Some say joy is a direction in life, not a destination. It’s a mentality one carries with them – a bright light of positivity that shields you from dark emotions and that general feeling of being “down.”
In many ways, yoga helps cultivate this mentality of positivity, not just in the vibrancy we feel after practicing our daily asanas, but also in the philosophy that serves as the foundation of the practice. Yoga is about finding balance and union with the self, a feeling that is best defined as being blissful with an inherent sense of both freedom and purpose. By no means is this feeling of enlightenment an easy place to reach, nor should one ever expect to avoid feeling sad or let down in life, but with yoga, we are provided with a firm direction of happiness. Let’s explore some basic ways yoga connects us with joy.
Joy in Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga, the physical yoga based in asanas or poses, is the realm of yoga most people are familiar with. Here, we stretch and flex our bodies to find balance in new positions. We begin learning to control both breath and movement, finding strength and devotion in our bodies. For many first-time yogis, the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a solid downward dog is truly exciting. Undoubtedly, reaching new physical capabilities is an incredible source of joy for people, and it’s something many carry with them throughout the day. Practicing yoga daily and feeling a sense of progress reinforces the minds with positivity – you are growing.
Besides the feeling of success Hatha yoga can bring, it’s also an exercise that promotes a healthier feeling, happier body. For one, yoga supports healthy joints and improves strength and flexibility. It’s also a powerful tool in the fight against arthritis (and anyone with arthritis will tell a day without it is certainly a happy one!). Indeed, yoga is an exercise that truly improves mental and physical health, inspiring joy in life through vitality and wellbeing.
Joy in Bhakti Yoga
Bhakti yoga is the pathway of devotion. In Hinduism, it’s the practice of all-surrendering love and dedication to the supreme being.
While you may practice a different religion or no religion at all, there are wonderful lessons you can learn by studying Bhakti yoga and what it means to a practicing yogi. To us, it begins with an understanding of connection and oneness with the universe. As Meher Baba, Indian spiritual leader, once noted about Bhakti yoga:
“Out of a number of practices which lead to the ultimate goal of humanity – God-Realization – Bhakti Yoga is one of the most important. Almost the whole of humanity is concerned with Bhakti Yoga, which, in simple words, means the art of worship. But it must be understood in all its true aspects, and not merely in a narrow and shallow sense, in which the term is commonly used and interpreted. The profound worship based on the high ideals of philosophy and spirituality, prompted by divine love, doubtless constitutes true Bhakti Yoga.”
It’s here we see that Bhakti yoga is rooted in more than just a worship of the divine, but also love. Inherent in the practice is a doubtless love and compassion, leading one to understand that every creature and everything is a product of divinity, and therefore sacred. Said another way, Bhakti yoga directs one to realize God. You begin to understand that everything is part of a single universe and single system, including the “self.” In following this path of thinking, one experiences both wonder and humbleness.It’s a foundation for cultivating joy through spiritual and philosophical awareness. This inspires acceptance and gratitude, which inspires joy and happiness.
Finding Joy in Life
With a healthy body, a healthy mind, and sense of both purpose and connection, your life as a yogi is poised to be a positive and radiant one. Accepting the ups and downs that comes with life slowly grows easier, reflecting and finding lessons in failures and success becomes simpler, and with our humbleness comes a sense of both confidence and hunger for the adventures life provides.
Remember: Yoga cannot guarantee happiness, but it is a powerful compass to find its direction.