Fitness

The Secret to Happiness, According to Yoga

Chinese woman practicing yoga on balcony

“How is yoga meaningful beyond its poses? How can we practice yoga beyond the physical experience?” asks yoga teacher and blogger Rebecca Pacheco in her book, Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life ($17; amazon.com). “What do we need to know to get the most out of our yoga, and by extension, our lives?” In this excerpt, she explains the yogic approach to happiness, and how to make it work for you.

I’m not sure who said, “Happiness is an inside job,” but it’s a great thing to remember as a yogi. According to yoga philosophy, santosha, which means contentment, is a form of self-discipline. In other words, happiness is a skill and practice. Happier people do not have easier lives, with less hard work, grief, divorce, or financial strain than the rest of us. They’re simply more grateful for what they have and choose to be conscious of their contentment more often.

Modern yogis view yoga as a process of self-improvement. We do yoga so that we can get better at it. Gain greater flexibility. Become a kinder or more patient person. Excel at sports. Look better naked. The list goes on. In all the years I’ve practiced and taught yoga, I have never heard someone walk into a class and pronounce, “I’m here because I’m totally content with my life, body, and world view. There’s nothing I seek to change or improve. I just want to learn how to do yoga, for fun.” Never.

“How is yoga meaningful beyond its poses? How can we practice yoga beyond the physical experience?” asks yoga teacher and blogger Rebecca Pacheco in her book, Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life ($17; amazon.com). “What do we need to know to get the most out of our yoga, and by extension, our lives?” In this excerpt, she explains the yogic approach to happiness, and how to make it work for you.

I’m not sure who said, “Happiness is an inside job,” but it’s a great thing to remember as a yogi. According to yoga philosophy, santosha, which means contentment, is a form of self-discipline. In other words, happiness is a skill and practice. Happier people do not have easier lives, with less hard work, grief, divorce, or financial strain than the rest of us. They’re simply more grateful for what they have and choose to be conscious of their contentment more often.

Modern yogis view yoga as a process of self-improvement. We do yoga so that we can get better at it. Gain greater flexibility. Become a kinder or more patient person. Excel at sports. Look better naked. The list goes on. In all the years I’ve practiced and taught yoga, I have never heard someone walk into a class and pronounce, “I’m here because I’m totally content with my life, body, and world view. There’s nothing I seek to change or improve. I just want to learn how to do yoga, for fun.” Never.

Do Your Om Thing: Notice Contentment

  • Keep a gratitude journal in which you write one to three things each day for which you are grateful. They can be incredibly small and ordinary: a warm house, someone who held the door, an email that made you LOL. Review the list before bed. Notice how this makes you feel.
  • Think of someone in your life who seems to be deeply content. What do you think they might do to achieve that contentment?
  • To unhook from a feeling of discontentment or ego, a funk or feeling of scarcity, Judith Lasater, cofounder of Yoga Journal and author of Living Your Yoga, recommends using the mantra: How should it be? Notice how your response to this question is an expectation. Not reality. If we are discontented with reality every time it does not go as planned, we lose the skill and gift of santosha.

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