It’s Saturday morning and you’re stretched out over your favorite mat. Yoga for addiction recovery is a promising new practice to align the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga for recovering addicts is typically offered in addiction treatment programs. This practice is recognized for its many health benefits, particularly for addiction.

The physiological changes a person endures throughout long-term addiction can impact their success for sobriety. Yoga can be performed alone or with others, usually guided by an instructor. It may release tension built up in the body from the stresses of addiction and withdrawal symptoms.

Yoga is considered a complementary form of therapy, similar to holistic addiction therapy. Holistic addiction therapy is growing in popularity, as recovering individuals are seeking alternative options to conventional addiction treatment. 

Holistic treatment can be defined as treating “the whole person”. Addiction can often make a person feel stripped of their humanity. Some patients may not feel entirely comfortable with taking medication to treat their condition, despite the benefits. Yoga is usually a component of holistic addiction treatment. Contact the facility you intend to be treated by if they offer this service.

What is Yoga? 

Yoga can be characterized as the practice of forming postures through flexibility and growing self-awareness. What makes yoga an invaluable practice is how accessible it is; there is no expensive equipment needed. Mindfulness is a common term associated with yoga.

Yoga has Eastern origins. The first record tablets, approximately 3,500-5,000 years old, were discovered in Eastern Pakistan. These stone tablets were within the depths of the ancient city Harappa. It’s been reported yoga was defined around this time in the Rig Veda. Modern yoga has origins in Bhagavad Gita and Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras. 

Yoga can promote mindfulness in an individual, encouraging the balance of thoughts and how to control your emotional experience. It is often attributed to a spiritual experience. Yoga began to expand throughout India, before traveling throughout Europe and the Americas. In fact, yogic philosophies were translated from South India, East Asia, and the Tiber throughout the Middle Ages. 

Yoga was spread within the States by the Hindu teacher Swami Vivekananda, introducing the West to yoga by touring Europe and the United States in the 1890s. With advancements in transportation technology during the Nuclear Era, yoga became more accessible by informing the teachings in practice globally.

Yoga has 8 limbs:

  • Yama – Consists of the 5 behaviors of an ethically rich life (Non-stealing, nonviolence, truthfulness, moderation, and non-covetousness).
  • Niyama – Described as personal practices toward spirituality and self-discipline
  • Asana – Physical yoga poses
  • Pranayama – Breathing techniques used in yoga and meditation
  • Pratyahara – Sensory withdrawal by tuning external distractions
  • Dharana – The Act of concentration
  • Dhyana – The Act of meditation
  • Samadhi – The ultimate level of meditation – enlightenment

What are the Specifics Behind Yoga for Recovering Addicts? 

Recovery can be a frustrating experience for those on the path to rid themselves of addiction. 

Yoga may provide an outlet for those who need to realign themselves with their bodies. An estimated 8.7% of Americans practice yoga for recovery.

Since yoga promotes mind-body interconnectivity, you have an opportunity to discover how your thoughts infuse with your behavior. Yoga can initiate a sense of inner peace that you have neglected in emotional processing. Physical exercise is highly encouraged during the addiction recovery process as means to get the patient back to a healthier status. 

Addiction is noted for its manipulation of the reward centers of the brain. Our brains emit chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, that send information and enable actions. Rewarding behaviors are a part of our survival function.

The psychological and physiological effects of addiction can create complications for compulsive behaviors. Cravings can cause a person to rely on substances to meet the demands of their internal reward system. Yoga for recovery has initiated a positive response in patients who require help dealing with triggers.

Detox is typically the first stage of addiction recovery. This can leave the body exhausted from the potential medications and withdrawal symptoms. Certain side effects of substance use cause malnourishment; yoga can serve as a method to relinquish the build-up of toxins through movement.

How Does Yoga Affect the Body and Brain?

Yoga can present itself as an alternative to balance out the responses to rewarding behaviors.

Yoga has been noted for increasing levels of GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid). Consider GABA to be the natural tranquilizer of the neurotransmitters; aiding in anxiety and stress relief. For example, elevated GABA levels will directly reduce the levels of stress and anxiety.

Yoga for addiction becomes useful in alcohol detox to help provide the body a chance to adjust to normal GABA stimulation. Alcohol use is noted for its effect on the central nervous system, tempting the body with euphoria by manipulating the GABA receptors.

Cortisol and adrenaline are known as stress hormones. High levels of these hormones over extended periods can have drastic effects on the body. Regular practice of yoga can reduce these stress levels.

Yoga is recognized for its calming effects on the mind and body. Stress is a common trigger for relapse. Relapse can be characterized as the use of a substance after a previous attempt to quit. Unfortunately, relapse can be a common part of the addiction recovery process. Relapse will occur within 40-60% of recovering individuals.

The skills developed from addiction treatment must be adopted in order to maintain sobriety. Despite seeking help, addiction treatment still carries a stigma. This can inspire feelings of shame and guilt, further deepening the mental health toll on the patient.

What are Some Commonly Practiced Types of Yoga for Addiction?

Yoga can be performed through different methods. There are countless styles of modern yoga. In fact, yoga has roots tethered to the Hindu religion. The practice of yoga has been mentioned in ancient Hindu scriptures, being one of the schools of Hindu thought. Sanskrit is an ancient Indian language that serves as a method to translate yoga poses. 

Yoga has roots in Jainism and Buddhism. Meditation is the common connection between yoga and Buddhism.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is quite common, particularly for beginners. The word “hatha” translates to “force.” Hatha yoga can be relaxing by focusing on the poses that promote mindfulness. This approach can help you slow down and reflect on the mindfulness process. 

The poses incorporated in Hatha may include: 

  • Mountain Pose
  • Tree Pose
  • Child’s Pose
  • Butterfly Pose
  • Corpse Pose

Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa yoga is one of the more popular styles of yoga, more so for its graceful flow. The word “vinyasa” translates to “to place together in a special way.” In this form, all the poses are in sync together but offer more freedom in structure compared to Ashtanga. 

Vinyasa flow form can help support mindfulness and build muscles. The freestyle format of Vinyasa may be suited for those seeking alternative approaches. 

You can expect to perform the following poses: 

  • Vinyasa flow
  • Chaturanga
  • Upward-facing Dog
  • Downward-facing Dog
  • Side plank pose
  • Cat-cow pose

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga would be considered a notch up in intensity from Hatha yoga. This form of yoga is carried out through six series of specific poses. These poses are usually performed one right after the other. It’s recommended to work with an instructor to guide your mastery of each pose. Ashtanga yoga helps improve mental strength and mindfulness by increasing how persistent the moves are.

Bikram (Hot Yoga)

Bikram or hot yoga is one of the more intense forms of yoga. You can expect to perform Bikram yoga in a heated, steam-filled room for 90 minutes (26 poses). By integrating meditation exercises, Bikram can help you sweat out toxins in your body. 

This is vital for those in detox for drugs and alcohol. Some of the poses used in Bikram are Standing/Sitting in Deep Breathing, Half Moon Pose, and Eagle Pose.


Restorative yoga is a more subtle form of yoga. The slower process of restorative yoga employs holding poses for longer periods and the use of props. You can expect to hold 5-6 poses for 5 minutes or more. You may feel like you’re not really doing anything but the poses are designed to align you with your parasympathetic nervous system. 

Restorative yoga is best for all experience levels. The poses of restorative yoga could incorporate: 

  • Corpse Pose
  • Child’s Pose
  • Legs-Up-Against-Wall Pose

How Can Yoga Help in Addiction Recovery? 

yoga for recoveryDeveloping health coping mechanisms is one of the key factors of addiction recovery. Outside of counseling and support group sessions, yoga for addiction recovery can offer you the chance to live according to your health. Yoga paired with traditional treatment has been reported to increase the likelihood of maintaining sobriety.

It should be noted that yoga is a single cure for addiction. Addiction is a persistent disease that affects the brain. Relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms was a feature of your past.

Yoga for addiction recovery introduces you to a practice that would have filled up the time with substance use. Boredom can influence your recovery after treatment, leading to spending time fantasizing about previous use. Yoga can eliminate temptations by encouraging the separation between thought and action.

Yoga is known for its benefits on mental health. An overwhelming portion of recovering individuals struggle with mental health conditions. These are known as co-occurring disorders. Treating both disorders is vital to positive recovery outcomes. Yoga for addiction recovery works as a great tool to provide balance and confidence to the patient. 

It’s been reported that yoga has aided the recovery of those with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and alcohol intake. Through a trauma-specific approach, the practitioners reported a decrease in PTSD symptoms. Yoga can help inspire engagement in treatment if the patient feels comfortable with the treatment and their motivations towards change.

Yoga for recovery may supplement the 12-Step Program. The 12-Step Program enlists the person to follow a series of goals to maintain sobriety through a higher power. If you prefer to access your spirituality through a different medium, then yoga can open that pathway. Yoga can help alleviate the symptoms of chronic pain, which influences substance use.

What are the Benefits of Yoga Therapy? 

Yoga has been recorded to promote many health benefits. An average yoga session can last up to 30-45 minutes, with some extended sessions up to 90 minutes. Many sources share that yoga is a functional way of reducing stress and mental health issues.

Some of the benefits of yoga include:

  • Improved body posture
  • Improved bone density
  • Increased immunity
  • Improved strength, balance
  • Better sleep
  • Pain relief
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Improved self-confidence

BRC Healthcare Understands Your Journey

Your journey towards recovery is outlined by the steps you take by healthy alternatives. Creating a supportive environment is crucial. Yoga therapy may open you up to experiences that challenge your former ways of thinking. Bringing mindfulness into your recovery has many advantages for years to come. BRC Healthcare works with your specific needs to grant you the best possible recovery outcome. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, please reach out to us today.