Yoga As Part of the Recovery Process


Prescription and illicit drug abuse is a looming health problem in the United States.  According to reports, over 20 million people nationwide suffer from issues related to drug and alcohol abuse. Statistics depicting drug and alcohol abuse in the United States are rising on a significant scale, and in the past few years, the country has seen an explosion of opiate-related overdoses.

Per the World Health Organization, substance abuse refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Use of such substances can lead to dependence - a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological effects that develop after repeated substance use and can include:

  • A strong desire to indulge in drug use

  • Difficulties in controlling its use

  • Persisting in its use despite harmful consequences

  • A higher priority is given to drug use than to other activities and obligations

  • Increased tolerance

  • A physical withdrawal state

Recent research advocates for the inclusion of yoga in addiction recovery programs.  By addressing the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of practitioners, Yoga builds our self-awareness and helps us to feel more at ease as we approach a more relaxed mental state. Yoga also:

  • Improves circulation and lung capacity

  • Stretches and strengthens muscle groups

  • Helps to work out the organs and improves digestion

  • Regulates the nervous and endocrine systems


Conventional behavioral approaches to relapse prevention aim to address numerous determinants of relapse, including:

  • Physical symptoms of withdrawal

  • Cognitive processes like craving, self-efficacy, outcome expectancies, and motivation

  • Coping behaviors, including adaptive and maladaptive coping styles

  • Emotional states, including how to self-regulate positive and negative affect

  • Interpersonal dynamics, including peer pressure and relationship conflict

  • Situational or contextual factors that cue or elicit cravings

Meditative approaches, including Yoga, are now being developed as complementary therapies to augment conventional treatment by directly targeting mindless, automatic mental and behavioral processes, like craving, through cultivating greater mindfulness.  Yoga, like other mindfulness teachings, is rooted in a fundamental belief of “mindful” awareness of experiences and emotions as they arise. Addictions are born as a result of “mindless” states, which can include escapist attitudes, automatic thinking, emotional reactivity, and social isolation. Practicing yoga can help steady attention, strengthen concentration, enhance emotion regulation, and facilitate personal and spiritual growth through self-observation. Simply doing yoga postures or breath control can also help regulate stress and dissuade practitioners from substance use impulses in the moment.  


At Yoga 4 Change, we employ Yoga as part of the treatment process by teaching our students a system of adaptive attitudes, perspectives, and self-regulation skills.  For those dealing with the challenges of recovery, Yoga 4 Change represents an opportunity to build self-confidence and trust. Our programming gives those in recovery the tools to master their breathing, calm mind and body, and shift focus away from the shadow of substance abuse.

Each year, our professional instructors teach yoga to more than 1,900 different people recovering in shelters, public housing communities, and treatment centers. Our curriculum provides the foundation for conflict management, better sleep, and the physical and emotional well-being that enables those in recovery to make positive choices and to change their own outcomes.


Risk Factors

  • 270,000 people living in the shadow of substance abuse in northeast Florida
  • Abuse of substances costs more than $700 billion annually

  • 1 in 3 people who die from suicide are under the influence of drugs

  • At least 40% of people living homeless are substance abusers

  • More than 75% of domestic violence victims report that their assailant had been drinking or using illicit drugs at the time of the incident

Our Impact

  • 1900+ people in recovery involved in Yoga 4 Change
  • 6 facilities

  • 22 classes per month

  • Program themes include self-trust, self-confidence, suspending self-judgment, group trust, and loyalty


We'd like to thank you for reading this week's blog post.   

Whether you make a small gift of $10, make a pledge of a re-occurring sustaining gift, or make a large dollar contribution, your support of Yoga 4 Change enables us to advance our mission of achieving lasting, demonstrative change for veterans, incarcerated individuals, vulnerable youth, and those dealing with substance abuse through a purpose-driven yoga curriculum.  You can make your contribution as an individual, family, foundation, or business.  

Patrick Fisher