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yogaComplimentary alternative addiction therapy is chosen by many people to add a holistic dimension to their overall treatment approach for a variety of medical problems, including addiction. Patients often enjoy the non-invasive, accessible, and philosophical components of alternative medicines and therapies, such as exercise therapy, massage therapy, nutritional therapy, and yoga.

The popularity and proliferation of research into the benefits of yoga over the past few years have driven many addiction specialists to advocate for yoga therapy as an alternative addiction treatment strategy. There is now ample evidence suggesting that the practice of yoga has numerous benefits of psychological health and for promoting feelings of well-being.

Using yoga as a complementary therapy to other conventional addiction treatment methods is increasingly being recognized as an aid to enhance recovery. Yoga has the capacity to address needs that patients may find are not being met in the therapists office or through pharmacological means.

What are the Benefits of Yoga?yoga-therapy

One of the main benefits of  of this form of therapy for addiction recovery is its ability to reduce feelings of stress. It has been shown to reduce stress hormones in the body, thereby reducing all the other symptoms that go along with physiological stress. This is important to note, because stress is often associated with poorer treatment outcomes.

Many researchers also propose that yoga therapy can be such a useful tool for substance abuse recovery because it is able to enhance one’s ability to effectively self-regulate. Since committed, goal-directed behavior is so important on the yoga mat, patients are able to transfer and use their new skills off the mat as well. An improved ability to self-regulate and an increased self-awareness also contributes in many cases to a greater readiness to change. The will and desire to change is fundamental to successful addiction treatment outcomes. Patients must be able to recognize and feel a deep need to change their problems before they are able to do so.

Yoga can further benefit those who have made a commitment to change by helping to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Negative affect is a major roadblock to successful addiction recovery. This type of therapy has also been shown to improve sleep quality, further eliminating sources of stress from a patient’s mind.

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What is Yoga’s Role in Addiction Treatment?

Yoga likely exerts many of its benefits in a similar manner to how exercise therapy is also able to help improve drug addiction treatment outcomes. The movement and postures of yoga essentially provide a light exercise, offering many of the same advantages of general physical activity.

Physical activity of all kinds stimulates the body’s opioid and dopamine systems, two systems that are important for feelings of pleasure and well-being. Using yoga to activate these reward pathways can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and to keep cravings at bay during the entire recovery process.

The question of who might benefit the most from yoga therapy has not been widely studied. However, researchers propose that, because yoga is very accessible and can be modified to suit a variety of different ability levels, it has the possibility of improving treatment outcomes for many different subsets of patients. Just like exercise therapy, yoga may appeal to and be beneficial for people of different genders, socioeconomic status, ages, or fitness levels.


  1. Khanna, S., & Greeson, J. M. (2013, June). A Narrative Review of Yoga and Mindfulness as Complementary Therapies for Addiction. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from
  2. Gard, T., Noggle, J. J., Park, C. L., Vago, D. R., & Wilson, A. (2014). Potential self-regulatory mechanisms of yoga for psychological health. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from
  3. Reddy, S., Dick, A. M., Gerber, M. R., & Mitchell, K. (2014, October 01). The Effect of a Yoga Intervention on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Risk in Veteran and Civilian Women with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from
  4. The Study of the Effects of Yoga Exercises on Addicts’ Depression and Anxiety in Rehabilitation Period. (n.d.). Retrieved August 30, 2016, from
  5. Posadzki, P., Choi, J., Lee, M. S., & Ernst, E. (2014, March). Yoga for addictions: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials [PDF]. Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
  6. Linke, S. E., & Ussher, M. (2015, January). Exercise-based treatments for substance use disorders: evidence, theory, and practicality. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from

Last updated on April 6th, 2017 at 06:31 pm

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