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Yoga In Recovery

Issue 15

Yoga is known to foster the mind/body connection, but it also acts as a conduit to understanding that each of us has an inherent connection to something greater than ourselves. Yoga makes room for the student to passively experience an awareness of the mind/body/spirit connection; but as people in recovery, we have a mind/body/spirit in conflict! Yoga helps find freedom from conflict.

Yoga improves our mental wellbeing. By breathing deeply and completely we instantly gain a few moments of mental clarity; try it right now—now imagine an hour’s worth of that!

To anyone experiencing the disconnected brain fog of early sobriety, a little bit of clarity is a massive gain.

The breath work found in yoga also increases focus. The average human has 6,200 thoughts per day, in the throes of early recovery this can feel like 6,200 thoughts per minute!

The reminders to breathe during yoga, and breathing a certain way takes a lot of attention. It makes you focus, and that maelstrom of rapidly swirling thoughts dies down for a bit, you are PRESENT.

Jodi shared, “In the early stages of recovery, I had a hamster wheel for a mind. Being guided by an instructor to focus on breath allowed the hamster wheel to slow down; slowing down that wheel allowed the good stuff to begin.”

Yoga naturally has a major impact on the physical body, it fosters a healthy metabolic system, builds a strength, and promotes cardiovascular functionality, and about a thousand other things.

However, those of us in recovery have a seriously conflicted relationship with our bodies. For some of us, the physical body has been a warzone, a place of pain and suffering, a place so disconnected that we no longer recognize the difference between thirst and hunger.

Yoga helps recovering bodies physically heal and organ tissues detox. It fosters a sense of safety and joy in the body, often for the first time, that does not come from a drink, or a drug, or from the hands of another.

When I first came to yoga I had this “all or nothing” relationship with my body, and ended up getting hurt as a result. It wasn’t yoga’s fault, It was mine, my ego was calling the shots. Since then yoga has taught me that when engaged in ANYTHING physically demanding I must listen.

Without fail, the voice of the body tells me when to back off, when to rest, and informs me when it’s up for a challenge. Yoga helps us reunite our relationship with our bodies, it’s the first amends a person in recovery can make.

Abby told me, “Going to yoga class and practicing at home are important check-ins with myself, and help me make other healthy choices, like getting outside, eating nutritious food, and breathing. I now appreciate the cumulative cleansing nature of my yoga practice because I’m not re-toxing every night! Yoga gives me the space to listen to my body in ways I didn’t before.”

Lastly, the spiritual aspect of yoga is that the entire practice makes space for you to become a conduit for connection—connection to life, to energy, to understanding, to the universe, to the divine.

For a lot of people this shift is scary, however, opening the door to the possibility of a spiritual connection plays a major role in most recovery, and yoga helps prop that door open. The mat becomes a place where that hard-to-establish spiritual connection becomes more accessible, and connection is the opposite of addiction.

“Yoga helps me to connect with the essence of my recovery solution. Within the focus of movement I find myself present. I have come to know that presence with something greater than myself is what I have been looking for—what I had been looking for for years.” – Ted

Yoga gives us the discipline to quiet the mind, the structure to listen to our bodies, and the space to form spiritual connection, it heals the conflicted state of disconnect we previously inhabited. Iyengar said, “Yoga does not just change the way we see things; it transforms the person who sees.”

Those of us committed to the lifelong transformative practice of recovery understand this concept. Why not add yoga to your recovery tool box and see what happens?

Thank you to all my recovery community peers who helped me write this piece.


Sarra Maddox
Sarra Maddox
Sarra Maddocks is a 500 hr RYT, and Yoga Program Director at Jade Integrated Health. She is also part of the teaching staff at Scarborough Yoga, and instructs at Crossroads For Women. Sarra is an active member of the recovery community.
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