By Faye Martins
As a yoga instructor, maybe you tire of reading about states of happiness. From Laughter Yoga to feel good meditations, we know that happy feelings strengthen our immune systems. Let’s look at methods outside and inside yoga for an optimum immune system and a quality life.
“Happiness is the purpose of life,” says the Dalai Lama. In writings and teachings exploring the intersection of science and spirituality, he describes studies in which experienced monks were connected to electrodes in order to measure their brain activity during meditation. Results showed increased activity in the region of the brain associated with positive thinking.
According to Dr. Richard Davidson, psychologist and researcher at the University of Wisconsin, these findings suggest that the brain can be trained through meditation to think happier thoughts just as muscles can be made stronger through exercise. With practice, the mind-body circuitry undergoes permanent changes that continue beyond the meditative state.
While these studies involved Buddhist monks, meditation is quickly becoming popular among people of all ages and religious beliefs, as well as secular society. After all, any technique that promises to improve mood, increase immunity, lessen pain, and manage addictions has few rivals – even in the medical field.
Additional research found that daydreaming during unpleasant tasks failed to make people happier, but creating a state of flow, or concentrating on the present moment, did. Meditation helps to achieve this state of consciousness. It also causes the part of the brain associated with compassion and self-awareness to grow larger while the region linked to anxiety becomes smaller. As a result, people who meditate usually have a greater awareness of the things that matter in life, an acceptance of life’s inevitable change and loss, and a feeling of connectedness and empathy for other people and the world around them.
Although all styles have essentially the same goals, loving kindness meditation is a simple and powerful way of training the mind to become more compassionate and content. Words such as “may I live in safety, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I live with ease” are a reminder to be gentle with oneself and with others. Grateful people with open hearts find it hard to be unkind. In any tradition, the Golden Rule can pave the way to happiness.
What can a Hatha yoga teacher learn from this?
While we take so much time to design intricate asana sequences, we should also devote some serious time toward developing our skill for guiding yoga students toward happiness and complete health.
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