How Yoga Makes You Happy & Changes The Way You Handle Stressful Situations
As a passionate yoga instructor, when I tell people that I used to dread the thought of going to a yoga class and practicing mindful movement for an hour, they find it pretty hard to believe. But it's true: My restless mind used to constantly reject the ancient practice, and I always found myself opting for high-intensity exercise instead to move my body and ease my stress levels. Though it took me a while to truly see how yoga makes you happy, I've come to learn that there are countless mental and physical advantages to practicing this type of exercise, and that I'd spent too much of my time missing out on them.
Between reducing stress levels and cultivating a greater sense of self-awareness, there's not much that this mind-body exercise can't do for you. Whether you're dedicated to a daily practice, or you simply bask in all of the feel-good endorphins that come with the occasional trip to your local studio, there's something so rejuvenating about carving out some quality time on your yoga mat. While the practice obviously feels amazing for your physical body, it also has the ability to totally shift your perspective and change your outlook on life, especially if you find time to flow as often as possible.
So, if you think you know everything about the benefits of yoga, think again. Here are a few unexpected ways in which the practice can make you feel truly happy from the inside out.
1. It Makes You Feel Like A Child Again
Every time you attend your favorite yoga class, or flow solo in the sanctuary of your room, you're giving yourself permission to be playful, unrestricted, and free, just like a spontaneous child.
We unfortunately live in a world where it's not uncommon to constantly compare ourselves to others, and many of us even beat ourselves up when we don't feel like we're "good enough." But in yoga, there's no such thing as inadequacy, or "good enough," because the practice is all about finding what feels good for you and only you, and moving in ways that make you feel like the best version of yourself. Even when you're attempting a new, funky posture, if you lose your balance and fall, yoga teaches you to laugh at yourself, get back up, and try again.
Somewhere along the way in life, adults naturally develop an internal voice of criticism. Yoga helps you strip that away, as it encourages a more childlike, innocent, and more compassionate state of mind.
2. It Teaches You How To Breathe
Breathing is totally involuntary, and obviously, it's something every single human being does. But when you focus on and become more aware of how deeply you're breathing during your yoga practice, that awareness does wonders for melting stress away and silencing the chatter in your busy mind.
Deep inhales and exhales have the power to significantly elevate your mood and release emotions that aren't serving you. And when you combine this with the gentle, strengthening movements of your yoga flow, it's the perfect recipe for blissful contentment.
3. It Encourages Better Posture
When your mom constantly told you to sit up straight as a child, I bet you didn't think that it would actually improve your mood (she probably knew though, because TBH, moms know everything).
Good posture has been said to make you feel happier and more confident, and the movements in a typical yoga flow are all about strengthening and lengthening the body, especially the spine. Try working child's pose and sun salutations into your routine for a stronger back — and a more positive mindset!
4. It Opens Your Hips, Which Can Hold More Emotion Than You Think
The movements that you perform on your mat don't just benefit your physical body; they can also have a profound effect on your emotional well-being, as the poses can help you let go of pent-up tension. This is especially the case with hip-opening asanas: It's been said that the emotional fall-out of a stressful situation is often stored deep within your hips.
So, when you're feeling kind of off or overwhelmed, try sinking into a pigeon pose, or surrendering yourself into a happy baby pose. A few of these cleansing, hip-opening postures can go a long way when it comes to improving your mood.
5. It Helps You Feel Like You're Part Of Something Bigger Than Yourself
When you practice yoga, you are automatically part of a larger community, regardless of whether you're doing your poses at home by yourself or with a group at your local studio. Yoga doesn't just unite your mind, body, and spirit through movement; it unites people, too. In fact, if you usually practice your flow solo at home, I seriously encourage you to try going to at least one yoga class in your life with other people. The positive energy in the room is palpable, and there's really nothing quite like it.
Either way, when you make time for yourself each day and bask in the self-care that goes hand-in-hand with yoga, you'll inevitably find yourself spreading that good energy and positivity that you cultivated on your mat out into the world.