Yoga - Kick the habit
by Shameem Akthar
The combination of a de-addiction programme with yoga has surefire results, says Shameem Akthar
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
Several serious de-addiction programmes include yoga. Though it may be difficult to explain just why this works, undoubtedly it does.
I find it wonderful that without having to lecture students, they are able to give up habits they have been wanting to for years. This happens with just a few months of yoga practice. They may confess to me when starting that they have tried hard to quit smoking or emotional binging, or alcohol, but fear that they enjoy it too much to give it up.
Of course, at that point it would be cruel to point out that any addiction is just trying to fill a serious void, and they are not enjoying the addictive substance, but rather using it as an escape route to run away from something in their life. Like bad family vibes, sense of emptiness, lack of self-esteem, amongst others. However, with yoga something conspires positively with the body, to help the mind drop the negative habit. It is as if the discipline of returning to the mat helps the rational mind talk sense to that subconscious part of our mind, which leads us to addiction.
The yoga practices which I find most effective in such cases are surya namaskar (sun salutation), pranayama (kapalabhati/skull cleansing, and anulom vilom/alternate nostril breathing), and yoga nidra. They may form a respectable proportion of a de-addiction practice. The other asanas may be woven around these three core practices.
Trying to keep the asana sequence peppy and challenging may help the student return to the mat. In the initial stages, it becomes important. Later, it is rather intriguing to see how the person concerned settles into deepening the practice, seeking to make it more meditative, rather than entertaining. When this transition happens, most often the addiction has left the body!
Sit in any meditative pose. Keep hands in any mudra suggested, such as chin mudra (tips of index finger touching tip of thumb, for each hand). Keep the back erect. Inhale and exhale deeply twice. After this, inhale deeply, and begin to exhale with intensity and repeatedly. Do 10 to 30 times, and stop, relaxing to catch your breath normally. This is the first round. Repeat thrice.
Points to note: Avoid this practice if you have lung embolism, heart, or circulatory problems. Those with a weak respiration may feel dizzy initially, including those who smoke. So this practice must be phased accordingly. There should be no strain, including at the face: this will create wrinkles.
Benefits: It is a mind-stimulating practice and removes depression, which is often the underlying cause of addictions. It tones the mind, is a powerful detox, and is regarded as a cleansing ritual rather than a pranayama. It boosts lung capacity by decongesting the lungs. It is a heating practice, spikes metabolism, to promote weight loss.
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