That's right, yoga gave me a better butt. I say this not merely in reference to my much stronger physique from yoga, though that is a lovely perk. Rather, I'm referring to the trade I made with yoga that turned out to be one of the best deals of my life. I offered up the butts of my smoking habit to yoga and not only did it happily accept my offering, but also gave me, among many other wonderful things, that better butt in return. I've spoken briefly of my success with smoking cessation through yoga, but I feel compelled to write about it in more detail at the moment. Perhaps I can share something that will be useful to my fellow smoking cessation warriors out there.
First and most importantly: never underestimate the power of intention! If you've been to any yoga classes, you've probably heard more than a few times an instructor suggest that you "set an intention for your practice." This can be anything from focusing your attention on a particular breakthrough you'd like to have on your mat, to opening yourself up for greater insight into something off your mat. I like to practice this every time I come to my mat. I can't count the number of times I've reached deeper into a pose or had an "Aha!" moment that was directly related to an intention I set for my practice. The power of an intentionally focused mind and will is one of the strongest forces on Earth.
I approached my Yogic Renaissance with the expressed intention of quitting smoking and living a healthy lifestyle. The gritty details: I was a half-pack a day smoker for 6 years, had already tried to quit once, and relapsed in 1 year. That year was beset with cravings, weight gain, and general malaise. I had gone "cold turkey" and that applied to my recovery as well. I did nothing to replace the void left by smoking except eat more and give myself plenty of pep talks. That year did teach me a lot, though. I learned that, for me, the psychological addiction to cigarettes was far, far more intense than the physical addiction. I used cigarettes as a crutch to help me cope with every little stress in life, as well as every little insecurity. Taking them away was like ripping a baby's blanket from her hands and leaving her laying there cold, exposed, and downright unhappy. And let's face it, I enjoyed smoking. I even relished it. I wouldn't have been smoking if I didn't find pleasure in it. So the challenge was to find something I enjoyed more than I enjoyed smoking, and for that something to be mutually exclusive to the dirty little habit, so that I could effectively push it out of my life.
Enter Yoga! It didn't happen overnight. In fact, it took nearly a year of yoga every single day to completely kill the smoking demon. Yes, I felt ashamed smoking in between yoga practices. Yes, I was paranoid that other people in classes could smell cigarettes on my clothes or hair. Yes, I dreaded that someone from class or even a teacher might catch me on the street mid-puff and I'd be mortified. Yes, I felt like a hypocrite for a while. I even felt unworthy of calling myself a yogi as long as I was smoking. But I loved yoga so much. I loved the way it made me feel physically and mentally, I loved the deeper breaths I could take, I loved the noticeably lower stress levels, I loved the bliss I felt after practice, I loved the community, I loved the ideas and philosophy of it, I loved the feeling of being at home wherever I may be. I LOVE YOGA! The more I found to love, the more I threw myself into it, and the less I wanted to smoke. Surprise!
The real turning point for me, I think, was the day that I decided to confront all those feelings of shame and paranoia about being a "smoking yogi." In a beginner's class that I had begun to regularly attend, the teacher asked us each to give a reason why we were practicing yoga. When my turn came, I said, "I'm practicing yoga to quit smoking." There was a pause. "Ugh, they must think I'm terrible, gross, full of you-know-what,” I thought. And then came the story that somebody else used to smoke too, and yoga helped so much, and how great it was to be quitting, and encouragement upon encouragement. Gone were the feelings of dread and mortification. I now truly felt like a woman on a mission. I had to state my intention out loud for everyone to hear, in order to hear it myself and fulfill it. I am now smoke-free for six years. I never have cravings, not even for a second. I didn't put on any weight, and I'm in the best shape of my life. And it's all because of yoga.
Of course, this is my experience, and anyone else's will be different. I feel that sharing my story adds to the wealth of information revealing that the seemingly impossible is always possible. We've heard the celebrity stories of smoking cessation through yoga, from Christy Turlington to Jennifer Aniston. The modern medical establishment is even beginning to conduct studies on the effectiveness of yoga as part of a smoking cessation program that focuses on wellness training. Some of those studies are described here:
If you're a smoking yogi like I was, or are looking to utilize a positive habit like yoga to replace the deleterious effects of smoking in your life, congratulations! You're taking courageous steps on a path to better health and a better quality of life for yourself. It is one of the most important things you will do in your life. As you walk this path, these are some critical points to remember:
You are worthy of a healthy, vibrant way of life. Think of the people you love most and the life you want for them. Give that to yourself, too. You absolutely deserve it.
Practice Your Yoga Every Single Day, No Exceptions
Just like you feel you must smoke every day, you must do yoga every day. It’s your new addiction. Focus on the way it makes you feel, the high and the buzz you get from it, and you won’t be able to put it down.
Visualize Yourself a Non-Smoker
We identify ourselves as smokers and that can make it harder to stop. Try visualizing yourself as a non-smoker while you do your yoga. It will seep in to your consciousness and, along with the better feelings your yoga gives you, gradually become more powerful than the smoker self-image.
Surround Yourself With Supportive People
This can be one of the hardest parts. It’s likely that many of your friends and even family are smokers. If you continue to only hang out with smokers, you will continue to do as they do. It’s time to find some new friends who don’t smoke, or start spending a little more time with your current friends and family who don’t smoke. Remember that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with!
Don't Give Up, Ever.... Even if You "Fail," Keep Trying and Never Underestimate the Power of Your Intention
Think of this journey as one in which you are “stopping smoking” rather than “quitting smoking.” The word quitting carries with it connotations of such finality that if we fail once at quitting, we easily fall into a failure loop where we stop believing that we have the capability to succeed. Instead, if we think of the process as “stopping smoking” we tend to view that as an ongoing experiment. It leaves us open to the possibilities and less devastated if we relapse. If you stop smoking for a while and happen to pick it back up, so what? You can always stop again.
Finally, for the free video of the week I feel compelled to revisit our Sun Salutations - Surya Namaskar A practice. This sequence is so grounding, energizing, opening, breath-focused, and repeatable that it makes for a superb anchor if you’re utilizing yoga to change your habits. As always, if you like this video, there are tons more available to you 24/7 as a MOJO Member, so join us today!
The MOJO Show Notes:
The Very First MOJO Giveaway!
Here she is, in all her glory. As mentioned in the show, we'll be giving away this very special prize of Counselor Deanna Troi's likeness in action figure form to one random but very lucky person. Our winner will be randomly selected from anyone who is kind enough to take the time to leave us a review in iTunes or Stitcher in the next week or so (just click those links to get there). This fabulous Women of Star Trek figure is in the original box and positively magnificent. You may even be able to get 20 bucks for it on Ebay! We're pretty excited about this lovely lady, and we know you are, too. We'll announce the winner on Episode 6 of The MOJO Show - so, write your hearts out and stay tuned!