Day 100 of going alcohol-free and I sit here in jubilation pondering on what started out as a ‘let’s just see what happens’ experiment. I didn’t even realise it had been 100 days until someone asked me – and it seems like it was meant to be.

One question that’s come up in times of temptation, has been to ask ‘why’; why do this? Why deprive myself of an enjoyment in life? Why make my life more difficult? Why continue, when you’ve already proved you can do it? But interestingly, I’ve always had an answer for myself.

And as I sit here and think about what’s helped me on this journey so far, I realise that in fact, my yoga practice has helped me hugely with the ‘whys’. But before you roll out your mat, there is a great deal of wisdom to be found in the concepts and philosophies that surround the physical postures. There are eight limbs of yogic philosophy… only one of which is dedicated to asana (the poses). Here’s what yoga philosophy can teach us about living an alcohol-free life….

  1. Ahimsa (non-violence)

The first limb; the ‘Yamas’ are guidelines for how to relate positively to our world. Within these guidelines, is the concept of Ahimsa – the practice of non-violence, including physical, mental, and emotional violence towards others and ourselves. In terms of digestion, the body doesn’t see alcohol as nourishing or even neutral, rather, it treats it as a poison and even changes the structure of the brain. Of course, not everyone has a violent relationship with alcohol, but aside from the more toxic relationships with alcohol such as addiction and the unhappy stats around alcohol-fuelled crime and violence, it’s interesting to consider whether we are practising violence towards our bodies when we drink, especially if we save all our weekly guideline units and binge drink…

  1. Brahmacharya (balance of energy)

The fourth ‘Yama’, is Brahmacharya. With courage and determination, we can create balance in our lives by finding control around excess and temptation. Brahmacharya teaches that when we do this, we have increased energy, which can be applied to more meaningful things in life!

  1. Aparigraha (non-coveting)

The final ‘Yama’ is Aparigraha – to let go of that which we do not need, or does not serve us. Does alcohol serve you? Do you need it? Could you let it go in order to make space for other things in your life that do serve you?

  1. Saucha (cleanliness)

The second limb of yoga; the ‘Niyamas’ consist of a few concepts which refer to our own duties towards ourselves, in order to live harmoniously in our own bodies and minds. The first concept, ‘Saucha’ is translated as ‘cleanliness' of the physical body and the mind. Cultivating Saucha in our lives helps us to keep a clear mind, and become aware of any bad habits or ways in which we use the external things in our life that do not serve us. It teaches us to treat our bodies with respect, to nourish and care for our bodies. Alcohol causes the body to lose precious vitamins, dehydrates us and offers no nutritional value. It’s pretty much the enemy if you’re looking to create a happy healthy body in terms of health. Read more here –

  1. Isvara Pranidhana (surrendering to a higher power)

The last concept within the ‘Niyamas’, Isvara Pranidhana is often translated as ‘surrendering to something greater than ourselves’. but people have often explained this as simply ‘letting go of expectations’; to let go of the stories that we attach to ourselves – to just do our best. By pondering daily on Isvara Pranidhana, we can practice self-compassion, which offers us a chance to get out of our heads and connect to something bigger than ourselves and the stories we tell ourselves about what we can and can’t do…

Want to put these yogic principles into practice? Take the challenge…

Ali is editor-at-large at Psychologies magazine, and a yoga and mindfulness teacher.

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