If you’re someone who’s a smoker, and you’ve tried to quit a couple of times, you probably know how it goes: You switch to e-cigarettes, or nicotine gum. Ask your friends to stop you from going over the limit. Start making a note in your book to keep track of how many cigarettes you’ve smoked each day, in the hope that you can gradually reduce that figure.
Sometimes, it even works. For a week or so, you don’t touch a cigarette. When you see friends or colleagues smoking, you stop yourself and resolutely avoid the common hangouts. And then, one day your boss decides to yell at you for no reason. Or you attend that reunion and, before you know it, you’ve had one drink too many and are on your third cigarette. Or you just succumb to the infamous “just one drag can’t hurt” syndrome.
So, when a friend of mine told me about how yoga can help a person give up smoking, and also related several success stories, I was naturally curious. I asked two of our Urban Company partners, whether yoga could really help a person give up their nicotine addiction. Here’s what they had to say:
Shinoj Varghese has been a yoga instructor for over 5 years now, however, before he took up yoga, he also used to smoke. In his words, “It’s important to keep in mind that yoga is not a readymade solution for those who want to give up the habit. But, if you’re serious about your decision, and you have the will, yoga can definitely help.”
Another yoga instructor, Sapna Sondhi Dutt, who has been running her studio, Yoga With Sapna for over a decade now, believes, “The physical asanas in yoga can help you develop steadiness of the mind. This in turn, strengthens your resolve and, helps you develop your will power so that you can give up not just smoking, but any other habit.”
So what exercises can help you kick the butt?
Like Shinoj and Sapna mentioned, there’s no instantaneous miracle cure. However, they both agreed that, if someone practises certain exercises religiously, for a few months, they’ll definitely find the struggle to quit smoking that much easier. With that in mind, here are three techniques that will help you in your quest:
Cleanse Your Respiratory System:
Most breathing exercises will help you with this. A really effective exercise is the Kapalbhati. With this, you burn out any mucus that’s congested in your respiratory passageways and cleanse them so that they are free to take in oxygen and pranic energy.
However, it is important to ensure that you perform Kapalbhati properly or you may end up hurting yourself. You can also get a yoga instructor at home to help you.
- Sit straight with your spine erect and cross your legs in front of you.
- Take in a deep breath and exhale quickly and suddenly, making a puffing sound while you do it. Focus on exhaling forcefully and not on the inhalation. With every exhaling breath, say to yourself, “I’m pushing out all the noxious gases right from the depths of my lungs and making my breathing passageways clearer.
- When you exhale, draw your abdominal muscles inward simultaneously. Your abdomen should rise when you inhale and fold when you exhale.
- Continue for 10 breaths and then take a break. Perform 2 more similar sets.
Strengthen The Lungs:
This is also a good way to measure the toll that smoking has taken on your lungs. Exercises like Dhanurasana expand the chest and someone who’s a smoker will start coughing or spluttering because their lungs are not in good shape. However, it will also gradually help you to strengthen them as well.
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground about shoulder distance apart.
- Place both palms on the floor on either side keeping your as close to your chest as possible. Your fingers should point towards your feet.
- Inhale and slowly push your pelvis off the floor. Use your core muscles to push your trunk as high as you can.
- Try to keep your trunk perpendicular to the floor while supporting yourself on your hands and feet. Allow your head to hang back and breath easily through the nostrils.
- Stay in this position for about 30 seconds and then release.
- Repeat this activity 5-10 times.
Calm The Mind:
Balancing exercises like Vrikshasana (the tree pose) are extremely effective for improving focus, concentration, and ensuring the overall balance between mind, body, and soul.
- Stand erect. Keep the feet together.
- Fold the right leg and placed it at the top of left thighs with the toes of right leg should point downwards. The right leg should perpendicular to the left leg.
- Extend your arms above your head and inhale. Let your palms touch each other.
- Balance the pose for as long as possible. Try to keep your spine straight and feel the stretching from toes to fingers.
- Exhale and bring your arms and leg down.
- Repeat the same with your left leg to finish one set.
- Do 3-5 sets.
To round it up, Sapna has one more suggestion that can be useful- the yoga Nidra. At night, before you go to sleep, make a resolve to yourself. As you lie down, relax your body parts one by one – the feet, the knees, right to your neck, back, and mind. When the body is in that very relaxed state just before you fall asleep, tell yourself in simple wording that you can repeat to yourself every night- “I have the will and I will give up smoking.” Repeat it three times.
You can change the wording, but it’s important to do it because it’s the last thought that stays in your mind. It keeps playing in your mind so that, even after you wake up, it will constantly remind you of your resolve, and can evolve into a very powerful practice.
So how long will it take?
Ultimately, both Sapna and Shinoj say that it’s important to remember that this is not exactly a miracle cure. It’s something that first requires complete focus and a strong resolve and then, it will still take some time.
Shinoj himself took a while to quit smoking. According to him, the trick is to go slowly. When he first made his decision to quit, he set a deadline of one month for himself. Ultimately, he took 3 whole months to completely kick the butt. He explains, “Your body is a temple. If you make too many drastic changes, it will refuse to accept them and you’ll see a lot of side effects. What’s important is to take the first step.”
It won’t be easy, but it’s definitely worth a try. Why not start today and book a yoga class to help you through your journey?