Millions of people worldwide struggle with addiction in one form or another. Even with all the programs available, many people still have trouble getting the help they need for recovery. For those who find themselves fighting relapse despite the treatment they’re receiving, there may be another option for lasting recovery. Yoga is an unconventional practice that can help survivors build a healthier life with newfound meaning. Here’s how:

Exercise Boosts Serotonin

One of the most important aspects of recovery is finding healthy methods to make yourself feel good. Yoga provides a positive outlet to channel anxiety as well as negative emotions and thoughts, while the exercise helps your brain produce more serotonin, which elevates your mood. Boredom is an ideal trigger for relapse, so occupying your mind as well as your body will help keep you focused on making positive changes. Exercise is a safe and healthy way to relieve stress and redirect your energy.

Yoga Is a Journey of Self-Awareness

Yoga encourages introspection and can allow us to examine the roots of our emotions. This awareness may let us more clearly view the underlying issues that contributed to addictive behavior. Self-awareness also empowers survivors of addiction to know they are capable of learning to heal themselves. Substance abuse rates are much higher in individuals with mental illness, so learning to recognize the patterns of your illness can help you create a plan for dealing with those emotions.

Yoga Clears Our Minds

One of the most important goals in yoga practice is learning to practice stillness, within and without. Turning your attention inward and focusing on your breath creates a calm connection with your body that teaches you to find comfort in quiet. Learning to clear your mind can help control intrusive thoughts that contribute to addictive behavior. Being more in tune with yourself fosters a sense of trust with your brain and your body, teaching you to be in control of your actions and giving you hope that recovery is obtainable.

Yoga Encourages Mindfulness

The self-awareness that comes with yoga often helps individuals become more mindful of health in every aspect of life. Many addicts struggle with self-esteem, believing they don’t deserve the help needed to heal. Yoga can encourage us to be better to ourselves and self-care is a key component of lasting recovery and positive changes. Learning to believe you are worthy of being loved and being treated with care is paramount to becoming healthy and happy.

Yoga Helps Control Breathing

Stress and anxiety are two huge triggers for addictive behavior and relapse. Pranayama teaches practitioners to breathe slowly and deeply, allowing heart rate and blood pressure to lower. Deep breathing creates a sense of calm that can reduce cravings and ease the urge to relapse.

Yoga Is Spiritual

Feelings of isolation and loneliness can contribute to addictive behavior, but using yoga as a coping mechanism may help survivors feel part of something bigger. Feeling like you belong to something important and being connected to a higher power can be a significant part of successful recovery.

Though the power to recover ultimately comes from within, there are plenty of ways to help you gather the strength needed to attain the gift of recovery. Using yoga as a safe and productive coping mechanism can contribute to a healthier lifestyle where rebuilding your life and future becomes possible.

About the author: Jennifer Landis is a twenty-something health journalist and blogger at Mindfulness Mama. She finds her bliss in a healthy combination of yoga, distance running, writing, and peanut butter. Follow her on Twitter @jenniferelandis.