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July 23, 2015

I Smoke, and I am your Yoga Teacher.

Novra Ayamo/Pixoto
I hate the taste of cigarettes.

I hate the bitter burn of a cigarette as it cuts down your throat. The lingering odor that sticks and radiates from your clothes, your hands.

I hate that with each drag I feel like a hypocrite.

I hate the terrible stigma smokers get; although, I agree it’s disgusting. I hate that if my students ever saw me with a cigarette in my hand I would be mortified. I hate the inner turmoil in my brain as I fight an invisible devil on my shoulder coaxing me to have one. I can forget him for days, but when stress arises, I enjoy the meditation of torturing my lungs with nicotine. Alas, it’s my sweet secret affair.

I started smoking cigarettes in college.

Attending college parties was a trivial activity; I began to partake immediately. Amidst the drinking—the chaos of being packed inside rooms with an immense amount of people—I took solace outside. Outside, the crowd thinned to a few people; the air was open and abundant. I was still a part of the “scene” but it was an environment I could handle. With this outside attendance, I found smoking. I discovered that if I was a smoker, I could leave these parties for a moment to enjoy quiet—to enjoy intimate conversation.

I wonder if all smokers are just socially anxious people in large groups. I wonder.

When I began my yoga teacher training, I sought to eliminate smoking from my life. For me it was a bizarre form of meditation. Writer’s block? Hit the porch under the stars for ten minutes of undisturbed silence. Inhale. Cut, scratch, choke. Exhale. Release, cough, silence.

As smokers, we know how gross it is. We feel the intensity of disapproval piercing from the eyes of passerby’s. We know the smell screams from us when we re-enter a room. But you see, the cigarette was our companion in our break-ups, our epiphanies, our anger and our sadness.

The urge for a cigarette can rise from many triggers. I have several: a glass of wine, frustration, family visits, anxiety, helplessness during stress, late night writing blocks and large social events.

I try to avoid my triggers, but when they come the inner struggle starts. The inner dialogue is nasty, rude and hateful: “You’re disgusting.” “You’re a hypocrite.” “You’re weak.” “Don’t smoke… Who cares, have one… No! Don’t do it!”

Sometimes the cigarette wins, and I feel a withering crush of defeat—of hatefulness at myself as I succumb. I’m embarrassed. Mortified. Ashamed.

I can go days—weeks—without a cigarette. But when I think I’ve conquered, the urge still comes in the darkness of my mind.

When I first starting teaching yoga, I’d be so overcome with nervousness before I taught a class that I’d smoke a cigarette to calm my nerves. Only to entice my nervousness even more. Do I smell? I’m a fraud. What kind of teacher am I? I wanted to scream in my classes, I’m a liar!

I’ve struggled with this for almost two years. Instead of drowning in secret hate, I’ve decided to come clean: I’m not perfect. I’m human, and my mind is addicted to a habit I formulated when I was young. Yelling at my body and torturing my mind with hate, however, is something I refuse to do any longer.

I’m imperfect. And I am your yoga teacher.

My demons used to be resolved with smoking. And that’s okay. I can change it from here.

Smoking carries a difficult stigma in the “spiritual world.” It’s a “quit or you’re gross and terrible” kind of stigma.

Let’s admit that it’s a f*cking struggle and it’s hard and not something that goes away after you quit. The battle is always there. I have a hidden pack of cigarettes I keep in the back of my car; it’s a weird sense of security in my mind.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my journey of healing the addiction of smoking:

Learn your triggers. Listen to your conscious mind and notice when a craving arises. What caused it? How can you avoid these situations? How could you replace your craving with a different reaction? When I’m angry, for example, I’ll really feel that anger and express it through writing or screaming in the car. I find that when I stifle the emotion, I crave a release through my old habit of nicotine.

Love yourself even if you slip. We are habitual creatures. If you slip up, don’t hound on yourself. Your energy and body respond poorly to hateful thoughts, and you’re only making it worse by yourself sending hate.

Open your throat chakra. Smoking is an addiction of the fifth chakra. It’s a compulsive addiction. Notice where in your life you aren’t speaking your truth. There are many ways to open your fifth chakra: singing, writing, painting, throat opening asanas, peppermint oil. Energy study can help you find where you feel stifled in your life. After studying my chakras I discovered that my throat chakra is often blocked, and I find it hard to speak my truth for fear of what others might think. But through confidence building, surrounding myself with the right people, Reiki and energy work, I’m more aware of opening that space. Your fifth chakra is deeply connected to your root and sacral chakra (creativity and survival) so ground yourself and open those hips! Sing! Drink water! Wear turquoise! Speak the truth; speak it with love.

Listen to your energy and avoid situations that don’t serve you. If large crowds make you anxious, my dear why go in them if you can avoid them? It’s okay to say “no” to situations that you don’t want to attend. Being more in tune with that inner voice and gut instinct will help you. I was a person that used to say “yes” to everything. I’d find myself in situations that stressed me out, hurt my energy and didn’t serve me. Speak your mind (fifth chakra), and listen to your intuition (sixth chakra).

I’m done pretending I don’t have this struggle; I’m done being ashamed of it. I used to be a huge smoker. It’s hard to quit.

Is it amazing for you health, energy and soul to quit? Of course! But it’s a journey. I’m not alone. And neither are you. You are not a terrible person for becoming addicted to a billion dollar industry. You are strong for starting the journey to quit. Let’s celebrate the strength in taking the steps to heal, instead of berating ourselves with hate.

I hate the taste of cigarettes, but I no longer hate myself.

~

Relephant:

Ciggie Stigma: The Cons & Not-Quite-Pros of Smoking.

~

Author: Elizabeth Brumfield

Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Novra Ayamo/Pixoto

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