Did you know that there’s more to yoga than just the postures (or asanas)? In fact, the physical asanas are only one of eight parts (or limbs) that make up the practice that has evolved into many of our modern yoga styles.
While it’s not necessary to partake in the other seven aspects of yoga for the asanas to be beneficial, there are some yoga practices that help encourage happiness and contentment throughout your day. Try incorporating these practices into your morning routine for a happier, healthier you!
Meditation, also known as Dhyana, is the uninterrupted flow of concentration. Learning to meditate, quieting the mind and being keenly aware without focus, is a key to long-term happiness and can even permanently change your brain. Harvard researchers found that daily meditation can increase the gray matter in the parts of your brain associated with learning, memory, self-awareness, and compassion while decreasing the gray matter in areas associated with anxiety and stress.
Traditionally, visualization in yoga is known as the Dharana, or concentration, limb. Similar to meditation, Dharana is slightly different in that your goal is to focus on a single mental object: a specific energetic center in the body, a mantra, or even a future happy event. When you’re starting your day, you may want to practice Dharana by focusing on your happy place. How does it feel? What does it smell or sound like? Transporting yourself to this safe space can help you keep a feeling of contentment going throughout the day.
An overarching theme of yoga is gratitude: being grateful for the life we’re given, for the people and things we encounter, as well as the lessons we learn from them. Yoga also teaches us to be grateful for the here and now, for ourselves just as we are. Taking the time to name a few things you’re grateful for before you really get going can have more of a positive effect on your day than you’d think!
Set Practice Goals
Meeting and exceeding your goals can help to give boost long-term happiness and confidence. So why not start accomplishing goals before your day even really starts? Start setting goals for yourself for your morning practice. Want to finally land pincha mayurasana? Or maybe you want to extend your meditation from 5 minutes to 10? Set an aim, work toward it each morning, and see how great it can feel accomplishing your goals before you even get to the office.
One of the eight limbs of yoga eating mindfully falls under is the Niyama limb. There are five Niyamas, each of which has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observance. Saucha, the Niyama which means cleanliness, applies to every aspect of life, including what you eat.
Starting your day off with breakfast is already guaranteed to put you in a better mood, but eating mindfully and cleanly can take that a step further. Plus, appreciating your food before you eat can build anticipation, making you happier when you finally dig in.
Smiling makes you feel good. Smiling helps you reduce (and recover from) stress and lower your heart rate. Smiling makes you happy, even if you aren’t already feeling happy. As cheesy as it sounds, starting your day off with a smile (or two or three) really can help determine your mood for the day. The question is: wouldn’t you like it to be a good one?
Kat Wiseman is a content writer for Span Enterprises in Rock Hill, SC. She has a B.A. in English-Creative Writing from Winthrop University and her RYT 200 from Yoga Alliance. When she's not writing or doing yoga, she enjoys Netflix marathons, mystery novels, and being at the beach.