Free Your Mind – Yoga and Addiction

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I used to smoke.

A lot.

I won’t go into the details of the beginning because I think the end at least in my case, was more important. Addiction will grip you so tightly you don’t think you can ever let it go. And even after the worst is over and the ‘habit’ is dead and gone, on some days out of nowhere it sneaks up on you.

It’s a gentle whisper that tells you that you are ‘better’ so one puff isn’t a big deal.

That’s the insidious side of addiction that people don’t talk about. Lots of times it doesn’t feel bad. Like Dexter’s dark passenger it shows up when you least expect it or worse, when you really think you need it. It’s a soothing voice that says you are different from all the other addicts. You had a problem in the past but now you can smoke just one.

I can’t. Not ever. This is what makes me different than the person who enjoys a cigarette or cigar once in awhile. I cannot contemplate that. I don’t have that kind of control. It’s more than just an issue of willpower. I’m addicted to cigarettes and smoking opened the door to all kinds of other self-destructive behavior.

Sometimes I would stop smoking for awhile and then bum a cigarette while out at a bar. That would lead to me buying a pack on the way home and smoking most of them that night.

I attempted to quit many times. I was blasé about failing. It was a way to deny the inevitable truth that I was letting tobacco ruin my health.  Unless I spoke that sentence out loud, smoking would always be a part of my life.

That utterance would have to lead to action. That action would mean that I could never go back. I’m ambitious and driven by nature- this consistent inability to quit was impossible for me to understand. Because I couldn’t understand it, I couldn’t share it with anyone else.  Those who haven’t had a struggle with addiction may not understand, but it’s scary. Loss of control for a Type A is not familiar nor comfy ground.

Enter yoga.

Yoga is increasingly used in conjunction with many addiction treatment programs. Whether it’s an addiction to sex, tobacco, drugs, gambling, shopping, food, toxic relationships or control, yoga is one of many tools that helps you when a critical moment arises.

For me it’s more than that, it’s a new way of being. And though I have embraced yoga with a zeal that might make you raise an eyebrow in suspicion, yoga isn’t a replacement for smoking. Rather it’s a way to deal with stress, a way to be happy and embrace the present.

There are certain poses in yoga that can get us through a rough patch. Here are 3 that work for me.

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1. Ustrasana (Camel Pose) – This pose is a heart opener and it can release a surprising amount of emotions. This may seems like a bad thing, it’s not. When you push feelings down, it can lead to acting out. Letting go can bring about the sense of calm you need to stay on track.

2. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) – Sometimes a new perspective is just what we need to get through a stressful moment. One day at a time is sometimes one hour at a time or one minute at a time or even one second at a time. A different view can paint a different picture. New pictures can be what is necessary to stay present.

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3. Dandayamana-Dhanurasana (Standing Bow Pose) – This pose helps with circulation and  patience. It takes times to master this pose. And until you do master it, you fall out of position again and again.

It’s this practice of of coming back that helps me be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Sometimes that’s what being free from addiction is all about learning to be okay with what feels icky or frustrating. The act of feeling a feeling helps it pass and helps you move on. It’s what I love most about this pose. Every motion of this pose even when it doesn’t work move us forward.

Of course if you have serious problems with addiction you should seek professional help. But for those of us who need a boost, these poses can help remind us the joys of being free.

This is yoga. And it can help you maintain peace during the storm.

Namaste y’all.


9 thoughts on “Free Your Mind – Yoga and Addiction

  1. what a wonderfully honest post! thank you for your willingness to share. and the asanas you posted are three of my favorites! namaste and om shanti. 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Rachel! I think that lots of people who battle demons with addiction find yoga as a way to find peace. I’m forever grateful for the peace it’s given me. Om shanti:)

  2. Right on, as always, Oneika. I read the blogs of several yoginis who can really articulate the yoga practice (including your own self, of course.) All of you talk about yoga on and off the mat in the everyday world. And there is something that you all have in common, I think, and that is humility. I believe that humility is a deep practice, and you all are in that practice. Thank you.

    1. Bharat, I really love your insight (and your blog:). I’m truly humbled and flattered by your comments. Thank you as always for reading and contributing to the conversation. Namaste 🙂

  3. Can totally relate to you Oneika! My quit smoking app is now counting its days of 9 months and 20 something days. I was stuck with the darkness in my lungs too & thanks to yoga I found the strength to get out of the darkness. Love reading your posts! Namaste!

    1. Congratulations!! I’m celebrating for you! It’s tough, and honestly out of nowhere a craving will rise up. Thanks for reading and commenting!!! Om shanti

  4. wow. your story is exactly mine. after “quitting” several times i realizedthere was no such thing as “just one”. i was a smoking yoga teacher and i realized i couldn’t actually teach yoga if i wasn’t living yoga- i was only teaching poses. im still battling cravings but my immersion into my own practice has kept me smoke free. i’m able to teach my students more than just poses and share my own battles with non attachment. thank you for posting.

    1. Yes! I love that you mention teaching poses versus teaching yoga. I had to approach quitting that way, was I a non-smoker or someone who wasn’t smoking? Big difference 🙂

      Non-attachment. That’s something I hadn’t consciously connected. Thanks for that. Definitely something for me to think about. Thanks so much for reading Melanie! Om shanti.

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