Holistic Healing: The Benefits of Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, & Expressive Arts
By Clint Fletcher
When most of us think of recovery, specific pictures fill our minds from movies and TV. Images of medical detox, therapy sessions, group work, and crowded AA meetings flash before us. While these may or may not be an accurate portrayal of a single person’s journey, there’s another side to recovery that many aren’t nearly as familiar with. Holistic healing is also important, focusing on the spiritual, emotional, and physical growth of the whole person.
There are many different types of holistic treatments, some of which have been around for centuries. Today they’re used to complement and support recovery by empowering positive change in every day life. That’s why, in additional to more traditional therapy methods, The Meadows Outpatient Center offers yoga, tai chi, qigong, expressive arts and other holistic options to our patients. While not specifically addressing alcohol or drug addiction, they provide a wide range of benefits that are helpful to the overall recovery process.
Yoga’s History of Helping
Yoga has had a presence in the US for over 200 years and is arguably one of the most well-known holistic practices. A 2016 study revealed that the number of Americans doing yoga grew by 50% between 2012-2016, from 20.4 million to 36 million. There’s definitely a reason for its massive popularity; yoga has proven to have dozens of health benefits. On the physical side, it can improve balance, strength, flexibility, and posture. It also does wonders for disease prevention by boosting better heart health and reducing inflammation, blood pressure, and blood glucose. If that’s not enough, studies have shown it can help treat asthma, epilepsy, and arthritis as well. But yoga is far more than physical health. At the core of yoga practice is spirituality and developing a stronger sense of self. It gives focus and strength to handle the difficult times in life as well as past traumas.
Aditi Desai, who teaches yoga at The Meadows Outpatient Center-Silicon Valley, thinks yoga and recovery are intertwined. “Yoga can support people in all forms of recovery … it brings them more internal and in tune with their mind and body,” she says. Desai made the connection after completing recovery training classes. “I attended a 12-Step recovery training, and that spearheaded me to see all the healing qualities that [yoga] could have outside of a regular studio.”
Hear more from Aditi Desai in this interview on the Beyond Theory Podcast.
Desai leads trauma-sensitive yoga classes (meaning that all adjustments are hands-off, and all instruction is done with verbal cues only) that are accessible for all levels, with counterparts who do the same at our Scottsdale and Dallas locations.
Yoga can help the recovery journey by decreasing anxiety and depression, lowering stress levels, improving memory, and cultivating mindfulness.
Ancient Practices, Modern Benefits
Tai chi is a non-competitive martial art that promotes inner peace and is described as “meditation in motion.” An ancient Chinese tradition, the practice of tai chi uses self-defense techniques as a form of exercise without putting much stress on the joints and muscles. It’s mostly known for lowering stress and anxiety, but research suggests it also improves cognitive function, pain management, and balance, making it a natural choice to benefit those in recovery.
Literally translated as “life energy work,” qigong is a Chinese art that can be practiced in physical movement or stationary meditation. Like tai chi, qigong is a way of cultivating spiritual and emotional health by relaxing the mind and body. The meditation aspect of qigong involves visualization, focusing on breathing patterns, images, sounds, specific ideas, and concepts.
Both are about far more than simple movement or physical exercise. “It gets them into their bodies and out of their heads. It grounds them and gives them a feel for what it’s like to apply a certain idea,” says Jeff Reid, tai chi/qigong instructor at The Meadows Outpatient Center-Silicon Valley. Reid’s weekly classes cover both tai chi and qigong, combining movement, breathing, and meditation. Something he believes ties into holistic healing and recovery of the individual as a whole.
“The human experience is a related one; they’re not all disparate parts. Harmonizing every aspect of your life is going to contribute to the overall harmony and health.” –Jeff Reid, Tai Chi/Qigong Instructor, The Meadows Outpatient Center-Silicon Valley
Art as Expression—and Therapy
Our team at The Meadows Outpatient Center understands there are many different forms of therapeutic expression that go beyond talking with a counselor. That’s why all of our campuses offer expressive arts as a way of empowering patients through inner-strength. There are a variety of ways patients can learn to express themselves ranging from music therapy to psychodrama to painting. Allowing patients to get their feelings out in a safe environment opens a window to healing from old traumas and wounds. By sharing their viewpoints and perspectives through the arts, they are able to express things that may otherwise be difficult to share. The result is that they are able to continue to walk the path of recovery in a healthier and more positive way.