“Yoga is just like smoking.” That’s what Deb the waitress told me when I was a drinking, smoking confused 20-something aspiring writer who had just moved to San Francisco.

It was 1989, I finished my graduate degree a few months earlier in Washington, DC. That year was filled with books, papers, research and smoking. I sat at my friend’s word processor (remember those?) and wrote about Ophelia, post-modernism and Kristevian feminism and smoked myself into a lovely case of young adult existential angst.

Then I moved to California. And IMHO, anyone who grew up in the Northeast needs to spend a bit of time decompressing in California. So I got a job as a waitress and went to lots of Grateful Dead shows. Deb, who had recently lost her PR job, was about 35, and reminded me of an even more nervous Demi Moore. She was waitressing in between things. We worked at this upscale lunch spot downtown and spent our breaks trying to figure out what the heck to do with the rest of our lives.

So I was sucking on a cancer stick and knowing that I wanted to quit she said, “Hey, why don’t you start doing yoga?”

Blank stare.

“Look, it’s just like smoking.” And she put her fingers up to her mouth as if she was holding a cigarette and took a deep breath. “See, it’s not about the nicotine, it’s about deep breathing.” Damn if that wasn’t the smartest thing I’d ever heard.

A few weeks later, on my 24th birthday I gave myself the present of tobacco-free lungs. I threw away the pack I had. I bought several bottles of guava juice (someone told me it would detoxify my body – whatever!), a bottle of Beefeater gin and half a dozen limes. For two weeks after that, anytime I craved a cigarette, I put my fingers up to my mouth and took a deep breath – then I poured myself a stiff G&T.

Then I found a yoga class – and eventually that replaced the hard liquor too. I had started doing yoga in middle school so I had the general idea – and I had taken a bunch of classes in college. It would be a few more years before I got really serious about it.

So, it’s a good New Year’s resolution – do yoga. And if you have something you have to quit, then it’ll be there to get you through it. When it came to cigarettes I had to do something about it. I had to quit. I was killing myself. I had a smoker’s cough at 23! it was pretty pathetic. That’s when the third chakra deity was necessary. His name is Rudra and he is ruthless. I like to call him the Nike God – no excuses, just do it. Sometimes you need to invoke him to help you do something that you gotta do.

Really, you need to make a choice here…


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