Yoga Techniques for Substance Abuse - Yoga Practice Blog

Yoga Techniques for Substance Abuse

Yoga techniques for substance abuseBy Sangeetha Saran

What are Yoga techniques for substance abuse? Although scientific research has been limited, there is strong anecdotal evidence to support the practice of Yoga in the treatment and management of addictions. However, there is also a growing body of research. According to APA PsycArticles, one study in 2019 concluded that Yoga had moderate success in treating chronic pain, because it gives people an alternative coping method. Therefore, Yoga could prevent potential reliance on strong pain killers, which can lead to addiction.


Although more evidence is needed for substance abuse, there is comprehensive data to support its effects on stress-related illnesses. The link between stress and addictions is well known, and scientists have documented the effects of Yoga on good mental health. Others have observed similarities between Yogic philosophy and 12-step programs, and there is little doubt that Yoga complements traditional treatments for many conditions.

Potential Benefits of Yogic Methods for Treatment of Substance Abuse

• Reduces stress

• Increases self-esteem

• Improves physical health

• Provides social support

• Enhances mental health

• Complements other recovery programs

• Encourages spiritual growth and beauty


Yoga teaches practitioners to live in the present moment: to examine the inner self, to be aware of the breath, and to notice physical sensations. This alone is helpful for battling compulsions and panic attacks. Addicts, like others, hold emotions in their mental and physical bodies. Yoga clears blockages in the energy system, promoting recovery from past trauma.

There are many Yoga techniques for substance abuse. The common link is they are different modalities that help heal and train the mind. That said, the following techniques are a good start as adjunct methods that help prevent addiction.


• Asana

There are so many to choose from, but it helps to follow along with a sequence that is physically balanced in forward, backward, left, right, and twisting movements. The physical practice of postures, such as Forward Bends and Warrior Poses, keeps practitioners in the moment, reducing compulsions and negative thinking. Exercise also contributes to better self-control and a sense of overall wellbeing.

• Pranayama

When people are tense and worried, their breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Controlled breathing brings the senses to the present moment, reduces anxiety, and stimulates the circulatory system with an oxygen-rich flow of blood and lymph.


When working with students who have a history of substance abuse, it has been my experience that they never realized the feeling of euphoria that pranayama can bring. In Yoga classes, students should be made aware of how prana is similar to candy, but they do not have to be concerned with gaining weight or tooth decay. Pranayama does not cost a dime, makes you feel fantastic, and it is calorie free.

• Meditation

Meditation has always been a part of spiritual and healing practices, and some of the world’s most prestigious universities have endorsed its benefits. Whether labeled as prayer, mindfulness, or one of its many other names, meditation is an ancient art recognized by both the traditional and the holistic care system.



The eight limbs of Yoga, like most timeless teachings, promote a healthy lifestyle that unifies the mind, the body, and the spirit. Unless otherwise indicated, Yoga is recommended as a complement to treatment for substance abuse, not as a replacement for more traditional programs. If a society wants every citizen to be a productive part of the community, every safe method available should be an option.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division


Click here to see our online Yoga Nidra teacher training course.

Are you an experienced teacher looking for YACEP credits or continuing education?

Subscribe to Our Newsletter for Special Discounts and New Products

Related Resources


52 Essential Principles of Yoga Philosophy to Deepen your Practice

by Rina Jakubowicz.


A Relaxing Way to De-stress, Re-energize, and Find Balance

by: Gail Boorstein Grossman.


by B.K.S. Iyengar

TEACHING YOGA: Essential Foundations and Techniques

By Mark Stephens

Lutz, D. J., Gipson, D. R., & Robinson, D. N. (2019). Yoga as an adjunct for treatment of substance abuse. Practice Innovations, 4(1), 13–27.

Michael D. McGee. (2020) Awakening and Recovery. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 38:2, pages 266-285.

Robyn J. McQuaid PhD, Colleen Dell PhD. (2018) Life in Recovery from Addiction in Canada: Examining Gender Pathways with a Focus on the Female Experience. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 36:4, pages 499-516.

Arielle Dylan. (2014) Noble Eightfold Path and Yoga (NEPY): A Group for Women Experiencing Substance Use Challenges. Social Work With Groups 37:2, pages 142-157.

Leslie J. Temme PhDLCSW, Judy Fenster PhDLCSW, Geoffrey L. Ream PhD. (2012) Evaluation of Meditation in the Treatment of Chemical Dependency. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions 12:3, pages 264-281.

Steve Sussman. 2020. The Cambridge Handbook of Substance and Behavioral Addictions.
2020. Prevention and Treatment. The Cambridge Handbook of Substance and Behavioral Addictions, pages 199-294.

Jorge Giménez-Meseguer, Juan Tortosa-Martínez, Juan Cortell-Tormo. (2020) The Benefits of Physical Exercise on Mental Disorders and Quality of Life in Substance Use Disorders Patients. Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17:10, pages 3680.

Shivarama Varambally, B. N. Gangadhar. 2020. Yoga and Traditional Healing Methods in Mental Health. Mental Health and Illness in the Rural World, pages 297-326.

Shivarama Varambally, B. N. Gangadhar. 2019. Yoga and Traditional Healing Methods in Mental Health. Mental Health and Illness in Rural World, pages 1-30.

Alexandra S. Wimberly, Malitta Engstrom, Molly Layde, James R. McKay. (2018) A randomized trial of yoga for stress and substance use among people living with HIV in reentry. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 94, pages 97-104.

Mary Grace Antony. (2018) That’s a Stretch: Reconstructing, Rearticulating, and Commodifying Yoga. Frontiers in Communication 3.

Leslie J. Temme, Donna Wang. (2018) Relationship Between the Five Facets of Mindfulness on Mood and Substance Use Relapse. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services 99:3, pages 209-218.

Donald Warne. 2018. Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Integrative Medicine, pages 818-828.e2.

Siddharth Sarkar, Mohit Varshney. (2017) Yoga and substance use disorders: A narrative review. Asian Journal of Psychiatry 25, pages 191-196.

Jonathan Muirhead, Clare-Ann Fortune. (2016) Yoga in prisons: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior 28, pages 57-63.

Richard P. Brown, Patricia L. Gerbarg. 2015. Nutrients, Phytomedicines, and Mind-Body Treatments for Substance Abuse. Textbook of Addiction Treatment: International Perspectives, pages 747-772.

Dongshi Wang, Yanqiu Wang, Yingying Wang, Rena Li, Chenglin Zhou, Raghavan Raju. (2014) Impact of Physical Exercise on Substance Use Disorders: A Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE 9:10, pages e110728.

Shivani Reddy, Alexandra M. Dick, Megan R. Gerber, Karen Mitchell. (2014) The Effect of a Yoga Intervention on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Risk in Veteran and Civilian Women with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 20:10, pages 750-756.

Tim Gard, Jessica J. Noggle, Crystal L. Park, David R. Vago, Angela Wilson. (2014) Potential self-regulatory mechanisms of yoga for psychological health. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8.

Mats Hallgren, Karin Romberg, Ann-Sofie Bakshi, Sven Andréasson. (2014) Yoga as an adjunct treatment for alcohol dependence: A pilot study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 22:3, pages 441-445.

Paul Posadzki, Jiae Choi, Myeong Soo Lee, Edzard Ernst. (2014) Yoga for addictions: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies 19:1, pages 1-8.

Brett Froeliger, Eric L. Garland, F. Joseph McClernon. (2012) Yoga Meditation Practitioners Exhibit Greater Gray Matter Volume and Fewer Reported Cognitive Failures: Results of a Preliminary Voxel-Based Morphometric Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012, pages 1-8.

Do you want to know how to become a yoga instructor? See our selection of Hatha Yoga instructor certification courses.

2 thoughts on “Yoga Techniques for Substance Abuse”

  1. Yoga has a good effect on mental health also there is strong anecdotal evidence to support the practice of Yoga in the treatment and management of addictions. Thanks for posting this informative article.

Leave a Comment

Your Cart