The number one New Year’s resolution is quitting smoking.
What does it take to quit?
The International Tobacco Control Four Country cohort survey recruited 21,613 smokers across seven waves in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. They found that over 40% of smokers reported attempts to quit in a given year and reported an average of 2.1 attempts each year. More than a third of smokers reported thoughts or actions related to quitting in a given month. Although smokers often contemplate about stopping, they make several unsuccessful quit attempts as they are not equipped with the tools for long-term abstinence.1
“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world.
I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
~ Mark Twain
Smoking is difficult because it is a combination of a psychological habit and physical dependence. Quitting causes several withdrawal symptoms including: anxiety, irritability, sleep disturbances, decreased concentration, and craving for nicotine which all contribute to relapses. Relapses are common and expected in recovery. Quitting is half the battle, the real issue is long-term abstinence.
How does smoking affect you?
Smoking contributes to a poorly functioning immune system and puts our body under an extreme amount of oxidative stress which increases your chances of developing cancer and other chronic and life-threatening diseases. Health consequences of smoking include: stroke, lung and heart disease, blindness, hardening of the arteries, pneumonia and decreased fertility in both men and women.
So why do we still smoke?
While it is difficult to isolate the underlying reason, smokers are often triggered by their emotional climate. Stress and anxiety are common triggers that prompt them to light up a cigarette to help decrease the tension. Addressing the emotional obstacles, physical discomfort and challenging thoughts are all important components to successful smoking cessation.
How Yoga can help:
Yoga and mindfulness are gaining more attention among health professionals and as a result, yoga is becoming more prevalent in addiction recovery programs. Yoga helps balance the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga cultivates mindfulness that allows you to observe your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours so you can better identify the situations where you are more likely to smoke. Identifying your addiction patterns will help you change automatic behaviours.
Addiction patterns: Who are you with? What are you doing? When, where, why and how much does it happen?
Mindfulness is one of the first steps towards a successful recovery program.
Review of literature: Overall, the current literature supports that yoga and meditation-based therapies are candidates to assist smoking cessation.2
TOP 5 REASONS TO KICK THE BUTT WITH YOGA
DECREASE ANXIETY & STRESS WITH PRANAYAM
Pranayam translates to extension of the breath. Pranayam involves bringing awareness to the breath, where slowing down breathing induces a relaxation state by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Bringing self-awareness to the breath cycle helps reduce anxiety, stress and reactivity, all of which are common withdrawal symptoms in smoking cessation.3,4
IMPROVE YOUR MOOD
Exercise and movement can enhance your mood, decrease negative affects and the severity of withdrawal symptoms. 5,6,7
Mindfulness is associated with decreased severity of nicotine dependence and withdrawal, and is positively associated to smoking cessation self-efficacy.8
INCREASE SMOKING ABSTINENCE
Vinyasa Yoga and cognitive behavioural therapy was able to increase smoking abstinence at higher levels than a wellness program and cognitive behavioural therapy alone. Suggesting that vinyasa yoga could be an ancillary to smoking cessation programs.9
OPTIMIZE YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Smokers are susceptible to infections due to a decreased immune system. A comprehensive yoga program involving people performing gentle yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation was shown to have higher favorable results compared to a control regimen of a nature walk and listening to relaxing music. The study suggests that yoga and related practices, like meditation, result in rapid gene expression alterations which may be the basis for their longer term cell biological and higher level health effects.10
Smoking is not one habit, it is many habits. This is why a multi-faceted holistic and integrative approach to recovery is best! Yoga promotes appreciation, acceptance and self-respect. All of which are complementary to addiction recovery.
REMEMBER: Addiction recovery is not only about cessation, it’s about learning what to do when not using and how to live a fulfilled and happy life.
Elena Jutai is a naturopathic medical student and yoga teacher currently interning at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic in Toronto, Canada. She tailors her yoga recommendations to complement her patient’s unique naturopathic treatment plan. She does this by taking a holistic and integrative approach to health and well-being to help her students and patients balance the mind, body, heart and soul. She believes that with yoga and naturopathic medicine the possibilities are endless.
- Borland, R., Partos, T., Yong, H., Cummings, K., & Hyland, A. (2012). How much unsuccessful quitting activity is going on among adult smokers? Data from the International Tobacco Control Four Country cohort survey. Addiction, 107(3), 673-682.
- Carim-Todd, L., Mitchell, S. H., & Oken, B. S. (2013). Mind–body practices: An alternative, drug-free treatment for smoking cessation? A systematic review of the literature. Drug and Alcohol Dependence,132(3), 399-410. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.04.014
- Brown, R.P., Gerbarg, P.L., 2005. Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part I-neurophysiologic model. J. Altern. Complement. Med. 11, 189–201.
- Brown, R.P., Gerbarg, P.L., 2009. Yoga breathing, meditation, and longevity. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 1172, 54–62.
- Bock, B.C., Marcus, B.H., King, T.K., Borrelli, B., Roberts, M.R., 1999. Exercise effects on withdrawal and mood among women attempting smoking cessation. Addict. Behav. 24, 399–410.
- Scully, D., Kremer, J., Meade, M.M., Graham, R., Dudgeon, K., 1998. Physical exercise and psychological well being: a critical review. Br. J. Sports Med. 32, 111–120.
- Ussher, M.H., Taylor, A.H., West, R., McEwen, A., 2000. Does exercise aid smoking cessation? A systematic review. Addiction 95, 199–208.
- Vidrine, J.I., Businelle, M.S., Cinciripini, P., Li, Y., Marcus, M.T., Waters, A.J., Reitzel, L.R., Wetter, D.W., 2009. Associations of mindfulness with nicotine dependence, withdrawal, and agency. Subst. Abuse 30, 318–327.
- Bock, B.C., Fava, J.L., Gaskins, R., Morrow, K.M., Williams, D.M., Jennings, E., Becker, B.M., Tremont, G., Marcus, B.H., 2012. Yoga as a complementary treatment for smoking cessation in women. J. Womens Health (Larchmt) 21, 240–248.
- Qu, Su, Solveig Olafsrud, Leonardo Meza-Zepeda, and Fahri Saatcioglu. “Rapid Gene Expression Changes in Peripheral Blood Lymphocytes upon Practice of a Comprehensive Yoga Program.” PLoS One 8.4 (2013): PLoS One, Apr 2013, Vol.8(4).