Written by Simon Borg-Olivier, 10th March 2009
If you are smoker and don’t want to actually give up right now here are some simple things you can do to address some of the negative effects of smoking.
The essence of yoga is ‘balance’ and ‘mental flexibility’. I feel that in the beginning at least it better to adapt your exercise or yoga to your life, rather than trying to change your life in order to do exercise or yoga. So let me suggest some ways you can balance the effects of smoking by minimising some of the harmful effects. You don’t have to give up smoking to do these exercises but if you practice regularly people often find it much easier to choose to give it up.
Smoking puts poisonous acidic chemicals into your body that have specific effects. Mild acidity can actually makes you feel calm and it can reduce pain, which is one of the reasons why smoking can feel so good. However, the poisonous acids have negative effects on your system such as leaching calcium from your bones (to neutralise the acidity) and causing cell death.
There are two things you can address to counter some of the negative effects of poisonous acidity come into the body from smoking, while still maintaining the feeling good component. The first thing to address is your breathing. You can learn to breathe in such a way that gets rid of the acidic poisons out of your system. The second thing to address is a simple addition to your diet.
Instead of taking calcium from your bones and teeth to neutralise the poisonous acids from smoking, you can simply increase the amount of alkaline containing food in your diet. Adding more alkaline foods to your diet such as fresh fruits and vegetables can neutralise the poisonous acids from smoking and help to minimise their negative effects. The breathing exercises that are the most useful to practice first are simple deep breathing exercises. Never force and breathing exercises but if comfortable try the following:
- Sit comfortably up straight on a chair with your hands gently pressed against your thighs.
- Prepare for the exericse by gently exhaling all of the air in your lungs.
- Relax your face and abdomen before you begin.
- Breathe in about one third to one half of your lungs into your abdomen till the abdomen expands and relaxes.
- Then breathe up to another third to one half of the lungs to fill your chest.
- If comfortable hold the breath in for a few seconds.
- Then slowly exhale all the way out by gently tensing first your abdomen then your chest.
- If comfortable hold the breath out for a few seconds.
- Then repeat this breath 5 to 10 times over the next few minutes.
- If you get dizzy, then simply stop and go back to breathing normally for a few minutes.
This deep breathing actually removes some of the poisonous acid from your system by making your lungs slightly more alkaline. If you enjoy this exercise then practice it several times a day. You will find that it becomes easier to hold the breath in and out for longer periods as you practice more regularly. Provided you do not force your breathing you will find that after some time not only will your find that you will start to feel better because you have less poisonous acids inside you but you may even find that the exercise itself can replace smoking and that instead of having a cigarette you can do this exercise in its stead. This can be because as you learn to hold the breath in for longer periods of time the body retains more carbon dioxide which becomes a good clean acid called carbonic acid. Mild levels of carbonic acid in your blood that develop through prolonged breath-holding can have the same positive effects that people often smoke for such as calming of the nerves and the reduction of physical pain. My father, George Borg-Olivier, who was an avid freediver (‘underwater yogi’), taught me this exercise when I was 6 years old as a preparation for freediving. He also used to be a heavy smoker when he was young and I believe that exercises like this one have kept him reasonably fit and healthy till now and were part of the mental and physiological approach that allowed him to give up smoking.
Addendum: Another thing to do is to address the lungs in general. Some ideas can be obtained from our article writen for the relief of asthma in our Blog – Interest Articles section. You can click the following link to take you there: http://www.yogasynergy.com.au/main/content/hatha-yoga-children-asthma
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