Yoga & Sobriety

“True yoga is not about the shape of your body,
but the shape of your life.
Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived.
Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been;
yoga cares about the person you are becoming.
Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose,
and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied.”
– Aadil Palkhivala

Sober Butterfly Collective Co-Founder Katy reflects on her love of yoga and how it has transformed her sobriety. 

I love this quote. It truly embodies what I love about yoga. Yoga is open to everyone; it can be practiced most places and ultimately all you need is yourself and a willingness to connect to your body. 

When I hear people share their stories on why they practice yoga my ears prick up. Everyone’s stories vary to how yoga helps them: to help with stress release, tension release, peace, strength, fitness, flexibility, posture, connection, mental health, ‘me’ time, focus, pain relief, healing and so much more. 

One of the most important reasons I practice yoga is for my mental health. My anxiety means I am in my head all the time, with constant thoughts, worries, ‘what if’s, making plans to all the possible problems and emergencies that haven’t happened yet. It’s exhausting and I needed to ‘get out of my head’ sometimes which is why I drank alcohol. Eventually I began to make a link between drinking and my mental health – basically it was one of the worst things I could be doing to myself. I stopped drinking but there was a void. How do I quieten my mind without numbing it with alcohol? You can read more about Katy’s journey to sobriety.

I had already been practicing yoga for many years, so I knew its merits. I had mainly stuck to the same type of yoga, with the same teachers, the same people and the same place. Sobriety gave me the time and the energy and this new found need for getting out of my head to explore different types of yoga with new teachers and new places. This is when yoga became a way of life for me, a lifestyle, a therapy. 

“When I take to my mat I can block out the outside world.”

I can quieten my mind, it feels like a dropping down and opening up all in one. I focus only on my body, what it can do, how strong I feel, how grounded I am. I feel truly ‘at one’ with myself, at peace and this feeling is the holy grail for me living so long with anxiety. 

It has taken me a long time to find such peace in my practice. Some days I can connect more than others, some days my mind is busier than others. Some days I simply can’t be bothered. What’s important for me is when I feel the need for oblivion, is to reach for my yoga mat not a bottle. This is why I get so disheartened when I see yoga classes mixing the practice with drinking alcohol. A gimmick to lure in newbies and make a class become more desirable than the next. This for me is the ultimate betrayal of what yoga represents and its roots.

Modalities change, it’s the way of the world. Growth and development are not only to be expected but needed. We live in an ever-changing society so of course our needs change too. What I do find hard is this introduction of alcohol into the yoga space. These days we have so little space we can truly switch off and give ourselves much needed space to just be. There are so many places we are confronted with alcohol being the answer to our problems. Greeting cards, slogans on products, memes, social media, tv & film, advertisements, brunch, spa breaks. This culture of ‘wine o’clock’ and the social norm of only being able to be ‘fun’ if it involves booze, is now infiltrating into places of health. Not once in the stories I’ve heard of why people practice yoga is to get drunk. 

I read recently the founder of ‘Drunk Yoga’ came up with this concept because she was tired of feeling like she needed to sit at the ‘cool girls table’ if she wanted to fit into the yoga community and wanted to just ‘lighten’ it up. Now for me, fortunately I’ve never experienced a feeling of isolation in a yoga class but I do know it happens. Like many areas of life there can be tight knit communities which can make others feel like outsiders. But is throwing alcohol into the mix the answer? This way of thinking that we need to drink to fit in is so detrimental. I still feel the stigma of being sober and the pressure to drink to feel like I am ‘normal’. 

I am a firm believer that yoga represents different things to different people and the reasons people practice yoga is for all sorts of reasons. I also understand that the yoga practiced today, especially in western society is very much removed from its roots. Yoga is believed to originate in India over 5000 year ago. Most information on the history and it’s origin comes from Hindu and Buddhist scriptures and text. It was believed to of been primarily practiced for spiritual harmony and enlightenment. Yoga poses were commonly combined with long periods of meditation. 

The word ‘yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ meaning to join or unite. Some translate to mean ‘union’. This for me is exactly how practicing yoga feels, a union between my mind, body and soul. My hope is we can work on uniting people together without someone suggesting introducing alcohol to be able to do it or so we can feel like we belong. In my experience alcohol works to eventually disunite people from each other and our sense of self. 

For those wanting to explore yoga further I would recommend having a read of the different yoga styles and see which resonate with you. Then have a google for some classes in your local area. Most studios will let you try a taster class to see if it suits you. I began my yoga journey by signing up for a course. Committing to a full course isn’t for everyone but I knew I needed to be held accountable for attending each week. Paying for something in advance works every time for me, I hate not getting my money’s worth! 

Home practice is also great for trying out some different styles, try YouTube for many different options. During lockdown I missed my classes so I sampled some online content. I struggled to motivate myself at the beginning as I love the energy and connection that a class brings however once I set up a little area I really loved the flexibility a home practice brings. I use the Down Dog app which I think is fantastic.

So whether it’s a fast energetic flow or a gentle restorative Yin you are drawn to, I trust that you will never regret giving it a go.

Namaste 

Co-Founder of Sober Butterfly Collective.

Yoga fan? You will love our COVID friendly social event in December, check out our Sober Socials page for more details.

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