How Yoga and Eating Right Helped My Recovery

This entry was posted in Addiction, Life, Mental Health on .

Recent events in my life have tested my resolve.

And they have definitely tested my recovery.

I’m grateful, though, because they brought me to a new place in my journey. The events themselves were tough, but the experiences opened new doors that I was afraid to open before. I won’t go into the details of the events because they’re not important. Everyone in recovery goes through challenging times. Work, family, relationships – managing all your responsibilities while staying on your program can be…well, like I said: it can be tough.

During this set recent set of challenges, though, I decided to recommit to a couple of daily habits I learned during rehab that, to be honest, I have sometimes let go since I finished my time in rehab.

I’m glad I recommitted to them. It was a smart choice.

They made a huge difference – and I think they helped me from dropping into a spiral that could have led to relapse.

Diet and Exercise: The Diet Part

What was happening was something most people in recovery can relate to. I did not relapse, but I was feeling down – and I couldn’t seem to find my regular spark. I found myself just being more negative than I liked. So, instead of waiting for positive energy to come to me, I decided I’d put in some effort and go find it.

I remembered how good I felt when I ate well and got regular exercise – so I decided to try a food and exercise reset.

I’ll talk about diet first.

I didn’t do anything extreme. I took the advice we all hear almost all our lives, which was the same advice they gave us during rehab. I made sure I ate three meals a day, with no skipping meals. I got as many whole grains, fruits, and vegetables back in my diet as possible. I cut back on red meat, sugar, and extra salt. And while I almost never eat fast food, I do sometimes eat processed foods from the grocery store, so I cut back on those, too.

I started to feel better within days. Getting the good nutrients in my body improved my outlook and my energy levels. That’s how it felt to me – but I’m not a scientist and this wasn’t an experiment, so it’s just anecdotal evidence – but for me, changing what I ate really helped.

The Exercise Part

Now I’ll talk about exercise.

When I was in rehab, I did a few yoga classes. I liked them okay, but at that point, yoga wasn’t lifechanging, like it was for some of my recovery partners and peers. The exercise felt great, though. When I left rehab I joined a gym and started group classes and some moderate weight training.

But I let that go – I went from three trips to the gym a week, to two, and finally to just one. So I knew I needed to get back on the exercise train, but I didn’t want to do what I had been doing, which was a mix of generic aerobics-type classes and weight circuits.

So I decided to give yoga another shot. I can tell you that I was skeptical of yoga before I tried it in rehab, and I was still a little skeptical. There was, however, one thing that I knew about it. I knew that it was something people I love and respect totally swear by. And I’ve read countless articles and testimonies by people in recovery about how yoga was the real key for them. So many people said so many good things about it, I knew that I had to give it a shot.

At best, it could help me restore my positivity and help my recovery. At worst, I’d lose about an hour and a half of time. But since that time was technically recovery time, there really was no downside.

Trying a yoga class was nothing but win-win.

And guess what?

I now know why these people I know and love put such a high value on yoga. I could just say “It’s awesome,” but instead I’ll list the positives I found after doing about a month of classes.

Three Reasons Yoga Works for Me

  1. The classes are fun. You may run into some hard emotions and physical limitations during class, but the space is safe (at least at the studio I go to) and you can just do you own thing, work through your stuff, and no one notices – because they’re all on their mat working through their stuff.
  2. I feel great afterwards. I feel like I worked out, I feel peaceful, and I feel energized. All at the same time. I also feel hungry and tired – which is great, because after class I go home and eat and fall right to sleep.
  3. I can take it with me. It’s easy to learn some basic yoga poses and string them together yourself when you want. At least it was for me. I know enough now to do about twenty minutes of yoga by myself. It’s comforting to have that there for me.

I’m sure people who’ve been doing yoga for years can add probably twenty or thirty points to this list. But for now, I’m happy with these three. And I’m pretty sure I’m not going to start doing yoga for hours every day. I like it right here where it is, now. I do two classes a week, maybe three, and a little morning yoga at home most days.

The Basics Matter

The point of this post is really to tell everyone out there who may be struggling in recovery – due to life events, or anything, really – that sometimes the basics can make a huge difference. I was down. I had no spark, and I couldn’t jolt myself out of it. It turns out I didn’t really need a jolt. What I needed was to go back to a couple fundamentals I learned during rehab. I went back to eating right and exercising regularly. Nothing drastic on either front. A simple reset and recommitment – and it totally worked.

Now, these two things are part of my regular routine. They help me stay on my program and stay positive, even on the tough days.

What helps you stay on your program?