Yoga is an ancient practice that uses four fundamental elements:
breathing, movement, mindfulness and relaxation. The combination of these elements moves us towards increased self-awareness and improved well being.

yoga in recovery

Yoga can be a very useful form of exercise for recovering substance abusers, both physically as well as mentally. In the addict and alcoholic’s mind there is always something lacking. It feels that there is something wrong and we are never satisfied. Often we return to past events, reliving them bound up with feelings of guilt, shame and regret. It is surprising how rapidly our mind can unreliably skew our perception of the world. This can throw us into state of conflict and in no time we are extremely stressed out. On top of this, in this age of multitasking it is possible to become overwhelmed really easily. For those who constantly have chatter in their heads, completely being in and appreciating the present moment is extremely beneficial.

Yoga encourages mindful awareness of an entire experience. Maintaining presence with one’s body and breath can improve a capacity to be in the present moment. Then one can learn to attend to physical sensation, feeling and thought. The sense of being able to feel and experience what is going on in the body and also experience what is gong on mentally enables us to observe the flow and pay attention to physical sensation, feeling and thought. Over time we come to understand how fleeting these are. With this mindfulness comes clarity, where we can see that we have the opportunity to choose how to respond to our experiences in life. It is in this way that a mindfulness achieved through yoga can change our behavior.

Yoga can also really help us to develop tolerance. Through postures or asanas, the physical stretching, movement and breathing and relaxation techniques can be challenging a new level of discomfort both physically and emotionally. We are able to work our bodies to affect our global functioning. In focusing on the moment and persevering we discover that we can live with the discomfort. By means of self-regulation and controlling internal stress our response is a burgeoning resilience and equanimity in the face of emotions.

As addicts and alcoholics we are master of being disconnected form ourselves as well as others. When we were using we sought out ways to get “out of our minds” and so were out of our bodies too. With yoga we commit a certain amount of time to connect with our bodies and ourselves. We were extremely lonely in our using, so feeling a connection with others in the room that are also practicing can be fulfilling. Moreover there is a connection to a fundamental sense of humanity, which connects us all: a sense of oneness. When we understand ourselves we understand other.

Being submerged in deeper or spiritually transcendental states during a yoga practice can be transformative. What we can learn there enhances the meaning and purpose of our lives reflecting the original origins of yoga. Prana is the principle upon which the whole philosophy of yoga is based. Prana means ‘life giving force”. Creating space for this energy in mind and body through stretching and breathing. we become more open. The Prana flows, along with the wellness of being.


FREE gym passes to UFit are available to all Delray Beach IOP participants.
Please try some yoga classes or any other healthy fitness activity you enjoy. Regular physical activity can have a significantly positive effect on substance abuse recovery. We care and encourage you to take good care of your body and it will serve you well.

Tessa H-F

About Tessa H-F

Tessa H-F is a writer and filmmaker who lives in New York City. Her articles have been published in various books and magazines such as Paper Magazine, Filmmaker Magazine and British GQ.