Stop Smoking, Start Living

A persistent thought to make a difference, inspired Dr. Vedamurthachar, Ujval Shankar and a few others to start a theme-based program, specially designed for smokers in 2006. "Somewhere I felt it was so easy to relate to them because you were in that habit and you realize that everyone needs support. The best part about this program is that there aren't too many things that restrict you - you can still be into the habit. But then, people are now experiencing how it aides them to come out easily." explains Ujval.

Each participant is expected to get an ECG done at the beginning of the course, says Ujval and, "There's very intense breathing, pranayams and of course, the Sudarshan Kriya, which is the core technique of this program, along with a lot of group therapy - people get into groups and talk about how they can quit the habit and what they need to do about it."

After so many years, my daughter has come close to me. Earlier, she couldn't take the smoke smell. But today, I'm so clean that she wants to hug me and be next to me'.

Plus, a lot of focus is on their diet, shares Dr. Vedamurthachar, the science behind staying clean, "We ask them to add a few things to their diet - mostly milk products and sweets, which will reduce their anger and anxiety. In addition, we give them ayurvedic medicines, tulsi tea and recommend them to eat bananas and simple, satvik food and leave meat during the duration of the course," and re-enforce the need to quit smoking by sharing videos and pictures about the repercussions of the habit, and, "Two days after the Sudarshan Kriya, about 60 per cent of them quit smoking. In a week, most of the others quit too," shares Dr. Vedamurthachar, confidently, to which Ujval adds, "With smokers, it's the craving to smoke. The best thing is, people call each other when they have strong urge for a smoke, during and after the course and when they talk, they postpone their smoke. People who used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day come down to six or seven cigarettes within the first few days, and eventually stop. It's been a massive change.

The biggest reaction has been that of their families - a lot of wives call up and say, 'Listen, my husband needs to do this program', a lot of women join the course too - it's an equal number."

Today, Ujval and a few other volunteers walk into pubs and cafés and pass around cards that read, Stop Smoking, Start Living - Join the special Art of Living course and, "People actually drop their cigarettes when they see this card and thank us. They feel so shy about it. We don't force them at that moment but mostly, people call us back. We don't want to force it on them because the first step is that you realize and come forward," smiles Ujval and gently informs, "It's not easy to come out of smoking because cigarette is the only thing easily available. You can come out of drugs and alcohol, but not smoking because you can go out, have a smoke, clean up and nobody knows. But if you are not regular with the Sudarshan Kriya, you can go back (to the habit).

That's why we have special follow-ups and we quickly enroll them for a Part 2 course or DSN. Sometimes people who are used to 40-45 cigarettes a day come down to two or three cigarettes after the first course. But after they do the advance course, they are completely out of it."

But how is it different from any other course, "I've seen a lot of campaigns on the internet that talk about ways to quit the habit. But there is no practical experience to it - nobody gets into a course. The worst thing is to get into a rehab and be there for 20-25 days in that environment. I feel nobody discusses the practical aspect of breathing - when your toxins come out. People have alternatives - nicotine gums and patches, but its all just temporary. But when they come on the course, meet similar people and experience changes together, it's very different," answers Ujval, taking us through some of the experiences his students have had, "One of the participants - a father, after he finished the course said, 'After so many years, my daughter has come close to me. Earlier, she couldn't take the smoke smell. But today, I'm so clean that she wants to hug me and be next to me'.

Another one had been smoking for 42 years, but within eight days, he came out of the habit and his health has improved so much.

Also, there was a young girl (in her late 20s) who had been smoking for years and had relationship issues and a divorce. While she was sharing her experience, she said, 'I've actually learnt to breathe after the course and now, I can look forward to life'.

At the end of the course, they all look so fresh and they are actually looking at life beyond a puff of cigarette."

If you would like to know more about 'Stop Smoking, Start Living', connect with our faculty at

  • Statistical Benefits
  • Testimonials
  • More than 200 people till date have participated in various 'Stop Smoking, Start Living'(a special Art of Living course for de-addiction) programs.

    Out of these 200, 60% and above have quit smoking completely by the end of 6 days of the course; About 25% have quit completely post 2 weeks of the course with regular practice of Sudarshan Kriya; And about 10-15% of the participants have reduced on their normal intake of smoking / tobacco. Post a Part 2 course or a DSN, most of them have quit the habits completely.

    According to Dr. Vedamurthachar, Yoga therapist, NIMHANS, "people smoke because of various reasons. The statistics shows that the 40% of smokers are suffering from depression, 15% from anxiety disorders, around 45% due to alcohol and drug dependence, and other 10% due to mental disorders".

    “The practice of Sudarshan Kriya has proved that it reduces depression and anxiety by 80%. Also, those who are addicted to alcohol and drugs have recovered and are living normally by practicing Sudarshan Kriya, pranayam and yoga,” says Dr. Vedamurthachar.

  • “I have been smoking for the last 55 years. I started at the age of 14 years & I had never stopped. I tried to quit it several times, but I could, only for a few days. Then, I used to puff again.
    However after I completed the 6-day Art of Living course, I haven’t even touched a cigarette till date. Today I am feeling better in my health & mind. Thank you Art of Living,”

    Sreenivas*, Koramangala, Bangalore.

    “I had started smoking & drinking because of the stress at office & personal life. But after the completion of the Art of Living course, I really did not require to smoke as I have learnt how to overcome stress & lead a happy life,”

    Shankar*, Viveknagar, Bangalore.

    “My health, concentration & my stamina have increased immensely with regular practice of the Art of Living breathing technique. Thanks to the course I have not gone back to smoking in the last 5 years & will never in the future,”

    Nisha*, Koramangala, Bangalore

    *Note: The names in the experiences are first names to keep the anonymity of the individuals.

Founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,The Art of Living is an educational and humanitarian movement engaged in stress-management and service initiatives. Read More