Last Updated on November 20, 2022 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Yoga for Recovery

Yoga is for EVERYBODY.  Yes, everybody – even you!  Gone are the days of this incredible, centuries-old mind and body enhancer existing only for latte-toting college girls in tight, stretchy pants, or flexible, New Age guys with odd, hippie-sounding names, or inspiring, Indian ascetics dedicated to a life of 24/7 practice and worship.  In fact, it was never really just for those folks – but unfortunately, those are just a few of the many stereotypes surrounding it.  It doesn’t matter if you’re old, young, rich, poor, flexible, stiff, healthy, not-so-healthy, fat, fit, male, female, or even currently wholly apprehensive about its actual benefits – yoga is for YOU.  And, the best part is – it can even help you on your path to recovery!

Benefits of Yoga for Recovery

Yoga has been around for centuries and what many of us think of as “yoga” today is actually only one part of an eight-limbed path designed to help people connect with their higher self, and to learn how to lead a meaningful and purpose-filled life.  Other aspects of true yoga also include breath control, meditation, and the yamas and niyamas, which focus on developing personal integrity and self-discipline.  However, even with these in mind, the physical yoga (known as asana on the eight limbed path) with which we in the West are most familiar is a great way to begin. Many students find this physical yoga practice to be plenty on its own to make great changes in one’s life – even if they choose not to investigate or delve into the other seven limbs at all.

The benefits of asana – physical yoga practice – are numerous and well documented by both practitioners and science.    After practicing yoga even for a short time, one will see an increase in flexibility, and experience a noticeable progression in muscle strength and tone.  Studies have shown that yoga also helps to maintain a balanced metabolism, increases athletic performance, aids in weight loss, and improves cardiovascular and circulatory health.  Further, due to the focus on the breath that is the foundation of most types of yoga, practitioners often experience improved respiration, which in turn leads to more energy, as well.  It can improve our immune systems and standing balance, can give us deeper sleep, lowers our blood pressure, and more.

And, the benefits don’t stop there!  There are even more positives of yoga beyond the obvious physical ones – there are many that cannot be outwardly seen.   People who practice yoga report increased focus, strengthened self-esteem, higher levels of happiness, and better relationships with loved ones, to name a few things.  All of these changes, physical, mental, and emotional, will certainly help anyone grow as a person, and will especially help those seeking to live and experience a healthier, drug-free life.

Types of Yoga

Truly, there is a type of yoga out there for each type of personality and physical type.  In the 5,000 years since yoga’s beginnings, teachers and practitioners have branched out and developed a wide variety of different disciplines.  Although many classes one may encounter may include pieces of several different styles, if you find one type that you feel is right for you, that can make all the difference.   Some types of yoga are calm, slow, and particularly introspective, like Kripalu yoga, in which practitioners hold postures for an extended time in preparation for meditation.  Others are more kinetic and focus on nearly constant movement, like Vinyasa, in which students are led through a invigorating flow that can differ greatly depending on the leader and class, or Ashtanga, which involves an ordered regimen of existing, unwavering, strenuous series, practiced sequentially and coordinated with the breath.  Bikram, a style named after its founder, Bikram Choudhury, that has become especially popular in gyms in recent years, is similar to Ashtanga in that it follows a particular sequence, but differs from other types because it is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees, with forty percent humidity.  If one has physical limitations, then perhaps Iyengar is the right choice – it’s a very pure form of yoga, founded by a man named B. K. S. Iyengar, but uses the assistance of blocks and other props to help one reach the full realization of each pose.  And, if it’s deep relaxation one seeks, restorative yoga may be the way to go; during a single session a practitioner may only move through two or three postures with the help of pillows or bolsters, and in doing so will find deep connection between their mind and body.  These are just a few of the many different types of yoga open to individuals practicing yoga.  There are many more, so if you find that you don’t like one style, simply try another until you discover the one that is right for you.

What If I Can’t Attend a Yoga Class?

For some, though, going to an actual class can be difficult.  It can be hard to find time to fit a formal class into your schedule.  There may be a class available, but it is too far away or conflicts with your other responsibilities.  You may not want to spend the money, or you may not feel great about practicing with other people.  Perhaps you are shy or unsure of yourself (although there’s no need to feel that way!).

Luckily, even if you can’t attend a class for some reason, you can still practice yoga!  Many people practice at home and follow a routine they have made up, found in a book, or that was recommended to them by someone else.  That’s great if you have a lot of self-discipline and know what you are doing but if you are not wholly focused or if you are just starting out, this approach has its pitfalls too.

The best option, then, for people who cannot attend a formal class, and who don’t feel comfortable self-guiding their own home practice, is to enjoy and follow yoga classes online.  There are literally thousands of yoga teachers online and most offer tens or even hundreds of classes via the internet.  These teachers are well-trained and effective, and surely there is a personality out there for each person’s specific taste and style.

Many of these online teachers offer subscriptions of their own or belong to larger website that offer paid classes to interested parties.  Thankfully, though, there are also a growing number of online yoga classes that are offered at no cost, and are absolutely free.

Free Online Yoga Classes for Recovery

Today, there are more and more free yoga classes offered online through YouTube and other platforms. Don’t assume that free yoga classes are somehow not as good as the paid ones – in fact, the opposite is true. Many of the free yoga classes offered online are just as good if not better than the paid ones. Because these sites want to get lots of followers, they actually go above and beyond to offer high quality, easy-to-follow yoga classes that can be enjoyed by all.  Read on to learn about some of these great teachers and websites.

Yoga With Adriene – Adriene Mishler is a yoga teacher living in Austin, Texas, and over the past six years, she has grown a following of over a million YouTube subscribers.  This is not at all surprising because her classes are fun and awesome.  Adriene herself is a charming, funny, down-to-earth, relatable teacher who is really able to connect with her students through the screen and across the miles.  She explains the postures extremely well and inserts comedy where appropriate.  Adriene’s YouTube channel offers classes at all levels, posts new videos every Sunday, and offers a monthly calendar every single month to help keep users focused and moving right along.  She is fantastic, and Yoga With Adriene is a great place for anyone to start.

DoYogaWithMe – This website, which includes a vast number of teachers of all ages and styles, was founded in 2008.  Since then, DoYogaWithMe has offered free videos to interested parties on yoga postures, yoga practice, and meditation.  The site offers some paid videos for subscribers only, too, but the free offerings are vast and plentiful.  In addition to offering yoga videos, DoYogaWithMe also organizes retreats that you can attend in person, ongoing online yoga challenges, a blog about yoga, and more. You can use the site as a guest with no sign up, or sign up as a free user to participate in their discussion forums.

Yoga Journal – Yoga Journal is one of the world’s most widely read and well-known yoga magazines and began publishing in May of 1975. It’s circulation has grown and continues to grow and the magazine’s current readership s over a million readers per issue.  Yoga Journal’s website is full of articles, commentary, information, and yes, free yoga videos. Although there are not nearly as many free yoga videos on as there are on the offerings above, the ones they do offer are thorough, professional, and enjoyable, and are a great place to go if you just want to do a quick video without thinking about what you want too much.

YOME – YOME is an online yoga community that offers hundreds of free videos for all levels. Their clever name is a blend of yoga and home, which is obviously quite fitting. This site collects videos from yoga teachers everywhere and offers them here; this means there is a lot of variety and you will never get bored.  In addition to yoga practice videos, this site also offers breathing, posture, and meditation videos as well, and a social media component that allows users to connect with other practitioners around the world.

Getting Started

If you’re interested in trying yoga and incorporating it into your recovery journey, your options are varied and almost endless.  Yoga classes are available in even the smallest towns at gyms, health clubs, and community centers, and are usually quite affordable.  Taking a class can help a beginner immensely; you will see that every pose is different for each body, reminding you that yoga is NOT competitive, and trained yoga teachers are available and eager to assist with suggestions and modifications.  If a class doesn’t feel right, there are literally hundreds of classes and informational videos about yoga online that can be found with a quick and simple search, or, you can join any number of paid yoga websites to view and participate in a different class or style each day, depending on your mood, time available, or skill level.  Another great thing about yoga is that it can be practiced any time, any where; once you have a good understanding of postures and have a feel for whatever style you choose, you can put together your own sequences and practice in your home upon waking or after a long day, or in a park or other outside space of your choosing.

Yoga is an amazing thing to incorporate into your new, healthy life, and once you get started, you’ll be amazed at all the changes and benefits you’ll experience.  Without a doubt, if you stick with it, it will change your life immensely, and will certainly help support your recovery efforts.  There’s a reason it’s been practiced and developed for centuries, and there’s no better time like the present to incorporate all of that history and knowledge into your everyday life.  Try it – you’ll like it!  Yoga is for you.