In 1998, I bought a book called The Art of Happiness, A Handbook for Living. The book begins with these words from the Dalai Lama: “I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness.” In 2005, I attended a 4-day workshop entitled “The Art of Living.” This workshop focused on Pranayama breathing, meditation and some simple yoga postures.
The word art took on a completely different meaning when referred to as a way of life. I realized that there is an artful way to approach life and yoga as a means of achieving happiness. It suddenly made sense that finding the way to live with happiness, mindfulness, and health is actually an art form that we can strive to develop.
Yoga can become a useful tool to take along on our journey to happiness. The Sanskrit work Sukha, which is mentioned several times in the Yoga Sutras, is often defined as bliss, happiness, or joy. Yoga can bring us to Sukha by the use of breathing, meditation, and asanas.
Breathing: The breath is an effective way to release toxins from our body. The breathing techniques in yoga also help to restore our body and mind back to the natural rhythms that create a sense of wholeness. By releasing toxins and reducing stress, conscious breathing is one clear path to the pursuit of happiness.
Meditation: The practice of sitting with a quiet mind is very effective in the quest for contentment. Most of our unhappiness stems from the constant thoughts that swirl around in our minds telling us that we are inadequate or causing us to fear the unknown. Just a few minutes a day of relief from this clatter is enough to create joy.
Asanas: By mindfully joining our physical bodies with our mind, we create a sense of unity that will equate to a happier state of being. Yoga also aids in resetting our parasympathetic nervous system, which results in the blissful feelings that we often have after a session.
Does it really work? Well, recently I suffered a shoulder injury and took a hiatus from my practice. I definitely noticed a shift in my mood. Still not ready to go back to the studio, I began to practice just 15 minutes a day at home. On the third day, while engaged in tree pose, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with a feeling of joy that I had not felt in a few months. Yes, I think it works.
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