The Value of Breathwork for Addiction Recovery

The Value of Breathwork for Addiction Recovery

If you are in early recovery from addiction, it is vital that you employ the numerous healing resources at your disposal. Although you may find many of these resources in treatment, you can discover others in the comfort of your own home. There is one healing resource that you take with you everywhere you go: your breath. Leaning into breathwork for addiction recovery is invaluable for your healing journey. 

What Is Breathwork?

Breathwork is a general term encompassing numerous breathing exercises that involve the manual use of your breath. In other words, breathwork is intentional control of how you breathe. Bringing attention to your breath is a type of mindfulness exercise that induces relaxation as well as a sense of calm and peace. 

The Benefits of Breathwork

If you are not familiar with the healing benefits of breathwork, you may be skeptical. Perhaps you feel irritated that you have never been taught these benefits or recognized the value of intentional breathwork for addiction recovery.

According to an article by Frontiers In Human Neuroscience, there are both psychological and behavioral benefits related to the physiological changes that occur as a result of breathwork. The article states, “Slow breathing techniques act enhancing autonomic, cerebral and psychological flexibility in a scenario of mutual interactions.” Some specific benefits of breathwork the article mentions include:

  • Increased:
    • Comfort
    • Relaxation
    • Pleasantness
    • Vigor and alertness
    • Emotional control
    • Psychological well-being
  • Reduced symptoms of:
    • Arousal
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Anger
    • Confusion

Breathwork for Addiction Recovery

Addiction treatment and recovery present many complex challenges. For example, as you work to establish your sobriety, you must learn to identify and navigate your substance-use triggers and cravings. If these elements of healing are left unaddressed, you may increase your risk of relapse significantly throughout long-term recovery. 

Another challenge you will likely experience on the road to recovery is sustaining motivation for sobriety. To prioritize abstinence and healing, you must discover effective coping strategies for stress management as well as motivation enhancement. Fortunately, breathwork can provide you with the emotional regulation tools you need to stay motivated throughout recovery. 

According to Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), including yoga, mindfulness training, and meditation, “reduced substance dependence and craving, as well as other addiction-related symptoms through improving mood state and emotion dysregulation.” All mindfulness-based activities utilize breathwork in some way. Moreover, consistently using breathwork for addiction recovery can reduce your risk of relapse.

Utilizing Additional Holistic Interventions for Addiction Treatment

It is important to note that the use of breathwork on its own may not be enough to help you effectively recover from addiction. Often, holistic approaches like breathwork are used as complements to traditional treatments, making treatment more effective overall. 

Holistic interventions encompass all treatment approaches that consider the whole person — mind, body, and spirit. As you participate in a recovery program, you can benefit greatly from incorporating holistic elements into your treatment plan. These elements help you gain a better understanding of your whole self, rather than just your symptoms or your condition. Breathwork is one type of holistic therapy you can consider adding to your treatment plan. 

Additional examples of holistic therapies you may want to consider incorporating into your treatment plan include:

  • Mindfulness practices
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Reiki
  • Massage therapy
  • Sound therapy

Along with breathwork for addiction recovery, all of these holistic options offer valuable opportunities for you to tend to your psychosocial, physical, and spiritual needs. After all, ceasing substance use is only part of your battle to achieve lasting sobriety. You must engage in constant and thorough self-reflection to better understand and overcome factors that could increase your potential for relapse in the long term. 

Incorporating Breathwork for Addiction Recovery

To reiterate, there are many different forms of breathwork for addiction recovery. If you are considering adding breathwork to your treatment and recovery plan, you should learn about the different styles of breathwork available to you. 

You can likely work with your treatment team to incorporate breathwork into your treatment program. However, you may still want to know how to utilize breathwork from the comfort of your own home. Making breathwork a consistent daily practice can help you strengthen your accountability, confidence, and independence in sobriety. 

An Example of Breathwork: Diaphragmatic Breathing

The National Center for PTSD provides instructions for diaphragmatic breathing, one specific type of breathwork. To begin, place one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest. Take a slow, deep, and controlled breath. As you inhale, notice which hand is moving. For diaphragmatic breathing, only the hand on your stomach should move. Release your breath slowly.

Next, practice filling your lungs completely with every inhale. Relax your body with every exhale. Focus on bringing a pause to your breath after your exhales rather than after your inhales. 

The National Center for PTSD also suggests that imagery can be helpful when trying to maintain a steady breathing pattern. As an example, “a wave is a helpful image for some. The image of climbing up a slide (inhaling) and then sliding down (exhaling), and briefly pausing at the bottom before climbing up again, has been helpful for some people.”

Breathwork for addiction recovery can be an invaluable tool to motivate you on your journey to sobriety. Tuning in to the rate, pace, and quality of your breath deepens your self-awareness and fosters emotional regulation. At 12 South Recovery, we recognize the power of holistic therapies like breathwork for addiction recovery. We incorporate holistic treatments into all of our clients’ treatment plans, ensuring that treatment heals their whole person rather than just their illness or symptoms. In addition to breathwork, we can help you establish daily mindfulness practices in your treatment and recovery plan. If you or a loved one needs additional support in early recovery, we can help. Call us today at (888) 830-8374.

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