My husband, Adi Jaffe, is getting his PhD in Psychology at UCLA. His goal is to help people who are addicted to anything from gambling, to sex, to drugs and alcohol find healthier ways to cope with life. Therefore, we have a lot in common! Yoga and eating healthy food, in my opinion, are two of the greatest coping mechanism when dealing with life's obstacles and greatest challenges. We are both dedicating our lives to helping others figure out the best way to navigate this ship we call life, both in our individual and unique ways.
A New Tool in Addiction Treatment
There are so many ways to treat addiction, and just like he states in a post he wrote, "different methods work for different people...if there's a tool that can help, we need to put it into action."
He's also been working on a system of matching each person to a treatment facility that is the best possible "fit" for that individual. The person goes onto his website, and after answering a few questions, the system figures out what would be the best match for them. As he explains, "We’re currently testing a system that will use some basic, and some a bit more advanced, criteria to help direct addicts towards the right provider for them. Don’t have much money and working full-time? Then residential treatment should probably not be your first choice? Medicated for schizophrenia? You better stay away from providers that don’t offer serious mental health services (though they’ll sure take you if you walk through their doors)" This amazing new tool will be available in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!!!
The point here? We're not all the same. We are extraordinarily unique individuals with equally as unique issues. These issues could be worked out in a million different ways, and it's important that we are treated by and as the one-of-a kind person we are to get through these issues in a healthy way.
Yoga and Healthy Coping
There are all kinds of ways to cope with life's challenges. One way is by getting yourself to a yoga class and working out your issues on your mat. Yoga is a beautiful metaphor for life. As you practice yoga, moving through the asanas (postures/poses), you move as gracefully and truthfully as possible. Wherever you are that day, maybe you're in a crappy mood, you're just doing the best you can: moving, growing, evolving. Just as in life.
Back bends, for example, are a natural way to release endorphins. Natural opioids (also called endogenous opioids), which include endorphins, are used by the body to relieve pain and increase relaxation, especially during periods of extreme stress. These are the chemicals that make sure we can function during accidents, like after breaking our leg.
This chemical is released during yoga over and over again, which is why we feel so good during the class and for hours following the practice.
After a light warmup, you can practice back bends in the comforts of your home. It's a great way to relax before bedtime or if you begin to enter into dangerous space or get thrown off track. After your body is warm, a really gentle pose to try is upward facing dog or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana.
Try This Heart Opening Yoga Pose
1) Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, with the tops of your feet on the floor. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your waist so that your forearms are relatively perpendicular to the floor.
2) Inhale and press your inner hands firmly into the floor and slightly back, as if you were trying to push yourself forward along the floor. Then straighten your arms and simultaneously lift your torso up and your legs a few inches off the floor on an inhalation. Keep the thighs firm and slightly turned inward, the arms firm and turned out so the elbow creases face forward.
3) Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Narrow the hip points. Firm but don't harden the buttocks.
4) Firm the shoulder blades against the back and puff the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Look straight ahead or tip the head back slightly, but take care not to compress the back of the neck and harden the throat.
5) Urdhva Mukha Svanasana is one of the positions in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. You can also practice this pose individually, holding it anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor or lift into Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) with an exhalation.
Impulse control has a lot to do with ones addictive behavior. If we can learn to regulate our impulses in healthy ways, i.e. through healthy challenges like sitting through an entire yoga class, we can figure out ways to bring this control off the mat and into our everyday habits.
There are so many healthy ways to cope with life's challenges other than reaching for an unhealthy addictive substance or turning to an addictive behavior. One extremely healthy way to face obstacles in one's life is by getting into your body to get out of your head or repetitive unhealthy patterns. Yoga is a wonderful way to connect inward.
Adi Jaffe writes for a website/blog called All About Addiction, which is a great resource for the latest cutting edge research and science in the addiction and psychological realms. He also contributes to Psychology Today, another amazing resource.