Many people relate happiness with circumstances. Some feel that they will be happy, when they will get their dream house, their perfect job, the perfect partner or a good amount of money in their bank account. Once achieved, there will be moments of happiness.
However, such happiness doesn’t last for long. The charm of such circumstantial happiness fades away after a while. And many times, even circumstances change.
The above fact simply helps us to understand that to look for happiness; we have to disconnect its link to external events and look inside. Our happiness should be independent of circumstances, material possessions or anything else. We should be the primary reason for our happiness.
Yoga does the same thing. It helps, to connect us to our inner self. It helps, to find our joy in our natural state. In Bhagavad-Gita, the sacred book, Krishna explains Arjun the meaning of Yoga as the state of ultimate bliss where all miseries are destroyed.
yatroparamate cittam niruddham yoga-sevaya
yatra caivatmanatmanam pasyann atmani tusyati
sukham atyantikam yat tad buddhi-grahyam atindriyam
vetti yatra na caivayam sthitas calati tattvatah
yam labdhva caparam labham manyate nadhikam tatah
yasmin sthito na duhkhena gurunapi vicalyate
tam vidyad duhkha-samyoga- viyogam yoga-samjnitam
When the mind is restrained and peaceful by the practice of yoga, it becomes detached from material desires. Thus one can perceive the self and attain happiness. Being situated in this plane of eternal bliss, which is beyond the scope of the mundane senses and obtained through intelligence, one never deviates from reality. Upon gaining this position, one considers that there is nothing superior to this and does not become disturbed even in the midst of the greatest calamities. You should know that this state of being, wherein all miseries are destroyed, is known as yoga. (Source)
Many people might confuse Yoga with just physical postures or asanas. Yoga is much beyond that.
A brief on Yoga
Patanjali, the compiler of the Yoga Sutras (threads)outlined the eight aspects of spiritual yogic practice. Sutra is a collection of 195 statements, a kind of philosophical guidebook. It gives guidance on gaining mastery over the mind and emotions. It is the framework on which Yoga is based.
The eight aspects are listed below:
- Yama: Universal morality
- Niyama: Personal observances
- Asana: Body postures
- Pranayama: Breath control
- Pratyahara: Control of senses
- Dharana: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
- Dhyana: Meditation
- Samadhi: Union with the Divine
A brief on Yamas and Niyams – the first two aspects
It is broken down into five characteristics which are listed below:
- Ahimsa: – Non-Violence:
- Satya: – Commitment to Truthfulness
- Asteya: – Non-stealing
- Brahmacharya: – Continence
- Aparigraha: – Non-Covetousness, Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth
Niyama means rules or laws. The Niyama describes the rules for self. They are not any kind of exercise but are more personal.
Niyama is also further divided into five observances:
- Saucha: – Purity, Cleanliness
- Santosha – Contentment
- Tapas – Austerity
- Swadhyaya – Self-study, study of scriptures
- Ishwara Pranidhana – Surrender to God’s will
The asanas (physical poses), Pranayama (Breath control), Dhyana (Meditation) are the other limbs of Yoga.
Practice of Asana increases happiness
The physical postures or asanas help us to release our emotions. Someday on the mat, our bodies are struggling while other days the poses come easily. When we are tense, conscious, fearful, our muscles contract. This contraction is seen in our poses, and we experience difficulty while doing asanas.
Yoga helps to relax the muscles slowly, thereby removing the emotions and tensions related to it. Gradually when we move forward, the negative emotions vanish. We become more relaxed, calm, centered and happy. Practicing asana with a relaxed and calm mind, further adds happiness to our state.
We are wired in such a way that when our energy rises, we feel happier. When following the practice with a calm mind, our body releases positive emotions, and we experience a natural high.
How Pranayama increase our happiness
Pranayama or the breath control, the fourth limb of Yoga, is one of the most efficient ways to fight most of the diseases and to control our inner emotions. It is one of the most valuable gems that we have received from our ancestors. By following simple yet powerful breathing techniques and by rhythmic breathing, we can align ourselves with the harmonious vibration of nature.
Prana means life. When we breathe, we exhale oxygen and expels carbon dioxide through the lungs. Diaphragm and muscles between ribs are the ones which control the movement of the lungs. When we are tensed, we take the shallow breath. The movement takes through the shoulders rather than through the diaphragm. This breathing is superficial and refrains our lungs from getting proper oxygen supply. It disrupts the balance of gasses in the body.
When we deep breathe, we properly breathe through the nose, and sufficient amount of oxygen enters our body. This abdominal breathing helps to control our nervous system, relaxes our body and brings control. We can cure some of the diseases (common cold cough, tensions, blood pressure, and depression) by breathing properly.
If we observe many times, we feel unhappy for the things we don’t possess rather than admiring the things we have. The deep breathing techniques help our body to relax. It also produces a calmer effect on our mind. Thus our thoughts are more refined, matured, relaxed. Hence a substantial weight of unhappiness is released from our mind. Such thoughts again reap positive actions. In the long run, this shapes our attitudes and outlook towards life.
Meditation – a powerful technique for happiness
Our brain is constantly working and occupied with various emotions/thoughts. Meditation is one of the best ways to declutter our mind. It helps us to detach from our emotions. A sense of calmness, serenity and peace come with mediation. We become more capable of handling our situations.
According to a scientific study, people who meditate have a thicker cortex (the outer layer of the brain in which critical cognitive functions such as memory, language and perception take place)
Hence people who mediate make their decisions more sensibly and have a positive outlook towards life. If you ask people what they gain after meditating. Many will reply – bliss. The experience is something that can’t be described, but has to be felt. Also, studies conducted have suggested that people who meditate are much happier and satisfied than non-meditators.
No matter who you are, where you are or what your circumstances are. If you practice Yoga, one thing is for sure; it will leave you more satisfied, stronger and happier.