Scrolling through social media, it’s easy to understand why people think Yoga and alcohol go together. From “Beer Yoga” to yoga retreats that serve cocktails, there are certainly many people combining Yoga and drinking. However, from a traditional yogic perspective, Yoga should be practiced without the interference of alcohol.
You can do Yoga after drinking alcohol, but it’s not recommended. Yoga is an ancient tradition that seeks to unify the body and mind through experiencing the present moment fully. Alcohol can prove counterproductive, as it helps the user dull the senses and escape the present experience.
In the rest of this article, we will explore the more traditional practice of Yoga and its perspective on alcohol. We will see the spiritual reasons why yogis avoided alcohol and why many people today still embrace this part of the tradition.
A Spiritual Perspective on Drinking Alcohol
While different yogic schools will vary slightly on their perspectives on using substances, it is safe to say that alcohol can easily be viewed as the antithesis of Yoga. Practicing Yoga means moving with awareness, being able to completely experience the present moment through your breath and the physical sensations in your body.
Alcohol Dulls the Senses
When you drink alcohol, your senses are dulled, and you cannot have the full experience in the present moment. Your consciousness will be fuzzy, and you will not be able to be fully awake and alive the way you are when you are sober.
For someone who is not engaged in any spiritual practices, having a few drinks can feel like a great freedom.
Alcohol can turn someone who feels shy, guarded, uptight or tense into someone who is suddenly social, singing, dancing, and letting loose. In this way, the flexibility and freedom that alcohol seems to bring can feel exciting and free.
However, this sense of freedom that alcohol can inspire only lasts for a short time. Once it has run its course, sobriety returns, and possibly a hangover sets in. Despite its damaging physical effects, that feeling of freedom can keep people coming back.
This can lead people down a dangerous road as they continue to reach for a drink to escape their overwhelming inner worlds.
What the alcohol is doing is quieting down the parts of you that are getting in the way of you letting loose and feeling free. These are the parts of you that tell yourself that you can’t dance or that you can’t approach a certain person.
Alcohol drowns them out, but once you sober up, these parts of you are still there. Alcohol is not a long-term solution.
Spiritual Practices Address Your Issues
Spiritual practices are designed to help you address the parts of you that are keeping you uptight, shy, and guarded. Practices like Yoga are designed to bring you in complete communion with the present moment, where your mind and your body are in the same place.
As you breathe through your asanas, you gain the ability to bring your mind away from its many thoughts and focus on the physical sensation of the moment.
You will have your own experiences that help truly heal you. You may have moments where you realize that you are not your thoughts and that you have the power to bring your mind back to the present moment at any time.
Through time and practice, it is through these types of spiritual practices that you address the parts of yourself you once quieted through alcohol.
If you are committed to your practice, giving up alcohol is a natural part of the journey.
You may find yourself wanting to be in full consciousness at all times because you recognize that only then can you deal with the parts of yourself that cause you trouble.
To hear Sadhguru discuss the effects of drinking alcohol in the modern world, you can check out this short lecture on Youtube:
Patanjali’s Perspective on Cleanliness
As your yoga practice deepens, you may find yourself more interested in the yogic way of life and the philosophy behind the practice.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are widely considered to be the oldest and most authoritative text on the practice of Yoga. Many of the traditions still alive today are rooted in what is outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
8 Separate Limbs Of Yoga
Patanjali describes 8 separate limbs of Yoga that cover everything from the asanas themselves to the practice of our breath and our attitude to ourselves and our environment.
The very first part of the niyamas is a concept called saucha and it incorporates many aspects of cleanliness, including physically and energetically. The second limb, the niyamas, describes how we should treat ourselves in order to deepen our practice and live in a more yogic way.
How to Practice Saucha
Practicing saucha can take on many different forms.
It can mean practicing Yoga in a clean place, which can physically mean a clean area, a clean mat, and clean clothes. However, it can also mean an area that is not full of possessions that you may cling to but no longer need.
It also means taking care of what you are putting into your body.
This means different things to different people, but it often means abstaining from alcohol and other substances that would serve to toxify the physical and energetic body. Eating healthy meals with natural ingredients is also part of practicing saucha in our diets.
The niyamas actually come before the asanas in Patanjali’s Eight Limbs.
This helps us remember that Yoga is not all about what we do on the mat. It is how we move throughout the day that prepares us for our actual practice on the mat. When we view Yoga holistically in this way, it can help us give up habits that are no longer serving us outside of the yoga studio itself.
Some people may enjoy the occasional drink and still benefit from their yoga practice. However, if you are looking to deepen your practice and live in a more yogic way, avoiding substances that take you away from your current experience in the present moment is a great place to begin.