Yoga: The Bridge Between Addiction and Recovery

Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy that connects your mind with your body. The word means “union,” and yoga strives to bring you closer to the world around you. Yoga’s booming popularity provides you with the opportunity to learn and expand your mind/body connection. 

Yoga is not an expression of everyone being the same. Instead, yoga teaches that every person’s lived experience is as unique as a snowflake. Being unique from others means we experience life differently. With this idea in mind, we aim to bury all our preconceived expectations of ourselves.

Yoga and Addiction Treatment

Why is yoga beneficial to addiction treatment and recovery? The practice of yoga is more than physical ability; it is a form of mindfulness. The article, A Narrative Review of Yoga and Mindfulness as Complementary Therapies for Addiction, outlines the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga, which is a specific type of yoga. The eight limbs are:

  1. Ethical disciplines
  2. Individual observance
  3. Posture
  4. Controlling the breath
  5. Removing senses
  6. Concentration
  7. Meditation
  8. Enlightenment (self-awareness or realization)

Addiction changes your brain chemistry, which rewires how you react to alcohol or substances. The neurons in your brain send signals that increase cravings. At the same time, your brain seeks to recreate the feeling it experienced the first time you drank or used a substance. 

Alcohol or substance addiction often is a way to cope with stressors, anxiety, or mental health disorders. Yoga provides a healthy outlet for those feelings while acting as a vent for stress, anxiety and other mental health disorders.

Mental and Physical Benefits of Yoga

When you practice yoga, you allow yourself to focus on what makes you different. The time spent practicing yoga can help you relax from your worries, fears or negative thoughts. You can listen to your body, feel its strength and accept how you feel.

Stepping onto the mat declares your intention to change, forgive and heal. There are several health benefits to yoga:

  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Reduces feelings of anxiety, depression and stress
  • Decreases inflammation in the body
  • Lessens the pain of migraines

Each pose is integral to re-aligning and centering your intent. 

The ABC’s of the Basic Yoga Poses

Here are some basic yoga poses that can be beneficial if you are just beginning yoga:

  • Bridge pose: Lie down on your back, place your feet on the floor, close to your ankles, and slowly lift your hips. With your hips lifted, rest on your shoulders and settle into the pose. Bridge pose calms the mind, reduces anxiety and helps digestion.
  • Chair pose: (Start this pose after mountain pose; see below) Shift your balance from your center to your heels. The pose gives you the chance to practice patience as you grow uncomfortable. You learn to settle in and breathe.
  • Cobbler’s pose or bound ankle pose: Sit on the mat with your feet touching, grasp your toes, ankles or claves while you gently stretch over your thighs. Your thighs benefit from a stretch while your mind benefits from a calming, cooling effect.
  • Corpse pose: Don’t be put off by the name of this pose. The healing effect of the posture is undeniable. Lie flat on your back, rest your feet at the edge of your mat, place your arms by your sides, palms up, and relax your breath and your mind. Free your mind of any thoughts and absorb the effects of your practice.
  • Down dog pose: You can move into a down dog position from several other positions. In a physical and mental sense, you learn to flow and be flexible. Since this pose is an inversion pose, your head is below your heart, creating calmness.
  • Mountain Pose is a non-active pose. You stand tall with your feet grounded, arms by your side, and thighs are touching. While you will feel like you’re not engaging, you are – the pose asks you to remain balanced and focus on the present.
  • Tree pose. When you return to mountain pose, lift one foot to your knees, calf, ankle or slightly above the floor. Bring your hands to prayer pose in front of your heart and concentrate. Remember what concentration feels like and bring that feeling into your life.

Practice Forgiveness

Yoga is a balance between letting go and accepting new challenges. We learn to appreciate our strength, our capacity to grow, and heal. Some yoga poses heighten our emotions. We might feel like crying or releasing all negative emotions that held us back when we were gripped by addiction. Other poses remind us to be gentle to ourselves and recognize how our minds and bodies will rebuild what was lost. Alcohol or drug addiction can cause a lot of paint. Consider using yoga as a way to forgive and move forward.


Yoga, as a part of your daily routine, aids in the recovery process. The overall health benefits contribute to your well-being. Learning how to flow from one pose to another takes patience and a willingness to be imperfect—it’s like the steps you take to get clean. Accepting your imperfections, allowing yourself to be awkward and let go isn’t easy but it’s part of the journey. A private treatment center such as Cliffside Malibu provides the ideal setting to learn yoga without fear. Cliffside Malibu is a luxury treatment center serenely overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We ensure your privacy while providing the very best care. For more information, call us at (855) 403-5641.