The Joy of Practicing Yoga

We all strive for a life of love, health, purpose, contentment, fulfillment and laughter. We are advised to find a balance between work, family and friends, time to attend to our physical body, personal growth, and quiet time – ideally spending equal amounts of time in each area.

But the reality is that we experience a lot of emotional upheaval in our lives, extremes of excitement and sadness or sometimes even despair and helplessness. Being exposed to social, environmental, economical, political, personal issues, contributes to the ongoing challenge of finding inner peace. Even just dealing with our day-to-day lives can at times be difficult to master.

On every level, we are coerced into believing that external pleasures will bring us happiness. Intellectually we all understand that sensory satisfactions are short-lived, and that they never last. We can develop great attachment to the repetition of these beautiful experiences (raga). Suffering sets in when unsurprisingly, the expectations we have of those sensory experiences fulfilling us do not materialize in any real or lasting way.

After having gone through some of the extremes of life, we long for something that is supportive, steady and stable, and continuously available and reliable, to help us deal with those difficult times.

We have taken to Yoga as a means of enabling us to attain more equilibrium. Through regular practice, it provides us with the strength and flexibility, steadfastness and feed-back we are in need of, to feel buoyed when the sea of life is too rough. Soon we discover that Yoga has much more to offer than we expected, and that it has the wonderful potential of enriching our lives with a great sense of fulfillment and purpose.

But how does it work?

There is a steady, continuous thread throughout our lives that we often forget about when times are tough, but which is always available to us, anywhere, at any time – our breath. Just think about a recent moment of upset, anger, frustration, or disconnectedness, which you have experienced. Bringing your awareness to the breath in such a situation immediately creates a more healthy – and bearable – distance from the upset, and enables us to be more discerning and leveled in our responses. The breath carries the precious ‘prana’ or life force, which is responsible for our health, energy levels, detoxification, and also somewhat for our emotional well-being. The less toxins we carry in our bodies, on all levels, the better and happier we feel.

A Yoga asana and pranayama practice detoxifies our whole system; the blood, lymphatic system, nervous system, organs, and muscles; it also removes build up around our joints, and detoxifies us mentally and emotionally. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga does this very effectively, because of the way we link movement to breath, the use of the bandhas (muscle seals), and the selection of postures we practice.

In what way does Yoga provide us with the long-lasting happiness and contentment we so long for?

We have an inherent joy, which is very obvious in small children. They can take pleasure in the simplest of things and are happy just for the sake of it without external stimuli. The beauty is that regular Yoga practice, asanas, pranayama, and meditation, as well as awareness-building in how we move in this world and interact with others, can connect us with this inexplicable spark of endless joy.

Once we rid ourselves of physical and psychological detritus, we can learn to stay in the present moment by training our mind to focus on our breath continuously. We then feel comfortable in our body and mind once again, which enables us to cultivate a deep love for ourselves and others, further creating self-worth, and respect. An inexplicable feeling of lightness, excitement and joy manifests, and everything we do is more fun, fulfilling, purposeful, and effective. Even usually uncomfortable chores become much easier to deal with, and everything seems to fall into place much more naturally and comfortably. Life is enjoyable to its fullest, and all we attract is conducive to a harmonious and happy life.

Yoga is incredibly effective, has been, and will continue to be so, for millennia. It doesn’t need improving or enhancing. The yogic ‘state’ in all its manifestations, is inherent in all of us. It is our choice solely to take action, be determined, to improve the quality of our lives, and thus reconnect with our birthright, which is pure joy.

So next time when the temptation to stay in bed is great, or at a time during the day when you think there is no time to practice, think again: – ‘how would you like to feel?’ and what is it that can reliably get you into that state? – Your Yoga practice.

OM Shanti,