Why does Yoga make us happy?

by | Nov 14, 2014 | Ashtanga Yoga, Wisdom

A student recently told me that after her last yoga class she felt so happy all day, something that has been expressed to me many times before. She then asked why yoga made her happy?

It was a reminder that not everyone generally feels this way most of the time, although for me, this experience is such a given after many years of regular practice. To start with, there are certainly simple physical reasons as to why we feel so good after yoga. The body loves and needs exercise. When exercising, endorphins – the happy hormones – are released. Also, the thorough detoxification that Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga creates, simply makes you feel lighter and healthier.

But as we know, there is more to an asana practice (postures) than just exercise. We engage our mind and spirit in a disciplined and single pointed manner, and the linking of breath and movement powerfully accesses all areas of our body. The fact that within one practice we move our spine in all of the many ways possible, challenges our joints and muscles to strengthen and stretch to the maximum range of motion at this particular time. We are exploring the capabilities of the body on a much deeper level than regular exercise does.

I have previously written about the effect different types of postures and the stretching of different meridians or energy tubes has on the body, which relates to different emotional and mental states. So once we access them all, as we naturally do throughout a yoga practice, we feel much more balanced and come closer to our natural state – which is that of boundless joy.

Apart from the physical sensations that bring about a mild high, there is something even more powerful at work. As stated, happiness is our natural state, our birthright. As we walk through life, all the good and not so good experiences we are having are leaving imprints – samskaras – in our mind. We start to use our mind in ways that are not always beneficial to us. The results of the many dysfunctions of our mind cloud our consciousness. We simply do not perceive things as they truly are. Like this, we disconnect even more-so from our true nature, and consequently lose that beautiful lightness and happiness we started out with when young.

We then begin our search for all things external, which we think will bring us happiness. We are made to believe that the accumulation of wealth and power, or being in a relationship and/or creating a family, will guarantee true happiness. Soon we find out that as long as we are not happy, content, and at peace within ourselves – independent of wealth etc – we can’t fully experience this desired state, even after all external goals have been achieved.

…until we have a magic encounter with yoga!

Yoga helps us to be more ourselves again. To many, it is a reconnecting with what it means ‘to feel’. Yoga gives our mind a break from our incessant thought processes, and brings mental clarity. It removes the cloud i.e. the minds’ misperceptions, so our consciousness or the ‘purusha’ – the seer within – can shine through. With regular yoga practice, the longed for relationships, wealth, career, family etc will all naturally fall into place, as we have made this precious discovery of something very beautiful inside of ourselves, something profound and true.

Like layers of an onion we shed feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear, insecurity etc and gain more and more confidence and connectedness with our true nature, contentment, happiness, and so much more.

Never underestimate the power of linking movement to breath, and the full engagement of the mind in a time-tested practice, which gradually allows us to experience ourselves again as we truly are and have always been… happy.

OM Shanti,

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