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Yoga for Alcoholism: Definition, Benefits, and Effectiveness

Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 05/12/2023

Yoga is a mind-body practice with origins in ancient Indian philosophy. It incorporates physical postures, breath control, meditation, and the adoption of specific ethical and moral practices. In recent years, it has been increasingly recognized as a beneficial adjunctive treatment for individuals struggling with alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a comprehensive practice that aims to promote physical health, mental clarity, emotional balance, and spiritual growth. There are many different styles of yoga, ranging from gentle and restorative practices to more vigorous and challenging styles.

While the specific practices can vary widely, most yoga sessions involve a combination of physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation or relaxation techniques. The goal is to create a sense of harmony and balance in the body and mind.

How Does Yoga Help in Alcoholism?

Yoga provides a holistic approach to recovery, addressing not only the physical aspects of addiction but also the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions.

  1. Physical Health: Regular yoga practice can help improve strength, flexibility, and overall physical health. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals recovering from alcoholism, as alcohol abuse can take a significant toll on the body.
  2. Stress Management: Yoga can be an effective tool for managing stress, which is a common trigger for alcohol use and relapse. Techniques such as deep breathing and meditation can help to calm the nervous system and reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.
  3. Emotional Balance: Yoga encourages self-awareness and self-acceptance, which can help individuals better understand and manage their emotions. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals struggling with the emotional ups and downs that often accompany recovery from alcoholism.
  4. Spiritual Growth: For many, yoga also offers a spiritual path that can provide a sense of purpose and meaning, which can be a powerful motivator in the recovery process.

What are the Benefits of Yoga for Alcoholism?

The benefits of yoga for individuals struggling with alcoholism are multifaceted, encompassing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual domains. These benefits can include:

  1. Improved Physical Health: Regular yoga practice can help to improve physical strength and flexibility, boost cardiovascular health, improve sleep quality, and enhance overall well-being.
  2. Enhanced Mental Clarity: Yoga and meditation can help to improve focus and concentration, promote mental clarity, and enhance cognitive function.
  3. Reduced Stress and Anxiety: The relaxation techniques used in yoga can help to lower stress levels, reduce anxiety, and promote a sense of calm and well-being.
  4. Emotional Resilience: By promoting self-awareness and self-acceptance, yoga can help individuals develop greater emotional resilience and better manage the emotional challenges of recovery.
  5. Spiritual Growth: For those who are interested, yoga can also offer a spiritual path that can provide a sense of purpose and meaning, supporting long-term recovery.

What Does a Yoga Session for Alcoholism Look Like?

A yoga session for individuals recovering from alcoholism may include a variety of practices, tailored to the needs and abilities of the participants. This could include gentle asanas to promote physical strength and flexibility, breathing exercises to help manage stress and anxiety, and guided meditations to promote mental clarity and emotional balance.

How Effective is Yoga for Alcoholism?

While more research is needed, initial studies suggest that yoga can be a valuable adjunctive treatment for alcoholism. For example, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that yoga could help reduce cravings and improve mood among individuals in treatment for alcohol dependence.

It’s important to note, however, that while yoga can be a valuable part of a comprehensive treatment plan, it is not typically sufficient as a stand-alone treatment. Most experts recommend using yoga

in conjunction with other evidence-based treatments for alcoholism, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and peer support groups.

How Much Does Yoga for Alcoholism Cost?

The cost of yoga for alcoholism can vary widely, depending on factors such as the location and type of yoga classes. Many community centers and yoga studios offer low-cost or donation-based classes, and there are also a wealth of free resources available online. Some recovery programs may also include yoga as part of their treatment offerings.

In conclusion, yoga can be a valuable component of a comprehensive treatment plan for alcoholism. By promoting physical health, reducing stress, improving emotional resilience, and offering a potential path for spiritual growth, yoga can support individuals on their journey to recovery.

What Other Treatments Are Available for Alcoholism?

Several treatment modalities are available for alcoholism. Below we list the most common alcoholism treatment options.


  • American Psychological Association
  • Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • Yoga Alliance