Millions of us seek to put an end to our bad habits—including substance abuse.
I’m here to shed some light on how yogic principles can bring freedom from addiction to cigarettes by sharing my own process.
I tried and failed to quit smoking cigarettes over the past five years, but recently, the tides turned—like big time. I never thought another 21-day practice (I’ve done my fair share of those) and the silent support of a group of yogis would make a real difference. Long story short, it did. A couple months after completing the practice, I suddenly realized my craving for cigarettes hadn’t reared its ugly head in a long time. What happened?
Everything started with an assignment from my yoga teacher. I needed to practice some aspect of a yogic lifestyle for 21 days, and then write about it. I chose a yogic diet.
The diet ended up cultivating mindfulness around my addiction to tobacco, rather than denial. This mindfulness led me to realize how pranayama was the deeper need behind the cravings, and how negative self-talk kept me stuck.
This realization provided the space I needed to break free from a strong attachment.
Whenever I had a craving for a cig, I did a little breath work. I also tuned in to my feelings at that very moment. I soon began to realize a pattern: I sought the respite of nicotine whenever I needed a moment of peace. I started to see just how many times in one day I actually needed a mini time-out (some days more than others). I think it’s safe to say that with all that’s going on in the world today, I’m not alone in that need.
Many times, when I tuned in to my feelings at the moment of needing and smoking a cigarette, I also tuned in to some ugly thoughts rolling around in my head. You’re a yoga teacher, and you’re over here smoking a cigarette. Hypocrite. Smoking is so bad for you. It causes cancer and it’s disgusting. You’re disgusting. These were the unconscious negative vibrations I sent myself when I smoked. Negative self-talk is no joke. Like gum getting stuck in your hair, negative self-talk gets stuck in the mind. In order to put those thoughts in their place, we need to acknowledge that they even exist in the first place.
Here’s where compassion enters the scene. In yogic terms, compassion is known as ahimsa, or non-harming. How do you deal with the barrage of invisible negative thoughts swirling around in your mind? With an equally invisible action: compassionate observation, or mindfulness. The point of this action is to simply observe, like a student taking notes. We might be tempted to label the thoughts as good or bad, but that’s unnecessary. This action alone stops such thoughts from getting entrenched in the psyche. From there, we can offer ourselves a little understanding, a little compassion.
Be with your own vulnerability. Take a deeper breath, and move on.
Somehow my yogic diet became much more than eating green foods and drinking alkaline water. The diet became a yoga of its own—minus the asana. Pranayama, ahimsa, and aparigraha all came out to play, gently severing necessary ties.
I mentioned having the silent support of a group of yogis. I’m referring to the community created around our yoga teacher training. I make this point because I think people should know you don’t need to bare your soul on a consistent basis to a group of people for healing. The simple knowledge that I wasn’t practicing alone supported my growth.
For anyone struggling with addiction, try this: choose a 21-day practice that includes putting an end to something you know you need to. Don’t practice alone. Include others on the journey to freedom. Harness the power in numbers. Choose non-judgmental observation and turn the tides, at long last.
Author: Roseanna Moline
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May