Alcohol as wellness: Why aren’t we doing better?

Several months ago, we at Twist Yoga received an email invitation to teach a community yoga class at a large local event.

Our initial reaction was Yes!… until the event organizer clarified his vision:  Class would be held in the wine garden, tickets would include a drink before, and after, yoga.

Ugh.  Hard pass.

Alcohol, at its very existence, is not why we recoiled at the invitation. Lots of us enjoy a glass or two on occasion – myself included. (Although can we have empathy for the many, many people for whom the ability to enjoy “just a glass or two” is, in fact, deadly?)
I am alarmed not by alcohol itself, but by the deeply problematic culture associating alcohol with health & vitality. It is the responsibility of those of us in the business of yoga & wellness to clap back at this messaging. Loudly.
We need not have to be sober ourselves to be concerned about this.
In a world saturated with cutesy wino-mom memes, advertising messaging and *wink wink* it’s-5’oclock-somewhere wine jokes, I’m on a mission to reinforce the idea that self care does not equal drinking.
There is not a day that goes by that my Instagram feed doesn’t contain at least one Alcohol + Yoga event or sponsored offering.

Vino and Vinyasa. Beer Barre. Pilates & Pints. High Vibes Yoga.

Then there’s this one (I can’t even, because this was posted by a 200-hr level teacher trainer): MOFO Yoga – Want to drink and do yoga at the same time?!  Katy is your lady!!  BYOB, because we don’t share!”

Aaaaaaah!  What. The. Actual. Fuck?

Consider this:

  • For every “cute” alcohol/yoga meme posted on Instagram, there is a woman who skipped morning practice and is having trouble getting out of bed because of the way the alcohol has left her hurting.
  • For every Pints/Pilates class offered, there are dozens of women in deep shame because she had way too much to drink last night and sent text messages she wished she hadn’t, even though she had every intention to control herself.  Again. 
  • For every cheeky “mom juice” joke, there is a yogi who is also a mother who desperately wishes to reevaluate her relationship to alcohol, but finds herself powerless against the “Rose All Day”/”You Earned This” societal narrative.
  • For every woman who signs up for a yoga retreat to carve out some time for healthy self reflection & healing, there is another who is heartbroken at the wasted “girls weekend” culture she encounters at some retreats.

I suspect organizers of these yoga/alcohol events probably aren’t thinking about this when they think to offer a health-based-event based around booze. Most people don’t. But this is a good time for those of us in the wellness industry to revisit our responsibilities as they relate to alcohol messaging.


We are in an unprecedented time where people are reckoning with the impact of alcohol use.  From an individual to global levels, we are suffering greatly, and the yoga industry has a responsibility to create safe spaces, free of the “Wino Mom/you deserve this” alcohol narrative.

It’s time for the yoga community – from the solo teacher offering a cheeky boozy yoga event to local studios considering programming to international lifestyle brands – to acknowledge the alarming and documented public health issue of alcohol and women, and become more thoughtful in the messages we choose to send through our programming.

Because addiction is a skyrocketing problem in the demographic of women, who coincidentally happen to be the majority of the yoga practitioners  in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Female alcohol use disorder in the United States increased by 83.7% between 2002 and 2013, according to a 2017 study sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
  • A 2018 study found a steep rise in the rate of alcohol-related ER visits between 2006 and 2014, and increases were larger for women than men.
  • Death from liver cirrhosis rose in women from 2000 to 2013.
  • High-risk drinking, defined as more than three drinks in a day or seven in a week for women, is on the rise among women by about 58%, according to a 2017 study comparing habits from 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. (@tellbetterstories2018 via @webmd) :

Why aren’t we talking more about this in the Pacific Northwest yoga community?

A quick search in several local FB yoga groups revealed a few threads on the topic. Comments mostly include people defending the boozy yoga movement, it appears primarily because they had a boozy yoga event to sell.  The few dissenters received a smack on the face response which pointed out they should practice “non-judgement about the offering as a basis of yoga,” *cough cough* sprititual bypassing BS.

The biggest defense of the proponents of mixing alcohol with yoga included that of “building community”.  Secondary defenses include: “Well people weren’t getting drunk. They were just enjoying a drink after yoga.”

But why?

We are selling health. And as such, it’s deeply problematic that we as an industry are sharing messages of normalization of Alcohol-as-a-Wellness-Practice for a myriad of reasons:  Including that we know the risks of alcohol outweigh the benefits, that drinking has skyrocketed among women, who happen to be our primary yoga customer, and that alcohol is a deadly drug, not a lifestyle accessory.

We can do better than perpetuating a culture that says THIS is cute rather than tragic.

Be aware. The alcohol industry is making a FORTUNE off of the medicinal use of alcohol to soothe skyrocketing levels of anxiety and depression in women.

This $220 billion dollar industry predominantly ran by men and increasingly targeted at women wants you to believe you need alcohol to survive being human.

PNW Yoga: Let’s change this messaging on grassroots level.  Big Alcohol certainly doesn’t care to, because they don’t care about you. 

I’ll personally offer this:   I want you to know:  You do not need alcohol to connect in community.  You do not need alcohol to survive motherhood. You do not need alcohol to feel like you belong.

We are so much more capable than alcohol culture messaging gives us credit for. Since most of the readers here are women, this message is for us:  We have grit and perseverance and we do not need to turn to alcohol to get through the challenging times.

What we need is support, and authentic community, and a reminder of the incredible humans we already are.  A wine bottle is not REAL community.  Or a valid support system.

Culturally we are health and wellness obsessed but turn away from the facts around alcohol. We have made it an accessory.  It is not.

A Vino and Vinyasa event. Targeted messaging. The joke of a wine-filled sippy cup…. they all add up to a powerful message.  There are plenty of places to drink (aka just about everywhere these days). That is why Twist Yoga is committed to providing a yoga mat that is a safe place for all people, including those trying to get or maintain sobriety and recovery and those who believe alcohol and fitness do not mix.

I, for one, am willing to speak up on the alarming normalizing of Alcohol-as-Wellness messaging:  One of our published and posted tenants at Twist Yoga is that we will never offer substance as wellness programming, no matter how much money we stand to lose.  This promise, as well as the rest of our pillars, can be found here.

If you are saddened by alcohol culture and related messaging, it’s ok to have uncomfortable conversations, even if your beloved friends and yoga colleagues offer booze and yoga events.   I personally believe this is why more of us aren’t challenging this, because we have SO MANY friends who are trying to pay their rent by offering these events.

You can love and respect your friends; you need not love their offerings.

Let’s change this narrative.