Yoga Therapy in Adolescent Substance Use & Mental Health Treatment

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At Guardian Recovery, we integrate holistic practices such as yoga therapy that have been clinically shown to be effective alongside other evidence-based strategies. These techniques can be used both during and after comprehensive treatment, and our young clients are encouraged to use yoga to help prevent relapse and promote overall wellness long after they’ve achieved abstinence. If your teen is struggling with substance use or mental health disorders and could benefit from holistic care, contact us today to learn more.

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Holistic Adolescent Treatment & Yoga Therapy

Holistic adolescent treatment is intended to provide teens with a comprehensive approach that includes a wide range of therapies, services, recreational activities, and alternative techniques. These are designed to work synergistically to promote each young person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

Yoga therapy is a component of holistic or “whole person” methodology that uses breathing exercises, postures, guided imagery, and meditation to foster an overall sense of well-being. The programs at Guardian Recovery incorporate these with therapeutic elements from other common approaches, such as psychotherapy, counseling, and group support.

The Benefits of Yoga Therapy for Teen Treatment & Mental Health

Yoga therapy can help people who struggle with substance use and mental health issues for a number of reasons. It provides a natural high, as research has shown that yoga and exercise release endorphins in the brain and body. (1) These are innate chemicals that can improve a person’s mood and overall sense of calmness.

Stress and anxiety are psychological triggers that can lead to relapse and low mood. Yoga helps reduce these feelings and reduces the likelihood individuals will resort to drug or alcohol use as a form of self-medication.

Yoga therapy can also be practiced as a group activity that promotes socialization, peer support, and a sense of belonging. It can also help individuals learn how to control their thoughts, emotions, and bodies. This can further help them better manage their impulses and behaviors, which is vital for young people because their brains have not yet fully developed. (2)

Other Benefits Include:

  • Improving strength, flexibility, and overall physical health.
  • Improving concentration and focus through mindfulness, breathing exercises, and postures.
  • Promoting self-awareness, as teens are taught how to tune into their bodies, thoughts, and emotions.
  • Providing tools for stress management to cope with hormonal changes and difficulties with school and social groups.
  • Enabling restful and restorative sleep, which is essential for growth and mental and physical development.
  • Fostering a positive body image by encouraging self-acceptance and self-worth.

At Guardian Recovery, our yoga therapy program is facilitated under the guidance of a qualified instructor. This is important to ensure that young people are provided with a personalized experience specific to their age group and instructed to perform poses safely to avoid injuries and setbacks.

Promoting Mind-Body Connection & Self Awareness

The philosophy of yoga emphasizes the unity of mind, body, and spirit. Through this practice, adolescents can learn to appreciate and integrate these aspects of themselves, fostering holistic wellness. This can help them understand their physical strengths, limitations, and areas of tension and stress. When combined with breathing and mindfulness techniques, they can become more connected to their bodily sensations, and develop an enhanced understanding of how to care for themselves.

Reducing Stress, Anxiety & Depression

Yoga promotes stress reduction by activating the body’s relaxation response, leading to reduced levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol. Furthermore, yoga’s emphasis on breathwork and mindfulness helps adolescents regulate their emotions and address anxiety in healthier ways. By asking them to focus on the present and release repetitive thoughts, they can reduce their tendency to ruminate on stressors and challenges they face in their lives.

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Meditation & Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation practices can help break the cycle of anxious thoughts and foster an improved sense of inner peace. This technique involves purposefully focusing one’s attention on the present moment, without judgment or unhealthy attachment to thoughts, feelings, or external distractions. The goal of mindfulness meditation is to cultivate a sense of higher awareness, allowing adolescents to objectively observe their emotions, without perceiving them as either good or bad.

Coping Skills & Emotional Regulation

Through yoga techniques, adolescents can take an active role in their well-being and learn how to better manage their thoughts and emotions. The simple practice of acknowledging and accepting their feelings without judgment cultivates emotional intelligence and resilience. 

Regular yoga practice provides a healthy, constructive method of coping with stress and emotions. (3) Instead of depending on the use of drugs, alcohol, or self-harm to deal with stress, adolescents can turn to the teachings and techniques of yoga to live their lives moment by moment rather than worry about the future.

The Effectiveness of Yoga Therapy for Adolescent Mental Health

Research has found that yoga can be effective in improving mental health states and that individuals of all ages can experience positive, lasting effects. (4) This can be accomplished due to the main benefits yoga can yield, including reduced stress, improved mood, increased self-esteem, and better emotional regulation.

What To Expect From Our Yoga Therapy Program for Adolescents

Unlike standard yoga classes, yoga therapy is personalized to meet the individual needs and goals of the participants. As such, there are some aspects of yoga therapy that are unique to a rehab program.

  • Assessment—Programs begin with a thorough assessment of the adolescent’s physical, mental, and emotional health.
  • Customized Treatment Plan—Based on the information gathered in the assessment, the yoga instructor will devise a personalized plan that includes specific yoga practices to address their unique needs and challenges.
  • Empowerment—Yoga therapy aims to empower adolescents with the tools and knowledge they need to support their wellness long after the sessions end.
  • Progress Monitoring—Through the program, the yoga instructor will monitor the adolescent’s progress and make modifications, if necessary, to the treatment plan.
  • Collaboration With Healthcare Providers—Yoga therapies often work with other healthcare professionals, including doctors, physical therapists, and psychologists, to formulate a comprehensive approach to promote healing and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have any questions or concerns not addressed here, feel free to contact us and we can provide you with more information.

Can Yoga Really Help My Child’s Substance Use?

Yoga can be beneficial as an integral component of a comprehensive substance use treatment program. It is not considered appropriate as a stand-alone treatment but can play a supportive and vital role in the overall recovery process.

Should My Child Continue Yoga After Treatment?

Adolescents who find yoga therapy helpful and enjoyable are encouraged to continue the practice after treatment for as long as they like. Through the ongoing use of the tools they have been provided, they can continue to actively work to maintain their overall well-being.

How Is Progress Measured in Yoga Treatment?

Because yoga therapy is an individualized approach, progress can not always be measured in the same way as medical treatments. Instead, progress is typically assessed subjectively and relies on the participants’ self-reports of the various benefits they’ve garnered.

Is Yoga Suitable for All Adolescents?

Some adolescents may not enjoy yoga or prefer other forms of exercise or recreational activities. Although uncommon, others may have cultural beliefs or backgrounds inconsistent with yoga practices. In any case, they should have the opportunity to express their preferences and give consent before they are introduced to yoga.

What if My Child Has Physical Limitations?

Yoga postures can be modified to accommodate individual needs. Some styles feature gentler and simpler movements, which may be more appropriate for adolescents with physical limitations.

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Let Us Help Your Teen Overcome Substance Use & Promote Overall Wellness

At Guardian Recovery, we understand that adolescents can struggle with many social and emotional challenges. They commonly face academic difficulties, peer pressure, and sometimes pronounced feelings of depression and angst. Yoga therapy can be an effective element of comprehensive treatment that teens can continue to use after they’ve completed intensive programs as part of an overall strategy to maintain long-term wellness.

Contact us today to learn about our streamlined admissions process and receive a free, no-obligation assessment and health insurance benefits check. Find out what yoga therapy can do for your teen through our holistic and traditional rehab services.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)https://yogarove.com/does-yoga-release-endorphins/ (2)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445337/ (3)https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/yoga-stress.html (4)https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/yoga-as-a-mental-health-treatment

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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