Yoga Helps to Quit Smoking: Roll Out the Yoga Mat
Kicking any addictive habit, such as smoking, is a tough physical and psychological challenge. For a smoker who’s ready to put down the lighter, there’s unfortunately no pure “cure” for the smoking-addiction. There are, however, unquestionably some ways to make the process more manageable than it may seem at first glance to the smoker who is contemplating kicking the habit. The practice of yoga actually provides a number of aids to a quitting smoker, in staving off cravings, in replacing the old habit with healthier and more productive ones, and in celebrating and enjoying a new, healthy lifestyle.
Yoga Uses Something Smokers Already Know
The habit of smoking doesn’t fit with the yogic ideal of treating one’s body as a temple, but strangely enough; smokers do practice a few habits that fit with a healthy yoga way of life. For someone struggling to kick the smoking habit, it may help to consider that some elements of the smoking habit will have their therapeutic counterpart in the practice of yoga. Specifically, smokers already recognize the benefit to mental health of taking a few minutes’ “time out,” several times throughout the day. At times, the cigarette itself may be primarily an excuse to step away for five minutes, stand outside and contemplate a different view, practice some deep inhaling and exhalation exercises, and regroup one’s mind for whatever is next on the day’s agenda. Viewed without the cigarette, this would be an immensely healthy mental-health habit. As it is, of course, the cigarette component makes the habit severely detrimental to your health. But as you contemplate quitting, consider ways in which you can carve out this sort of break for yourself without the element of the cigarette. Yoga breathing practice, mind-centering exercises, awareness of surroundings, and attunement to your own body’s need to “step away” briefly are all elements of a healthy yoga practice, and may be used to replace the smoke-break which you used to use for the same purpose.
Yoga Provides a Healthful Alternative for Coping with Stress
Although many people smoke simply because they enjoyed it when they began, the habit of smoking generally becomes one of the main coping-mechanisms for any smoker when they feel stressed. An important element of any smoking-cessation plan is to develop new tools for dealing with stress, and reprogramming yourself to employ those tools rather than reach for the pack of smokes. Yoga is the ideal tool for this purpose. Regular practice of yoga includes fouled breathing exercises, which can be used both on and off the yoga-mat to reduce stress-reactions. The yoga exercises themselves also contribute to mental well-being, stabilizing mood-altering chemicals in your system, increasing circulation, helping you reduce feelings of anxiety, and finding more restful sleep. All of these benefits happen to match up with some of the symptoms you’re likely to experience as you go through withdrawal (such as anxiety, sleeplessness, and moodiness). Yoga will put you in a better state of mind and body for enduring the stresses of withdrawal, and will specifically alleviate some of the symptoms of that withdrawal. Every doctor will recommend an exercise program as an integral part of your smoking-cessation plan. Yoga not only fits that bill, but will be of invaluable assistance to you as you work to kick the habit.
Celebrating a Healthy Yoga Lifestyle
Although you may not have made the ideal of a “healthy lifestyle” one of your top priorities before, your resolution to stop smoking is a perfect time to open yourself up to a wider change. Now is the perfect time to embrace some of the yoga ideals, such as healthy natural foods, avoidance of mind-altering chemicals, and (of course) refraining from smoking. There’s no denying that the initial period of withdrawal from addictive nicotine can be difficult, but consider the lasting effect of an overall healthier lifestyle compared to the short-lived satisfaction of a nicotine-fix. Healthy foods, regular exercise with the yoga mat, and the practice of focused breathing and meditation actually give you much more effective ways to “feel good.” A spark of interest in a new lifestyle-direction might be just the diversion you need when you might otherwise be mourning for the loss of a habit you’ve enjoyed. So make the most of your new yoga self! Instead of buying a carton of cigarettes, buy yourself some yoga clothing that makes you feel active and attractive. Try some new foods, or even a new marketplace like a local co-op. Integrate your yoga practice into your day with short meditations or breathing exercises. Let other people see and celebrate the “new you” and you’ll quickly find that you like the new you too!