One secret to increasing your joy is to realize that happiness is not some external quality that can be acquired. Instead, happiness is something that is already inside of you, but which may be hidden from view at times. Yoga can help you uncover that joy inside of you. How? By reducing your stress levels. One major reason we have trouble accessing our inner joy is stress. And stress in our modern lives is almost always caused by something in the past or the future.
Even when you are stressing out over being stuck in traffic, it’s not really the traffic that is stressing you out. Rather, it’s the thought that you will be late for yoga class, again. Thus the stress of being stuck in traffic actually is about the future, not the present. Yoga helps you to become more fully immersed in each moment, especially if you practice with body and breath awareness. Occupying your mind with the here and now simply crowds out all those stressful thoughts about the past and the future.
Support joy by focusing on specific poses and alignment cues
Meditation provides you with the same focus on the present moment, but yoga does something else that makes it even more effective in generating joy: There is a two-way connection between emotions and posture, and certain poses (especially backbends and inversions) have a noticeably elevating effect on our moods. Conversely, practicing forward folds (or any pose, for that matter) with an overly hunched back and a collapsed chest can actually promote depression.
Bringing awareness to your posture and reducing the rounding of your upper back will help you generate even more joy. This is true because it creates more space in the front of your chest and literally opens your heart. The physical components of yoga thus can have a very direct positive effect on your emotions. Simply changing the shape of your body can reconnect you with the joy hidden inside.
This week we will focus on poses and alignment cues that help us generate more joy through IMPROVED POSTURE and on making joy the focus of our practice.