No.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not for a moment supporting smoking or trying to misguide you by saying that smoking is not injurious to health if you practice yoga – Cigarette Smoking is injurious to Health! But the question that I’m addressing is whether Health is the same as Yoga? And whether you really need to be a non-smoker, and also non-drinker and vegetarian (amongst other things) to be successful in your yoga practice.

Yoga cartoon

As a Yoga teacher for 8 years and having lived with my Guru, a Himalayan Yogi for 7 years; I’m often shocked about the so-called rules regarding Yoga that everyone seems to take for granted. People make a simple science truly complicated! In fact this is one of the reasons that many people stay away from the practice of Yoga – they fear that they have to stop ‘enjoying life’ and stop living a ‘normal’ life. Every time I go to a party, people always ask me the same question – “So can you smoke and drink and still practice yoga?”

Let’s try to understand this better. If you don’t have these habits – great for you! But if you do; then it should not stop you from starting a Yoga practice. For nowhere in the great Yoga scriptures is it written that you need to give up all your lifestyle habits before embarking on a yoga practice. In fact as you do more yoga; you will find that these habits cease to bother you and very often you may overcome them or reduce them tremendously!

We must acknowledge that ‘Health’ is just one of the benefits that you experience through the practice of Yoga. The goal though, remains something else. From the immortal treatise on Yoga called the ‘Patanjali Yoga Sutras’ by the Yogi Patanjali; Yoga is defined as ‘Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah’ or ‘Yoga is the cessation of all modifications in consciousness’. In layman’s terms; Yoga is a state of complete Peace wherein there are no thoughts in the mind to disturb and distract you from this moment; from ‘Now’.

This is what everyone learning Yoga should be aspiring towards; whether you started practicing for weight loss or to overcome your stress – eventually you will gravitate towards Dhyaan (Meditation). In that process the health and fitness of the body is paramount and so is your emotional and mental calmness. Everything else will fall in place automatically. The point I’m making is that habits like smoking are too trivial to worry about at the outset of your Yoga journey! Forget about it and simply focus on practising Yoga; you will change for the better in ways that are now unimaginable to you.

An Indian Sadhu / Yogi

As an end to this discussion; studies show that Smokers are people with higher stress levels and smoking is their way of dealing with that stress. Now, when you start practising yoga, your stress levels are significantly reduced, meaning that you don’t really need the habit anymore to feel ‘relaxed’. If you’ve overcome the habit; but still continue to enjoy smoking the occasional cigarette (or having the occasional drink); don’t worry about it. There’s more to Life than being obsessed with your Health, right?