Yoga in Recovery

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It is often in the quietest moments that our inner voices speak the loudest.

The practices of yoga and meditation ignite those voices in countless individuals on a daily basis. With numerous benefits to mind, body, and spirit, yoga is an ancient discipline that plays a significant role in many recovery programs, including recovery programs designed for addiction.

With so many options available for supplemental addiction treatment, yoga has continued to be a trusted practice and terrific resource. As a person forms connections and builds a personal relationship with yoga, the practice often continues long after the completion of a treatment program.

Healthy habits begin with an increased level of self-awareness—which is exactly what yoga is intended to facilitate in the realm of recovery.

What is Yoga?

In the language of Sanskrit1, yoga means “union” or “connection.” First developed in India over 5,000 years ago, the practice has made its presence permanent in modern culture—and for good reason.

Through a combination of breath work, simple poses, and meditation, yoga serves a purpose of connection. From the moment yoga practice begins, the individual is greeted with a process that we so often take for granted: the art of letting go.

Clients are often introduced to yoga from the onset of treatment, and continue their practice through the many levels of care. Classes are designed to cater to all skill levels—from beginners to Yogi masters. The practice unites individuals in a similar mission of healing—though also allows each individual to create their own experience, depending upon their intention.

Setting an intention for a yoga session is common, whether the intention is ultra-specific—such as setting a particular goal—or non-specific. The “rule” in yoga is that there are no rules—something different will ignite during each session, and as the individual continues in their therapeutic journey, their journey in yoga will evolve as well.

Benefits of Yoga in Addiction Treatment

In order to best serve clients who are undergoing treatment for addiction, treatment plans should be tailored to the individual. For many, this tailored plan will involve yoga practice, which has proven benefits for wellness and mindfulness.

Particularly for an individual in early recovery, yoga serves as both a complement and a balance to the other therapies offered in a residential, intensive outpatient, or outpatient treatment setting. After spending substantial amounts of time in group and one-on-one therapy sessions, yoga can serve as a mental break and physical release, while also stimulating and further facilitating the therapeutic journey of the client.

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.”

–The Bhavgavad Gita

While yoga in a treatment center is typically led by a trained instructor, the practice can also be self-facilitated at home. Dozens of instructional videos can be found online, and once an individual becomes comfortable with a variety of poses, they can easily add an independent and personal practice to their morning or evening routine.

The benefits of yoga practice affect many aspects of a person’s well-being2. Positive effects to psychological, mental, spiritual, and physical processes can be felt from the simple act of showing up to begin practice—regardless of what is actually accomplished on the mat.

Benefits can include:

  • Noted increase in energy
  • Reduction of stress and anxiety
  • Emotional breakthrough and healing
  • Improved connection between mind and body
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Pain management/relief
  • Overall improvement in self-perception

With so many documented benefits3, yoga is an excellent option for supplemental therapy in addiction recovery, and is a lasting benefit that can be practiced in sustaining long-term sobriety.

Journey of the Self

In yoga, the body and the mind are the greatest—and only required—tools. Aside from willingness, nothing more is needed to begin.

The journey of self in addiction recovery is full of uncertainty. The individual experiences a range of emotion that can feel like a rollercoaster. Yoga, and the mindfulness it ignites, aims to settle self-doubt, even if only for the duration of the practice. Over time, as the individual allows themselves to connect further with the practice and yoga works behind-the scenes, healing takes place in small revolutions of self.


Article written by Kate Mills. A writer and Analytics Specialist for RECO Intensive.

  1. Saraswati, Dr. Swami Shankardev. Teaching the Essence of Yoga. Yoga Journal. 2007. Web. 2 August 2017.
  2. Yoga – Benefits Beyond the Mat. Harvard Health Publications. 2015. Web. 2 August 2017.
  3. The Benefits of Yoga. American Osteopathic Association. Web. 2 August 2017.

Articles posted here are primarily educational and may not directly reflect the offerings at The Oaks. For more specific information on programs at The Oaks, contact us today.