Hatha Yoga in Addiction Recovery: A Beginner’s Guide
Learning the practice of Hatha yoga in addiction recovery will assist your physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Hatha Yoga is one of the more popular types of Yoga and is what generally comes to mind when you think of a yoga class.
Classes for Hatha Yoga are led by a qualified instructor and usually last for 45 to 90 minutes. Most classes will offer teachings for beginners, intermediates, and advanced Hatha students.
The benefits of heath yoga in addiction recovery really are limitless and should be considered by anyone looking to challenge their mind, body, and spirit.
Hatha Yoga consists of 3 main elements:
There are numerous poses for Hatha Yoga, ranging from poses for beginners to poses for advanced students.
Hatha focuses mainly on physical techniques, with its origins and traditions dating back to as far as the 2nd Century BCE.
The purpose of Hatha Yoga is to provide relief from physical pain, spiritual pain, and environmental pain.
The origins of Hatha Yoga
‘Hatha’ translates to ‘Force’ or ‘Forceful’ in English, and is part of the original Sanskrit dialect.
Sanskrit is considered the language of the Indian Gods, dates back to 2nd Century BCE. Sanskrit is a type of philosophical language used by Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists, and was often used in ancient poetry, religious scripture/philosophy, and drama.
During the time that Yoga was developed, Sanskrit was the most commonly spoken and written language in India. Sanskrit was translated to English in the early 19th century. However, it was not until the 1960’s that Yoga really gained popularity in English-speaking countries.
The original Sanskrit names for Hatha’s Asanas (yoga poses) are still used by many Yoga teachers and students around the world. This enables yogis to feel connected to the original Hatha scripture and to other yogis on a global level.
The focus of heath yoga
Hatha Yoga focuses on balancing the mind and providing relief from pain through the power of Hatha, which is created through physical poses (Asanas).
Whilst engaging in a pose, a student will try to regulate their breathing (pranayama) and still their mind. As such, Hatha is one of the more physical types of Yoga.
Although Hatha is primarily a physical practise, it does also incorporate breathing techniques.
Additionally, depending on the teacher, it can also incorporate hand gestures (mudras), meditation, visualisation, and chanting (mantras).
Hatha Yoga is generally taught in a room of average temperature and is taken at a slow pace. Because of this, it is suitable for most people and provides a great introduction to Yoga.
Learning Hatha Yoga Asanas (poses) in addiction recovery
If you’re interested in trying Hatha Yoga, there are many, many poses to choose from.
We would suggest starting with a class or trying some of the more simple poses in the beginning. You can also access Yoga classes and instruction by joining our wellness hub
Because of yogas flexibility, it is a form of exercise that appeals to all ages groups and abilities.
Footwork and breathing are both important elements of achieving Hatha Asanas correctly (and safely). For this reason, we would strongly suggest accessing a Yoga class if you have never tried Yoga before.
What to expect during a Hatha Yoga class
Hatha yoga classes are available locally in most places. They are also available to access here online at Recoverlution. This can be particularly helpful for those with a busy lifestyle or who want to practice yoga at home.
Hatha Yoga classes will usually have a limited number of spaces, so it is always best to pre-book.
Classes are usually held in sports facilities, halls, or spacious and well-ventilated rooms.
All you need for a Hatha Yoga class is comfortable, loose clothing and your own Yoga mat (if you prefer not to use the ones the classes offer out on loan).
The practice of Hatha yoga is usually carried out barefoot, but again this is down to personal preference.
Hatha Yoga classes provide a great space to connect with yourself and other like-minded yogis.
Before the class begins
Before the Hatha Yoga class begins, be sure to inform your instructor if you suffer from any of the following:
- Dizzy spells
- A current injury
- You are pregnant
- Sciatica or back pain
- Any other condition or illness that may affect your balance
You will still be able to partake in Hatha Yoga, but your teacher will be mindful of ensuring you are working within your limits. They will make sure you’re not attempting any poses that could be potentially dangerous.
Hatha Yoga warm-up
The Hatha Yoga warm-up will usually consist of preparing the mind. You’ll check in with your inner dialogue and how you are feeling. You will be encouraged to ‘let go’ of any tension or anything that is bothering you.
This helps to clear the mind and prepare you for the class ahead. Letting go of any stress can usually be achieved by tuning in and focusing on the breath.
The Asana phase of Hatha Yoga
The main phase of the Hatha Yoga class will usually start off with Sun Salutations or simple asanas to get the body warm and moving.
The teacher will then move on to a series of poses that you will hold for a time whilst trying to keep your breathing even and regulated.
There are literally hundreds of Hatha Yoga poses to choose from. Your Yoga teacher will select a variation of poses for you to try, giving you the opportunity to stretch each muscle group.
Your teacher will also offer modifications to the poses for those that are not so flexible. These are also great for people just starting or coming back from a break, who struggle with back problems, illness, injury, balance, or who are pregnant.
This ensures that everyone can join in and everyone can benefit.
Helpful Tips For Learning Hatha Yoga Poses in Addiction Recovery
- Try to focus on one spot!
- Use your breathing so you can relax your muscles to reach into each pose more and more.
- If you lose your balance, don't worry, just try again or try the easier adaptation of the pose.
- Try the Asana pose modifications if you find the poses too hard to begin with.
- Only hold each Asana pose for as long as it is comfortable. You can push yourself a little further once you have mastered balancing and breathing during each pose.
- Do not compare yourself to other students, unless it is for inspiration. Some students may appear extremely flexible, but this is usually because they’ve had a lot of practise. Also, remember that everyone's flexibility and body type varies.
- Yoga takes practice. The more you practice, the better you will get!
During the class
During the class, your teacher will often incorporate Pranayamas (breathing exercises), to help you regulate your breathing and become more aware of the breath. There are many different Pranayamas, some of which are more advanced than others. You should only do what you feel comfortable with.
After the Asanas
After the Asana phase has finished, the teacher will then guide you to relax and let go of any remaining tension.
This part of the class will usually include more breathing techniques to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This allows the body and mind to relax and reach a state of calmness.
The teacher may use some kind of guided meditation or progressive relaxation for this purpose. Most people find this part of the class extremely relaxing, energizing, and enjoyable.
After the class
After the class will be your chance to approach and speak to your Yoga instructor about any concerns or questions you may have. It will also be a great opportunity for you to connect with others in the class.
The benefits of Hatha Yoga in addiction recovery
Hatha Yoga has been well researched by scientists and has been proven to offer many physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits. 
The many benefits of Hatha Yoga:
Physical benefits of Hatha Yoga:
- Improved balance and posture
- Improved flexibility
- Stronger and longer muscles
- Relief of chronic back pain 
- Reduced inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia
- Reduced physical symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes
- Increased mobility and reduced pain for neck problems 
- Improved symptoms of fatigue for multiple sclerosis sufferers
- Greater quality of sleep and duration of sleep
- Lowers blood pressure
Emotional and mental benefits of Hatha Yoga:
- Reduced acute reactivity and anxiety in PTSD sufferers
- Helps to relieve everyday depression and anxiety symptoms
- Improves overall mood and wellbeing
- Relaxes, focuses, and calms the mind
- Encourages mindfulness, a practice that focuses on the here and now
- Encourages meditation
- Increases overall quality of life
- Provides the opportunity to connect with like-minded others
- Activates the brain's parasympathetic nervous system, promoting feelings of relaxation, calmness, and balance
- Reduces stress levels
- Encourages healthy eating habits
- Reduces cravings
Spiritual benefits of Hatha Yoga in addiction recovery:
- Increases awareness of your body and emotions
- Helps you feel connected to yourself, the practice, and to the principles of Hatha Yoga
- As the ancients did, you can use Hatha Yoga as a way of connecting to the Gods (or God)
- Assists in fostering a more virtuous and mindful way of living
- Assists in helping you feel more connected to the planet and the universe
5 Fun Facts about Hatha Yoga you probably didn't know
1. Hatha means ‘Force,’ but it also means Sun and Moon
In English, Hatha translates to “Force,” but in Sanskrit, the “Ha” in Hatha means Sun, and the “Tha” in Hatha means Moon. This makes sense as Hatha Yoga is ultimately about balancing energy.
As it is, the moon represents feminine energy and the sun represents masculine energy. A bit like Yin and Yang, Hatha encourages us to find a balance within ourselves and between these two energies.
Additionally, Hatha encourages us to find balance between the physical body and the mind through practicing Hatha Asana.
2. A fish is responsible for the foundations of Hatha Yoga!
The first references around the origins of Hatha Yoga were found to be documented in the year 100 AD. The story of its origins tells of a man called Shiva who developed the concept of Hatha Yoga whilst sitting alone on a deserted island.
When he returned back home, Shiva relayed his ideas of Hatha to his wife, which a fish overheard. Then, the fish was said to have become an enlightened being called Matsyendranath, meaning “Lord of the Fishes.”Afterward, the man and his wife were credited as being the founders of Hatha Yoga.
3. Just 20 minutes of Hatha Yoga in addiction recovery a day could sharpen your mind and increase brain power
Hatha Yoga is one of the most researched types of Yoga, and is scientifically proven to offer countless benefits to the body and mind.
One of the most attractive benefits of Yoga is that it is proven to increase brain power and sharpen the mind. It could even help you recall jokes properly without ruining the punchline!
Now, we are not promising you will become the next Albert Einstein, but Yoga has proven to create new pathways in the brain and increase the function of parts of the brain responsible for processing information, cognition, memory, and concentration. This is certainly an appealing concept to most!
4. Hatha Yoga can improve your sex life!
As well as improving flexibility, reducing stress, and increasing blood flow to “down there,” Hatha Yoga can also improve the quality of the orgasms you experience.
Yoga strengthens the pelvic floor muscles, which rapidly contract when a woman orgasms. Stronger pelvic floor muscles mean stronger orgasms!
An Indian study has also found that regularly practicing Hatha Yoga could also deter premature ejaculation in men. 
5. Hatha Yoga in addiction recovery keeps you young….and fit
An 85-year-old Yoga teacher named Bette Calman of Australia is currently listed in the Guinness World Records as the world's oldest yoga teacher!
However, this is being petitioned against by 90-year-old Gladys Morris, a yoga teacher from Oldham.
Imagine reaching that age, let alone still being able to instruct a Yoga class!
Hatha Yoga in a nutshell
Hatha Yoga is a great type of Yoga for beginners and serves as a wonderful introduction to Yoga in general.
However, that does not mean that it is necessarily easy!
Depending on the effort put into Hatha Yoga and the Asanas used, Hatha can still be very physically and mentally challenging for beginners and more advanced students alike.
Much like any type of practice or sport, Hatha grows with you, just as you can grow with Hatha.
The beauty of Hatha Yoga is that it is so accessible. Hatha Yoga can be practised at home with no special equipment or need for a gym membership!
There are numerous ways of accessing Hatha Yoga, including face-to-face classes, virtual classes, and online instruction. You can even join us here at Recoverlution and reap all of the benefits promised by Hatha Yoga by subscribing to our Wellness Hub
Types of yoga: A simple guide to the different types of yoga
Proven yoga benefits: Backed by science
- Castleman, Michael. “Want Better Sex? Do Yoga.” Psychology Today. July 1, 2010. Accessed: July 15, 2011.
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Yoga: What you need to know. Updated May 2019.
- Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, Mclean RM, Forciea MA. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017;166(7):514-530. doi:10.7326/M16-2367
- Li Y, Li S, Jiang J, Yuan S. Effects of yoga on patients with chronic nonspecific neck pain: A PRISMA systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(8):e14649. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000014649.