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Yoga for Mental Health and Addiction Treatment

Medically Reviewed Fact Checked
Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Yoga may be known for keeping people flexible, but there’s far more to it than that. Alternative to Meds Center offers yoga therapy to people suffering from substance use disorder (SUD), toxicity, and mental health symptoms. One of the ways to get clearer in the head is to become more balanced in the body. Yoga enhances the variety of joint motions and may also enhance joint lubrication.1

Certain styles of yoga use certain meditation methods that help quiet the “mind chatter” that commonly underlies stress. Even beginners often report feeling more relaxed and less stressed after just one class. Learn more about how yoga at Alternative to Meds Center can help promote healing during recovery from addiction, neurotoxin overload, prescription medication withdrawals, and even mental health symptoms.

Therapeutic Benefits of Yoga

From the emotional and mental benefits that improve the mood and mind to the physical benefits that keep you healthy and moving, there is plenty of evidence demonstrating yoga’s utility as an adjunctive, holistic therapy — that can bring a wide range of benefits such as improved heart health, physical and emotional pain relief, and support in treating various co-occurring disorders.2,11

Yoga for Mental Wellness and Stress Relief

Yoga’s stress-relieving abilities aren’t merely anecdotal; research demonstrates that multiple sessions of yoga in a controlled environment can reduce stress levels, mitigate the impact and occurrence of negative emotions, and even induce a greater sense of self-awareness.3

Intense stress or negativity can wreak havoc on the mind and body, and subsequently, self-awareness and acceptance are core aspects of staying in recovery and restoring positive balance. By working to reduce feelings of stress, yoga at Alternative to Meds Center can be an asset in promoting healing from addiction, toxicity, and prescription medication withdrawals.

Yoga for Biochemical Balance

Among the anti-stress benefits of yoga are a variety of biochemical responses. As an example, yoga has been found to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is an excitatory neurotransmitter that may be elevated as a response to stress. Another example is that yoga can boost oxytocin levels, a hormone that is associated with positive emotions.

Oxytocin is often referred to as the “bonding” and “trust” hormone, which is associated with feeling connected and relaxed with others and can generate a feeling of self-love. This biochemical stabilization is important for reducing many mental health symptoms and restoring balance after pharmaceutical medications, drugs, alcohol, and environmental toxins have artificially disrupted balance.4,5,12

Yoga for Improved Sleep

The quality of sleep is closely connected to mental wellness, because one of these reciprocates and influences the other either positively or negatively. Mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression can impact one’s ability to get proper sleep. Meanwhile, drugs, alcohol, and pharmaceutical medications can also disrupt sleep or contribute to unhealthy sleep cycles. Getting good sleep improves cognitive function and emotional stability, and yoga therapy has been demonstrated to help improve sleeping habits.6,13

Yoga As Exercise

Exercise is not only about gaining muscle and losing weight. It’s also a great way to improve mental health, handle stress, and stay focused throughout the day. These benefits are also present in yoga, and it is a gentle way to incorporate physical activity into the healing process, no matter the health condition of the persons involved.

In fact, studies show that yoga may even be more beneficial than traditional exercise when it comes to its effects on the sympathetic nervous system and beneficial hormone production.7 The physical movements of yoga can also improve cardiorespiratory fitness, metabolic health, and blood flow and can even reduce the oxidative stress linked to cancer and other diseases.8

You can see why Alternative to Meds Center has found yoga to be helpful for many residents as a complementary therapy. Not only is yoga good for you, it feels good, it is gentle on the body, and it’s fun. Yoga is a wonderful way to connect with others in a non-threatening way — an important aspect of overcoming mental health and addiction issues.

Addiction, Toxicity, and Mental Wellness Treatment

Yoga for Mental Wellness Treatment

While anyone can benefit from yoga therapy, we at Alternative to Meds Center place a special focus on the unique benefits the practice holds for those seeking recovery from addiction, chemical toxicity, and prescription medication withdrawals.

For example, one of the most challenging components of addiction treatment for many people may be the development of coping skills to continue to address relapse triggers. That’s why we firmly believe in adjunctive mindfulness therapies to improve mood, develop helpful habits, practice control, resist cravings and triggers, and address stress head-on. In fact, yoga for alcohol addiction has been shown to be a successful component of a holistic treatment program like the one here at Alternative to Meds Center.9

Yoga for substance abuse has also been proven to help people experiencing a range of substance use issues as well as mental health symptoms and the harmful medications often used to treat them. Research has demonstrated a strong association between the practice of yoga and an increase in quality of life, a broad term encompassing several aspects of a person’s life, all of which may have suffered before arriving at Alternative to Meds Center. Yoga has a positive impact on all four of the quality of life “domains,” including physical health, mental health, environment, and relationships.10

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Understanding Alternative to Meds Center’s Approach to Therapy

Yoga Therapy

At Alternative to Meds Center, we can help you harness the benefits of yoga therapy as a component of a holistic treatment program and use it in tandem with other therapies, such as traditional talk therapy, group therapy, art therapy, spa therapy, and more. Before you arrive at Alternative to Meds Center, you may be wondering what to expect from these adjunctive therapies. Learn more about how we incorporate yoga into your treatment routine.

About Yoga at Alternative to Meds Center

Yoga is an ancient art designed to help achieve enlightenment, control of the mind, and awareness of the self. Understanding the overall goal of yoga can help you understand the value of yoga therapy. While yoga may seem complex, the basic principles are rather simple, despite their effectiveness. At its core, yoga focuses on breathing, mental awareness, and holding poses while the mind becomes still. Doing so is a form of meditation and exercise combined into one.

At Alternative to Meds Center, adjunctive yoga therapy is provided as a component of treatment for medication dependence, drug and alcohol addiction, mental health symptoms, and the side effects caused by environmental and other chemical toxins. A certified yoga instructor meets with residents of our inpatient treatment program regularly to help them learn the poses that will best assist in the connection of mind, body, breath, and more. Overall, these sessions are meant to help improve self-awareness, reduce cravings, face triggers, and calm mental health symptoms.

Yoga and Other Forms of Therapies

It is important to note that yoga therapy at Alternative to Meds Center is what is known as adjunctive therapy. The term adjunct signifies that yoga therapy should be used in addition to other therapies — in fact, yoga is most effective when a part of a holistic or “whole-person” approach to treatment. That’s why we firmly believe in its value in conjunction with other therapeutic approaches to overcoming obstacles, working through trauma and shame, rebuilding relationships, and addressing mental health symptoms.

When combined with other holistic therapies, such as equine therapy, which enhances a person’s confidence and understanding of boundaries, yoga proves to be a vital addition to a broader treatment plan. As a part of a personalized holistic treatment program, yoga plays a role that many other therapies cannot, while other therapies address aspects yoga does not.

This whole-person approach to recovery from substance use disorders, medication dependence, and mental health concerns enables our staff to address an individual patient’s concerns, strengths, weaknesses, and needs. Because every individual is different, so is every treatment program and the combination of therapies provided. Yoga therapy at Alternative to Meds Center can help a wide range of individuals with an even wider range of physical and mental health concerns.

How We Incorporate Adjunctive Therapies

While you’re at our healing center, you can expect to begin every day with a beautiful, nutritious meal prepared with whole, organic foods. Our staff will also incorporate a personally tailored supplement protocol to enhance your body’s ability to recover. After participating in a community meeting to set goals and learn more about the day’s schedule, the adjunctive therapies begin.

The morning is spent participating in holistic detoxification and therapeutic spa therapies, including sauna, ionic foot baths, acupuncture, massage, and more. After lunch, you’ll participate in a different activity each day, including nutrition education, and yoga therapy. Yoga is a vital component of our classroom and learning sessions, and it is used in tandem with the equine therapy, art therapy, life skills, and behavioral therapy available here at our center. Your day will close with a nutritious meal and other therapeutic activities, and it is all these components combined that comprise our whole-person approach to treatment here at Alternative to Meds Center.

Recover at Alternative To Meds Center

Recovering With Yoga

Yoga is a wondrously beneficial therapy we are pleased to offer here at Alternative to Meds Center. Therapy for addiction, mental health concerns, medication dependence, and even toxin overload doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective. Something as simple and relaxing as yoga can help you return to feeling good, sleeping right, and may even help you improve your mental health and avoid relapse — all without relying on harmful medications.

With adjunctive yoga therapy as part of a broader holistic treatment plan, you, too, can get the most out of your yoga therapy and experience how yoga can complement and enhance other treatment modalities. For more information about yoga therapy and how you can expect to incorporate yoga into your recovery routine at Alternative to Meds Center, contact our professionals today.


  1. Benavides-Pinzón, W. F., & Torres, J. L. (2017). Effects of yoga (pranayama) on lung function and lactate kinetics in sedentary adults at intermediate altitude. Revista de la Facultad de Medicina, 65(3), 467-472. Retrieved May 12, 2023, from 
  2. Lutz, D. J., Gipson, D. R., & Robinson, D. N. (2019). Yoga as an adjunct for treatment of substance abuse. Practice Innovations, 4(1), 13–27. 
  3. Wang, F., & Szabo, A. (2020). Effects of yoga on stress among healthy adults: A systematic review. Altern Ther Health Med, 26(4), AT6214. Retrieved May 12, 2023, from 
  4. Thirthalli, J., Naveen, G. H., Rao, M. G., Varambally, S., Christopher, R., & Gangadhar, B. N. (2013). Cortisol and antidepressant effects of yoga. Indian journal of psychiatry, 55(Suppl 3), S405-S408. 
  5. Jayaram, N., Varambally, S., Behere, R. V., Venkatasubramanian, G., Arasappa, R., Christopher, R., & Gangadhar, B. N. (2013). Effect of yoga therapy on plasma oxytocin and facial emotion recognition deficits in patients of schizophrenia. Indian journal of psychiatry, 55(Suppl 3), S409-S413. 
  6. Panjwani, U., Dudani, S., & Wadhwa, M. (2021). Sleep, Cognition, and Yoga. International journal of yoga, 14(2), 100–108.
  7. Ross, A., & Thomas, S. (2010). The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 16(1), 3-12. 
  8. McCall, M. C. (2013). How might yoga work? An overview of potential underlying mechanisms. Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy, 3(1), 1. 
  9. Kumar, L. R. (2011). Role of Anuloma Viloma pranayama in reducing stress in Chronic Alcoholics. Pakistan Journal of Physiology, 7(2), 11-16. Retrieved May 12, 2023, from 
  10. Devi, N. J., Singh, T. B., & Subramanya, P. (2014). Effect of yoga on depression and quality of life in drug abusers. Int. J. Ayurveda Pharma Res, 2(2), 61-65. Retrieved May 12, 2023, from 
  11. Woodyard C. (2011). Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. International journal of yoga, 4(2), 49–54.
  12. Osilla EV, Sharma S. Oxytocin. [Updated 2022 Jul 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  13. Scott, A. J., Webb, T. L., Martyn-St James, M., Rowse, G., & Weich, S. (2021). Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Sleep medicine reviews, 60, 101556.

Originally Published Sep 13, 2018 by Diane Ridaeus

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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