily sensations and feelings.
• Awareness, or living in the moment, quiets the mind and releases blocked energy and repressed trauma.
• Meditation allows addicts to observe and understand cravings and desires without automatically reacting to them.
• The practice teaches self-control and increases confidence in a person’s ability to tolerate painful memories.
• The act of meditating alters brainwaves and leads to the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins.
• Meditation reduces stress, teaches patience and lessens depression.
• Breathing exercises and meditation practices can produce natural highs – a healthy alternative to addictions.
Meditation creates a space to rid addictions and examine the events that trigger their cravings, to observe their reactions, and to substitute healthier behaviors. A method as simple as deep abdominal breathing may be all it takes to create a moment of awareness. Another technique easily used in any situation involves placing attention on the heart chakra while imagining feelings of love or forgiveness.
Regardless of the style, meditation quiets the mind and encourages self-inquiry. As people become more comfortable in their own bodies, the need to deaden emotions decreases; and the likelihood of healing grows stronger. When we rid addictions our relationships recover, health improves; and confidence expands, reducing the need for compulsive behavior.
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