Cigarettes, coffee and the missing element from a yoga class

by Sandra Radja

Folks have told me they smoke cigarettes to relieve their anxiety like I used to run the pavements each night to alleviate my insomnia. The logic is perverted. And the anxiety-relieving idea behind smoking, call it addiction if you must but I prefer mistaken identity, is that a belief system not based on nature as it's foundation will have holes.

The point of yoga is to create a sense of centredness. This will look different for each person. Ask your Ayurvedic practitioner what TYPE of yoga class will work best for your ultimate health.

If you feel like a coffee, cigarette or getting loaded post yoga class then you could be doing the wrong yoga class for your body.  And importantly, you should be learning about breath work in class.  It is the link between the body and the mind. I have experienced myself in classes where there were so many instructions and so many different asanas that I think I got a world record for holding my breath to concentrate on all the new information.  And in holding your breath you turn Prana, that good awesome vitality life energy stuff, into deranged Vata dosha or anxiety, insomnia, and constipation.

Choose a yoga class that emphasizes how to use your breath correctly  by  practising pranayama.  This practise provides a calming connection between the mind and the body and addictions like smoking can shift in due course.

Choose a yoga class that emphasizes how to use your breath correctly  by  practising pranayama.  This practise provides a calming connection between the mind and the body and addictions like smoking can shift in due course.

It is wise to take instruction from a teacher that is sensitive to your current imbalance and natural constitution. Pranayama/breath work in yoga are etheric practises and the Vata dosha is made up of air+ether.  If you don't have enough grounding in your system, you might fly away with the faeries; it is not uncommon to see these folks floating through India with no idea what month it is. Like any practise that may involve cleansing, the body needs to be strong. The general premise of following an Ayurvedic routine for your body type is to do just that, create a robust and strong digestive and immune system so that you can do the more intense yoga practises, if you desire.

The link between yoga and Ayurveda is prana, or the life-force. Yoga is the intelligence of prana seeking greater evolutionary transformations, while Ayurveda is its healing power, seeking to consolidate the life-systems it has already developed. Together, Ayurveda and Yoga offer a complete discipline, one which can transform our existence from the physical to the deepest spiritual levels of our being with extraordinary vitality and creativity.
— Dr David Frawley "Yoga and Ayurveda"

One of the most neutral or tri-doshic (pretty much good for all) practises is Anuloma Viloma or Nadi Shodhana.  This is alternate nostril breathing to the english speaking world. The left nostril cools the body and the right nostril heats it up and the dance between the two ensures the body stays in homeostasis.  If you find one nostril continuously blocked then you might find it starts to affect your moods.  A blocked left nostril might make you feel intense and angry and a block right nostril might make you feel withdrawn and lethargic.

As part of your practise, keep your sinus passages clean every day with medicated nose oil drops or nasya oil. (see article on the benefits of Nasya) The entry point for prana is through the nose, which is why your yoga teacher will encourage nose breathing over mouth breathing. Doing your nose drops with the appropriate oil and a daily practise of alternate nostril breathing will calm the mind, balance the right and left hemisphere of the brain and create a conducive environment for good digestion.

Here is a video showing the basics of Nadi Shodana.  There are various methods out there so find a yoga teacher or Ayurvedic practitioner in your neighbourhood to guide you to your own daily practise. And if you're consistent in adopting this lifestyle change,  I doubt the craving for coffee and cigarettes post yoga class will be a regular occurrence. More than that, you might find cravings for sugar and food slow down and it's easier to make decisions and not feel overwhelmed.

Just 10 minutes each day.