Growing up Catholic Discovering Yoga Selling Ayurveda Battling Cigarette Addiction
Returning to religious roots
Selling Ayurveda

One of your business endeavors involves a natural cosmetic line based on Ayurvedic principles. Do you think that people understand enough about Ayurveda to be attracted to the products?
No, it's a process. Ayurveda, a sister philosophy to Yoga, is getting a lot more attention in that alternative medicine is so much more widely accepted now than it ever was. We are doing a lot of educating with this line.

Ayurveda is about nature; it's about seeing that we are connected to nature and that we have natural elements in ourselves. The less chemicals, preservatives, and artificial additives that you put on and inside your body, the healthier you're going to be and the less risk you have for getting sick. So Ayurveda, in its essence, is about living purely and healthily and trying to achieve balance.

Battling Cigarette Addiction

Talking about being natural, I understand that you were once addicted to cigarettes. Did Yoga helped you overcome that?
Definitely. I started smoking at 13, and smoked on and off for a little over ten years. When I first started doing Yoga, I quit smoking for two years.

But at 19, I realized I was addicted and began a very long process of quitting. It took me seven years. I tried many different cessation methods but ultimately quit cold turkey and re-commited myself to my Yoga practice and to changing my lifestyle. It helped me then to be able to take that strength and that feeling of empowerment and share my story with other people, hopefully helping people struggling with the same thing.

Why did you quit cold turkey?
It was a general frustration from quitting and starting, quitting and starting. Everyone who smokes thinks that they'll just be able to decide it's not what they want to do any more. It's only when you stop that you see how difficult it actually is. Then when you go back, you feel so badly about yourself because you are hurting yourself by smoking.

So stopping and starting and telling people I started again--I just got fed up. I couldn't stick by what I said or what I promised to myself. I wanted to take better care of my body.

Then [once I quit] I felt that every day my lungs had more capacity. I felt good about having done something for myself, and I felt that I could be a strong example for other people who were trying to stop, to let them know it is possible.

Growing up Catholic Discovering Yoga Selling Ayurveda Battling Cigarette Addiction
Returning to religious roots Did you use any particular tricks or supports like certain vitamins or supplements?
I stopped drinking alcohol and coffee. I knew that the times when I had been more likely to smoke was when I had a glass of wine or if I was socializing when drinking coffee. The things you would do in conjunction with smoking are the things that you should try to avoid when you quit.

Then there was Yoga and exercise. I always exercised--even as a smoker--but you find when you exercise after quitting smoking that you can really tell you're cleaning out your lungs. It makes you really excited to exercise because with each hour, each mile that you run, you are adding years to your life.

You've done a bit of volunteer work on antismoking campaigns, particularly where young folks are involved.

About four years ago, I lost my father to lung cancer. I had already quit, but my father's death inspired me to go out and tell my story--not just my own struggles with addiction and the process of quitting, but what I learned about lung cancer and smoking-related diseases during my father's illness. I thought, maybe there was a way to use my personality as a model to make a difference. So I called the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and offered my services.

Six months after my father passed away, a public service announcement came together. It was very much a personal story, a testimonial, and it's very emotional. Just the other night I was at the theater and someone came up to me and said, "I quit when I saw that commercial." I hear that a lot. It is a tribute to my father and to his life and I feel really proud of it.

I've continued to tweak the message to reach young women in particular.