Okay, so I hear you already, “Don’t judge!” “Anything that gets people on the mat is a good idea!” “It’s all yoga and it’s all good!” But can drinking and practicing yoga be a good idea?
A few years ago when we started hearing about booze-infused classes, the argument offered was that nobody drank until after the asana was done. Now, apparently many classes encourage a glass or a bottle on your mat with interspersed posing and sipping. For most of us, that would be a surefire puddle on the mat, not to mention wobbly balance or bumping into neighbors. Either drinking after or during class seems to confuse why we are doing the ancient practices to begin with.
I’m a yoga therapist and much of my work is teaching people how to manage stress, not mask it. And after years of working in trauma and alcohol and drug recovery, getting the okay from the yoga community to get buzzed in class counters everything we’re trying to achieve with mindful breathing and tuning into our body’s intuition. The focus in such classes is outward — making yoga a party scene. (It’s also a clever way to boost business in the breweries and wineries that often host the events.) If someone already has issues with drinking, this nod to make it a part of their yoga practice is, frankly, dangerous.
When Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, defined yoga it was in terms of controlling the mind-stuff (chitta) or inhibiting the fluctuations of the mind. I doubt he would have felt a Shiraz or a dark ale would be part of the mix. While the current trends are toward outward performance of a variety of more and more difficult movements (a mode that originated in the fusing of athletic gymnastics in the 1920s and more traditional yoga poses) the origins of yoga are to build a stable mind and prepare it for meditation. The poses are meant to encourage greater ease in the body and open channels of energy to help the process along.
The introduction of goats, weed, kittens, dogs (doga) nudity (noga), paddleboards (SUP) and all manners of distraction into the yoga room (or lake or barn) are all great tricks to pull our minds away from presence. And now I sound like a total fuddy-duddy (after 40 years of teaching, I’m entitled to curmudgeon-ish moments) Or perhaps you have mastered the mind to such an extent that you need to challenge your concentration with nibbling kids, naked classmates and a shot of Jack Daniels? It makes more sense to me that if you drink, you could enjoy wine or a beer on social or festive occasions and let your yoga be clear and conscious.
I’ll give it this, if you choose to try out the trendy classes, be aware it’s just for fun and actually relaxing doesn’t require substances. Yoga is in itself a healer of stress, no accessories required. You and your breath are quite a team, let your personal practice become more and more subtle and inward-focused, and there is something better than fun waiting for you.
It’s called joy.
Beth Spindler, C-IAYT (certified yoga therapist) E-RYT 500, is a yoga practitioner since childhood and has taught for nearly four decades to students of all ages and levels. In addition to her asana training in Iyengar, Yin Yoga, and Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, Kundalini Yoga, Anusara she continues to study and practice Tantra, Ayurveda, herbology, and Tandava (sacred dance). She regularly writes and creates content for Yoga International Publications. Beth has a comprehensive history of teaching yoga in diverse settings, including medical, educational, retail and holistic institutions. Her new book, YOGA THERAPY FOR FEAR;Treating Anxiety, Depression and Rage, was released in June 2018.