Champagne Savasana 

Is there a place for alcohol during yoga practice? 

What sounds like a picturesque nirvana could quickly become a distracted hyperextension, spectacular sprain, and a mood that falls well short of the clarity and poise associated with yogic awareness. A long way from the therapeutic glamour promised on the “Gin with Yin” sales page.  

Yogic fundamentals of skillful action and courageous surrender are in opposition to alcohol indulgence. We all know that yoga is so much more than physical movement, but let’s simply address physical safety before even considering the deeper layers.  

Yoga connects you to your body so that you may expand healthfully into the tissues, and into subtlety well beyond the mundane – bringing the body along with it. As Harvard Medical School reported “Yoga can functionally develop the body by improving the body’s ability to interpret and respond to nerve signals sent back and forth between the muscles and the brain… increased connectedness of mind, nerves and muscles.”  

Alcohol disconnects you from your body. Numerous studies show a clear relationship between alcohol consumption and increased risk of injury. A study on alcohol-induced proprioceptive and cognitive impairment on university students, published in The Journal of Physical Therapy Science 2012, stated that balance is affected “immediately after alcohol intake and for up to six hours afterwards”. Also, that consuming alcohol before a task requiring concentration “would cause more accidents and injuries.” (Cho + Choi 2012).  

Yoga is intended to foster concentration, balance and coherent breathing – all of which are hindered by alcohol. Alcohol is known to decrease our sense of awareness and dull our senses. We’ve all heard people say, “I was out of my head” or “off my face”, “blind drunk”, “hammered”, or any other number of analogies. None of which we would advertise to draw a yoga student or holiday seeker. 

Are we diluting the power of our yoga with society’s weakness for a strong beverage? 

 “Yoga is the union of the individual self with the universal self” (Iyengar, 2014). 

If yoga can relax the mind and body so profoundly, why would we think that a wine glass is needed to relax us? In fact, yoga has long been used to treat addictions and even specifically to overcome alcohol dependance.  

Our personal responsibility in the collective culture of yoga

Yoga is over 5000 years old and hasn’t aligned with alcohol in its long successful history. Since neolithic times, human life has existed without the need to market “vineyard vinyasas”. Our visual media makes it look pretty when selling retreats – often “wellbeing” retreats.  

A statement by Osho, no stranger to controversial excess and aberrant behaviour himself, “Alcohol is nothing but a chemical strategy to forget your miseries, anxieties, your problems, to forget yourself. My whole effort here is to help you to remember yourself – and you want to forget yourself.” 

The choice to advertise alcohol with yoga events seems too easy, particularly toward those who are overworked, overstimulated and desperate for an escape from the hustle, into a luxurious effortless world of lithe bodies stretching under a sunset. But the best location, most fashionable active wear and most expensive champagne is not glamourous when yoga gets blamed for avoidable injuries that would likely not have occurred without alcohol. 

The promised Eastern approach to a powerfully fulfilled life is less effective when all the stressed Western lifestyle habits are welcome to come too.  

Yoga is a state associated with growth and clarity. Yoga teachers must hold themselves to a high standard if we are to implement the teachings in a manner that does any justice to the lineages we claim to hold sacred. 

The solution

One idea is “Choosing low or no alcohol alternatives. These may have the same or similar taste but with less or no alcohol,” (Injury matters. 2023). 

Or, save it for after yoga if it is to be consumed at all. People have been found to be less likely to drink in excess, and sometimes not even at all, after making yoga part of their lives. 

Yoga is a celebration all of its own

Written by Julie Marshall in collaboration with Josh Pryor, Yoga Australia CEO  

References

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