Yoga Therapy (For Addiction Recovery)


Addiction is a disease and it accounts for 5.3% of total deaths globally. Therefore, all recovery programs are specifically designed to deal with illnesses and disorders. Some time ago, we published a guide on holistic addiction treatment, which mentioned yoga therapy as one of the most effective recovery aids.

Yoga teaches discipline. It allows you to control impulses and reduce the chance of relapses through cognitive training. Yoga also offers you an opportunity to channel your urges in the right direction, in a healthy way.

If you are someone who doesn’t think Western medicine is the right solution to your addiction, yoga can prove to be an equally efficient alternative. It’s a tool that helps connect your body and mind, leading to positive healing. It’s one of the only unconventional treatments that can help with depression and anxiety, as well.

Benefits of yoga on addictive behavior

Yoga can be used to build new neural connections. It can basically rewire your systems, so you can relearn habits. Besides improving body awareness, yoga can also trigger mental health transformations.

Let’s take a look at some of the other benefits of yoga therapy on the brain of an addict.

  • Mindfulness training

True happiness can only be obtained from a peaceful mind. So, one of the primary objectives of yoga therapy is to help you achieve inner peace.

If you’re an addict, your brain will always be controlled by your desires, urges, and impulses. Because your mind constantly craves for dopamine, you’re rarely able to do anything else.

With yoga therapy, you can take control of your habits. You can channel your energy towards building a balanced life for yourself. Through meditation, you can focus on cognitive training and learn the art of filling your void in a way that’s sustainable as well as less harmful.

According to Dr. Ronald Alexander, mindfulness training can help us “end our suffering.” He also reaffirms the fact that learning doesn’t stop at childhood. Both brain and body can be taught newer habits, for which mindfulness training proves to be incredibly effective.

  • Emotional stability

Substance abuse is usually stemmed from fear. Whether it’s fear of failure or success, there’s no denying that addicts harbor some degree of anxiety about their environment.

When afraid, our brains turn to coping mechanisms. In the case of an addict, it’s drugs, alcohol, smoking, and several detrimental habits. However, what you must understand is that acceptance is the key to courage. You can only defeat fear once you acknowledge what’s making you afraid.

Yoga therapy helps you take charge of your actions. Most individuals, who indulge in substance abuse, do so to feel whole again. Therefore, by increasing emotional awareness, yoga reminds you that you are a sum of your choices.

Since yoga is also known to be a mood-booster, it can be used in the overall personality and emotional development of individuals with substance use disorders. Once you stabilize your sensations, you can essentially triumph over your addiction.

  • Reduced stress and fatigue

De-stressing is a large part of recovery. Since substance abuse can be a result of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), it’s important to acknowledge stress as part of the recovery treatment.

Practicing yoga regularly can increase the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) – a substance that allows your brain to regulate your stress and anxiety response. Studies have also shown to decrease stress levels in the brain and promote subjective wellbeing among the participants.

Furthermore, yoga therapy can be used to teach ways to balance your hormones. It reduces the levels of cortisol and adrenaline – two of the primary causes of anxiety and stress in our brain – and flush out the chemical toxins from our body, making us more relaxed and active.

  • Self-acceptance and self-awareness through retrospection

Yoga allows you to get in touch with your inner self. Because you spend time with yourself, you’re able to get a deeper understanding of who you truly are. While that may not necessarily liven you up, yoga’s philosophy might.

The philosophy helps you unwind, do away with a consumer-driven mentality, and adapt to a positive mindset. Together, they make you affirm more than negate. They help you become more accepting of ideologies, thoughts, and even your environment.

Additionally, a 2018 study on the ‘Role of Yoga in Management of Substance-Use Disorders’ concluded that yoga can indeed “promote subjective well-being and mood” It’s also shown to promote the desire to stop smoking.

Finally, when you are open and accepting towards others, you also learn to accept your flaws and shortcomings, which improves your self-image and leaves you with more confidence.

  • Improved focus

Yoga therapy helps you focus on the treatment more than constantly seeking external stimuli. Several studies have conclusively stated that being present in the treatment can aid in recovery. In fact, meditation, one of the most important elements of yoga, trains your mind to eliminate distractions, so you can live in the moment.

The goal of any yoga therapy is to get you to focus on the inner rewards. When you are happy with the internal incentives, you stop looking outside for fixes. That’s when you actually achieve true happiness.


The problem of addiction is so bad that about 21 million Americans suffer from it. Once you are poisoned by substance abuse behavior, it takes efforts and willingness to get sober. Even when you do, reversing the effects of the drugs on your body can take even longer. But it’s not impossible. Yoga can help you get through the 12-step process and recover from addiction.

Your life after recovery is worth the relatively brief struggle. Remember, only 10% of Americans get help with addiction and begin their healing process. You could be one of them.