The effects of mindfulness-based yogic breathing on craving, affect, and smoking behavior

Psychol Addict Behav. 2020 Mar;34(2):351-359. doi: 10.1037/adb0000536. Epub 2019 Nov 21.


Breathing practices are often incorporated into treatments for tobacco dependence, but there is little direct research testing the efficacy of breathing practices. This study examined the effects of a mindfulness-based yogic breathing (MB) intervention versus active treatment (cognitive strategy [CS]) and no-treatment (NT) control groups on craving, affect, withdrawal, and smoking behavior. Smokers (N = 60; 50% female; 83% African American) were randomized to receive 20 min of MB, CS, or NT. Participants completed self-report measures before and after the manipulation and then took part in a 50-min smoking choice procedure. Afterward, participants were advised to use the techniques they learned and self-monitor smoking for 24 hr. They received 3 reminder text messages and returned to the lab the following day. MB and CS were more effective than NT in decreasing craving to smoke and perceived nicotine withdrawal. MB, but not CS, was more effective than NT in reducing negative affect. MB reduced the risk of smoking by more than twofold relative to both CS and NT during the smoking choice procedure. Participants in the MB condition smoked fewer cigarettes than those in the CS and NT conditions in the 24 hr following the manipulation. There were no differential effects of the manipulations on state mindfulness or positive affect. Mindful yogic breathing appears to be particularly effective in alleviating the acute negative effects of smoking abstinence and decreasing smoking behavior. Mindful breathing techniques are safe, simple, and cost-effective strategies that deserve additional research attention, especially among underserved populations of smokers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Breathing Exercises*
  • Craving / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Smoking / physiopathology*
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Yoga*