Embracing the Yoga lifestyle
The practice of yoga can help guide us towards happiness. Regular practice of yoga will increase prana (life force) levels. However, in order to maximise the benefits yoga has to offer, a holistic approach must be taken. The practice of yoga must not only involve asanas (physical poses) but also a focus on the breath, mind, food and wisdom. All these factors taken together mean a yogic lifestyle can have significant benefits for your health and happiness.
There are four main sources of energy or prana:
Food: Our first main source of energy is food, not only the right type (satvik food) but the right amount (neither too much, nor too little).
Sleep: The right amount of sleep varies from person to person. Too much and you may feel dull. Too little may make you feel irritable and short-tempered.
A meditative state of mind: This mental state is one that is calm and peaceful. It can be experienced either in meditation or, for instance, when listening to something inspirational.
Breath: This is our most important source of energy and is our link between the body and mind. Breathing techniques lessen tension and offer stress relief. By releasing negative emotions they also work to increase happiness.
Today, many people experience great benefits from practising the sudarshan kriya (SKY), a powerful, rhythmic breathing technique that facilitates physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing.
Together, these four sources of prana work to create an improved mood and feeling of happiness.
Yoga for happiness
Yoga essentially means union. The purpose of yoga is to bring us into union with all aspects of our being, resulting in a peaceful mind-state conducive to connecting us with the infinite.
Yoga helps to bring the mind, often burdened with many thoughts, into silence. The whole purpose of yoga is to stop the sorrow before it arises. Yoga is chitta vritti nirodha, the act of restraining or freeing the mind from the clutches of the modulations of the mind.
Yoga is commonly thought of as just a series of postures but there are other essential aspects that make up the practice, such as meditation, pranayama (breath control) and yogic knowledge.
Living the yoga lifestyle
Yogic knowledge teaches us to bring the mind into a peaceful, focused state of being, contributing to and enhancing our happiness.
Ahimsa: This principle was detailed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Ahimsa, or non-violence, unites us with the whole of creation. When we realise everything is part of us, we cannot bring ourselves to harm anything.
Satya: The second guideline is truthfulness. It is more a commitment to truth itself. Satya is noticing that everything around us is constantly changing, but that meanwhile there is something within you that is not changing at all. A deep awareness of this truth brings happiness in life.
Asteya: The third is asteya, meaning not missing what you don’t have in this moment, nor wishing things were different from what they are in the moment — and not regretting what has happened in your past.
Brahmacharya: This refers to not being interested in the shapes and forms of the body but seeing beyond the physical to the infinite. Brahmacharya involves looking beyond small identifications and seeing bigger things.
Aparigraha: Fifth is aparigraha, meaning not taking what people give you and at the same time being very generous. Giving with a generous and loving spirit frees the mind while holding onto things and being selfish brings a constricted and contracting consciousness that prevents us from being happy.