A Harmful Pairing: Yoga & Alcohol

Updated: Dec 11, 2021

As yoga continues to rise in popularity across the US, yoga practitioners are capitalizing on new and unique ways to combine yoga with an already exhilarating endeavor. Perhaps you’ve heard of goat yoga, stand-up paddle board yoga, or glow-in-the-dark yoga, to name a few. Combining two activities into one appears to be a trend that brings more people together to practice yoga. While all of this is great, there is another direction in which these trends are heading: from sip and flow, to happy hour yoga, to Drunk Yoga (yes, that’s actually a thing). These classes are being marketed and labeled as ways to get healthy and reduce stress and are perpetuating both the cultural appropriation of yoga in the US (aka moving away from the foundations of yoga) and the propaganda marketed by liquor companies who want you to think that drinking helps you relax, and you deserve it (sexism and capitalism at its finest). Gross, right?

For many people, yoga is not just about stretching and sweating, but a tool to help navigate life’s challenges and stressors. According to a study from the Yoga Journal, most of today’s yoga practitioners are women (82.2%). Additionally, women between the ages of 30 and 49 years old make up more than 43% of yoga practitioners. Forty million adults suffer from anxiety disorder in the US alone. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and the prevalence of anxiety disorders is significantly higher for women (23.4 percent) than men (14.3 percent). In reference to a study from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), women ages 30 to 44 are more likely to have an anxiety disorder. With these statistics, it’s easy to see why yoga would be particularly popular for women this age group.

Anxiety is not just on the rise for women, but alcohol consumption is too. According to a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use disorder among women in the U.S. increased by 83.7 percent between 2002 and 2013. If you can imagine these numbers were on the rise before the pandemic, and the concern only continues to grow. And this brings us back to alcohol, anxiety, and yoga.

Yoga has been a safe haven for many recovering addicts and those with mental health issues. So why are yoga practitioners trying to strengthen the booze-yoga connection? I should note that there’s a major difference between enjoying a glass of wine with family or friends and taking the sacred space and energy of yoga and combining it with the avoidance and disorienting qualities of alcohol. If you knew how anxiety and alcohol pair, you would never invite them into your yoga practice again, as it is counterproductive. Alcohol is a stimulant and a depressant and is proven to make your anxiety worse. It changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. In fact, you may feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off. Alcohol dramatically affects your coherence, consciousness, and awareness. Being genuinely interested in the true meaning of yoga (union) surely means bringing full awareness and clear consciousness to your mat. When we come together as a community in the space of practicing yoga, we have a responsibility to ourselves and each other to create an atmosphere of growth and support. We need to remember that disconnection is only a temporary and shallow solution to our problems and stressors. In truth, you need to be fully present and willing to embrace the challenges- both internal and external. True liberation comes when you’re no longer afraid of what comes up from your subconscious on your mat. That’s what yoga is all about.


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