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What is sober yoga?

Not so long ago, sobriety was seen as something you would only choose as a way of life if you absolutely had to. You know the (old) story; the person had to reach 'rock bottom' before they quit drinking. Kudos to those people that have suffered in this way for making that positive change. But what's interesting here is that we now recognise that addiction is a spectrum and as such, many people are opting to be sober as simply a way to be happier and healthier. Lots of sober people choose to practise yoga as a way to keep on the sober path (which isn't always easy!).

Here we explain what sober yoga is, why we offer it, and why you should try it too - whether you are newly sober, long term sober, - or perhaps you are sober curious - everyone is welcome to try sober yoga here at the Mindful Life Practice Community.
Girl sitting practising sober yoga online
Sober yoga is simply a way to get healthy and happy

Addiction is a spectrum (and you don't have to hit 'rock bottom' to practise sober yoga)

A few years ago, if you didn't drink you were either seen as boring - or it must mean that you had a serious drinking problem. The subject has been seen as very taboo - but not any more. Of course, many people do quit alcohol as they have had incredible pain caused by their drinking - and we hold those brave individuals in great esteem here. But what's interesting is that sobriety is now seen as a lifestyle choice for everyone. From the stressed out 9-5er who is sick of having to have two glasses of wine every single night and recognises that it ruins her sleep... to the new mum drinking a little too much Prosecco to help her feel like her old self at the weekend. And what about the young professional who is fitness-obsessed but somehow manages to binge away the weekends and hates that it's ruining his fitness (and it's taking longer and longer to recover!)? Or how about the retired Grandad who every morning swears he will keep it to 2 beers at the village pub, but always, always has more (he even drinks and drives sometimes - and regrets it immensely)? All these people have something in common: alcohol is - to some degree - affecting their life negatively.

What happens when we practise yoga?

When we practise yoga, we try to do so mindfully. This means we set an intention with our practise. So, we might say, my intention today is simply to 'be here now'. Thus we are reminded throughout the session to bring our minds back to the present and stop worrying or being distracted (easier said than done, but it comes with time). Our lives today are so busy and frantic, and we have so many things competing for our attention, to come to the mat maybe once a day - or even once a week - and be focussed on simply moving our bodies, and stilling our mind, increases our capacity for making better choices. When we move our bodies in yoga, we try to do so 'with the breath'. This means we may, for example, lift our arms up and inhale, and then move them down with an exhale. This action slows down the breath, which moves the body into a 'rest and digest' mode. In other words, it relaxes us. Not only this, but by moving and stretching the body, we release stress, tension - and even trauma. These are major factors in why people drink, so by reducing their impact, we also decrease the likelihood that we will reach for the wine!

Lady sits about to do sober yoga at home
Sober yoga relaxes the body and mind

What does yoga have to do with being sober?

Why do we humans drink? Think about it! It's actually a strange thing to do. Given that we now know how bad it is for our mental and physical health, and how it disrupts sleep, puts on excess weight in empty calories, impacts our ability to make good decisions - and can seriously enhance the likelihood of doing things we regret... but we still do it! Most people would maybe say they drink to 'relax' and 'unwind' - after work, or a long day with the kids. But alcohol actually does not relax you; it simply shuts down the parts of the brain that feels stressed temporarily. It also turns off the 'parent' in the brain (the prefrontal cortex), in doing so increasing the chance we will make unwise decisions. Then we wake up the next day with the same stress - but even worse - as alcohol withdrawal brings on depression and anxiety (not to mention dehydration, sickness and headache). Crazy when look at it like that, right? In short, yoga gives us all the things that alcohol promises. It is deeply relaxing - for body and mind. Plus belonging to a community like ours also brings connection - something that we sometimes look to alcohol for, but that it rarely gives in a true form. To feel connected and part of something greater is something we all crave and that is hugely important for our wellbeing. By developing a steady and committed yoga practise we are much more likely to stick with sobriety as we are getting many of our social and wellbeing needs met - but in a healthy way. How cool is that?

How is sober yoga different to normal yoga?

At the Mindful Life Practice, we are a sober curious community - which means we welcome everyone, sober, sober curious, or not sober. Many of our members are sober, or sober curious, so for that reason we have many sessions that are descried specifically as 'sober yoga', 'sober flow', 'sober circle' or 'sober let go'. At all the sober sessions, we start with an optional check in, which means each person is welcome to share - how their day is going, or if they are struggling (anything, really). There is no judgement, no feedback, no advice and it is a 100% safe and confidential space. (You do not have to share - in fact you could come with your camera off and audio too.) If it is just a sharing circle, most of the session will be sharing, with a meditation at the end. If the session is a 'flow' or 'let go', then expect some yoga too (flow is more dynamic and flowing, let go is more long held poses, and stretching-based). If a session doesn't have the word sober in it, you can expect it to be 'normal yoga', in so much as there is no share at the start and there will probably be no mention of sobriety in it.

Zoom sober yoga sharing circle
Sober yoga sessions always have an optional sharing circle where you can 'check in'

Making strong, authentic connections is an integral part of sober yoga

People who come to sober yoga sessions at the Mindful Life Practice are always astounded by the level of deep connection that occurs over Zoom! People at all stages of their sober or sober curious journey - from 2 years plus sober, to 2 days, or still drinking but interested in reducing or stopping at some point, everyone shares one thing: they recognise that alcohol is no longer serving them and that they want to feel happier and healthier. What this looks like is different for everyone. There is no judgement, only space to share. All our sober yoga sharing circle facilitators are trained to hold space in this way, and are on their own sober journey - they get it. Whether you choose to quit drinking alcohol or not, why not try a sober yoga session and see what you think? It's never a bad thing to talk and share how you're doing. With members from all walks of life, all nationalities, from all over the world, at different time zones and stages of life, it's a lovely way to connect and make new friends, too.

Looking to break up wit booze? Our 30 or 60 day sober yoga challenge is for you...

It can be really hard to even think about giving up alcohol for most people. It's so ingrained in our society - we drink when we're happy, sad, tired, energetic, to console or to celebrate. So it's no wonder we might try and fail - many, many times. The secret to having greater success (progress not perfection, remember!) is support from like-minded individuals on the same journey. Our sober yoga 30 or 60 day challenges are for you if you are looking to begin or deepen your yoga, meditation and journalling practise, and want to clock up some major numbers on your sobriety journey, whilst also having fun and connecting with new friends.

Man doing tree pose in sober yoga
Balancing poses area great way to practise falling - and getting back up again...

What is sober curious yoga teacher training?

The Mindful Life Practice offers Sober Curious Yoga Teacher Training to everyone, not just yoga teachers. This is a Yoga Alliance registered course that will enable you to facilitate sober curious yoga sessions and also be a sober mentor. On this course you will learn how to host sober yoga circles, how to hold space without judgement or advice, coaching skills and so much more. Each week participants take turns to host the session, giving you real hands on experience from the start. This course will give you confidence and also you will go through the process yourself as a group. Many strong friendships have been born from this course and it's a deep, transformative experience that will benefit your own sober journey.

Give sober yoga a try!

Yoga is an incredible tool in your sober kit. By combining connection and community with mind and body wellbeing... you're 100% winning! Whatever your age, fitness level, stage of sobriety - there is nothing to lose by connecting with others and practising yoga. Interested? Check out the links below.

Sober yoga links:

1. Check out the live yoga schedule here to sample some sober yoga - many classes are FREE.

2. Look into sober curious yoga teacher training to learn how to facilitate sober yoga classes (and deepen your own sober journey).

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