Yoga and Smoking – How to reduce your urge to smoke


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 is better to adapt your exercise or your 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 and minimise 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 many specific effects. Mild acidity can actually make you feel calm and it can reduce pain, which is one of the reasons why smoking can feel so good for many people.  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, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, to your diet,  can neutralise the poisonous acids from smoking and help to reduce their negative effects. The breathing exercises that are the most useful to practice first are simple deep breathing exercises, which gradually allow you to breathe less than normal. Never force these or breathing exercises but if comfortable try the following:

* Sit comfortably up straight on a chair (or the floor) 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.
* In Stage 2 you can breathe at the rate of about 3 – 6 deep breaths per minute
* Dizziness is a sign you have become more alkaline and you probably can now begin to breathe less and may begin Stage 3 if you like.

* At this time repeat the breathing exercise a gradually and comfortably increase the length of each stage of the breath making longer inhalations and exhalations, and longer breath holds after both inhalation and exhalation.
* In Stage 3 you can breathe at the rate of about 1 – 2 deep slow breaths per minute

* Ideally it is healthier to do this exercise breathing through the nose but many people find that it helps them to replace smoking if the inhalations are done through the mouth while sucking on a straw or pen casing.
* This can psychologically give people the same oral satisfaction, and hand satisfaction that cigarette can give.

This initial deep breathing (Stage 2), which can be a type of mild hyperventilation (breathing more than normal) can physically remove some of the poisonous acid from your system and make your body slightly more alkaline. This can physically make you feel better by cleaning the lungs, but can make you feel a bit nervous or ungrounded. The subsequent (optional) deeper and slower breathing (Stage 3), which can be a type of mild hypoventilation (breathing less than normal), can calm your nervous system, improve blood flow to the brain, increase the transport of oxygen to your cells, and actually make you more comfortable choosing the more alkalising diet suggested above.

If you enjoy this breathing 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 these breathing exercises when I was 6 years old as a preparation for free diving and to deal with my childhood asthma. 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 late in life, and were part of the mental and physiological approach that allowed him to give up smoking in his early thirties.
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 . You can click the following link to take you there:

I had no photos of me smoking cigarettes so thanks to Graham Latham for this photo of me performing at the Exodus Festival amidst lots of fire and smoke!

If you want to learn more about this sort of thing then I also have a lot of free information
on our blog
and on our youtube channel called yogasynergy

You can see more about all my international live and online teaching on my professional Facebook at and also at upcoming-events/

We have a lot of information about breathing in our Yoga Synergy online courses at

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