Quitting their dangerous habit is a goal for roughly 70 percent of American smokers — but only about 7 percent of those who tried to give up cigarettes and tobacco in the last year found long-term success. The challenge of quitting is both physical and psychological: nicotine is highly addictive, causing the body to develop a dependency on the drug, and it’s extremely difficult for users to remove the act of smoking from their everyday routines.
There is hope, however. There are more resources than ever to help those who are addicted to smoking kick the habit, and there are a lot of actions individuals can take to strengthen their odds of quitting for good, including practicing yoga. Because it’s a mind-body exercise, it can help combat the physical and mental struggles that sometimes make quitting feel impossible. Our guide discusses how yoga can be a helpful tool in giving up smoking.
Yoga Teaches Mindfulness
Yoga requires concentrating only on the present moment. Focusing on the here and now helps practitioners hold poses and move to the next one — and if you’re a smoker, this mindfulness can help keep your mind off cigarettes while you’re on the mat.
Learning how to practice mindfulness can also help you when you’re not in the middle of a yoga session, especially when it comes to cravings. You’ll have a better understanding of how to focus on questions like:
- Why am I craving a cigarette?
- If I were to smoke right now, what need would I be trying to fulfill?
- Will smoking truly provide me the relief I’m seeking?
- What’s a healthy alternative to smoking that will give me the “fix” I need right now?
Being mindful will help you find the solutions to these questions and help you avoid reaching for your pack.
You can increase your mindfulness abilities by adding meditation to your practice. After your yoga session, lie in savasana (corpse pose) for about five minutes, concentrating only on your breath and how your body feels. If it’s difficult to keep your mind still (and off the urge to smoke), use a guided meditation from YouTube or an app.
Yoga Requires Deep Breathing
Not only does deep breathing during a yoga session help you relax — a benefit many people cite as their reason for smoking — it may actually help satisfy your craving for puffing on a cigarette. Inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply mimics the act of smoking, and it’s a therapeutic way of lowering your heart rate, calming you down, and loosening tense muscles.
Taking deep breaths will also likely make you aware of the physical harm being inflicted upon your lungs from this dangerous habit, which can inspire you to quit or cut back. In addition, it opens up your lungs and may even help restore their capacity, putting you on a healthier track for the long term.
Yoga Relieves Stress
Like other forms of exercise, yoga releases endorphins, chemicals in your brain that naturally ease pain and boost mood. This will help you ward off the stress that tempts you to reach for a cigarette both during and after your session. As a bonus, endorphins can help you get better sleep at night, which is especially helpful for those who experience insomnia when trying to quit.
Yoga Can Boost Your Energy
In addition to being a great way to relax, many yoga practices are designed to boost your energy. This can help improve and regulate your mood, a major perk if you’re feeling irritable when quitting smoking. Plus, if you’re having sleep difficulties, starting your morning with a power yoga routine can help you feel revitalized, which sets a positive tone for your day and may help ward off stress-related cravings.
Yoga Releases Tension
One of the reasons quitting smoking is so difficult is that it often comes with physical side effects, the most notable being headaches. Yoga can help reduce this pain by gently stretching muscles that contribute to tension headaches, thanks to the release of pain-relieving endorphins.
Making the decision to give up smoking is a wonderful step toward living a healthier life. However, quitting takes time. It’s difficult no matter your cessation plan and support system, so try to be gentle on yourself. If you can’t quit cold turkey, start your journey by cutting back. It can be helpful to set a limit on the number of cigarettes you have per day, but be sure you leave some room for error. Remember, yoga is all about finding and maintaining mind-body balance, so being too hard on yourself for not achieving overnight success can offset the benefits of adding yoga to your quit plan. Forgive yourself if you fall off the wagon, and stay focused on everything you have to look forward to in your life as a non-smoker.