Yoga: A Technology for Happiness
by Nayaswami Gyandev McCord
Most people seek happiness in the form of pleasant life circumstances. Sometimes they find it, but unfortunately it never lasts, because circumstances inevitably change.
Yoga, on the other hand, offers a route to happiness that doesn’t depend on circumstances. It helps us connect with the happiness that is our natural state, untouched by outward circumstances. Yoga’s approach is scientific, not religious, for its criterion for validity is experience rather than belief. It says: “Here are tools to perform an experiment. Only after you’ve tried it will you truly know.”
Try this experiment
Rate your level of happiness in this moment, on a scale of 1 (lousy) to 10 (super).
Next, stand erect, chest open. Reach your arms overhead, bringing your body into the shape of the letter “Y.” Gaze upward. Reach your entire body—especially your heart—upward in the direction of your gaze. Inhale smoothly and deeply, hold your breath, and smile broadly. After a few moments, exhale with a hearty laugh and relax into a normal standing position.
Now re-rate your level of happiness. It’s higher, right?
Yoga says that your bodily movements lifted prana
(life-energy)—that was the rising sensation in your torso—which in turn uplifted your state of mind. Humans are wired that way: when energy rises, you feel happier; when it sinks, you feel less happy. And vice versa: happiness lifts energy; unhappiness brings it down.
So you can use body and breath to increase your happiness! Now you know why people smile as they come out of a yoga class. (Note: You could instead use body and breath to send energy downward and decrease
your happiness: slump, exhale strongly, gaze downward, and frown. Um … no thanks.)
But wait, there’s more!
Even if body and breath were all there is to Yoga, it would be a valuable technology for happiness: easy, effective, inexpensive. But body and breath aren’t enough, for when life’s heavier stuff sits on you, unhappy thoughts and emotions can make it hard to stand up straight, reach tall, inhale or smile—much less laugh. Fortunately, Yoga includes many tools that are more powerful than that.
One such tool is meditation. It’s the central technique of Yoga, for it provides the most direct access to the inner realm where your natural happiness dwells.
And you already have some additional happiness tools: faculties such as intuitive feeling, dynamic willpower (far more effective than brute force!), concentration, positive mindset, right attitude and more. Some of them might need to be trained up a bit—Yoga can help with that, too—but once trained, they will give you more control over your energy and mind, which in turn will give you a better grip on happiness.
Yoga goes far beyond techniques. Its teachings address such diverse areas of life as relationships, personal effectiveness, emotional stability, healthy diet, crisis management, creating a spiritually supportive environment, finding balance in your life, and most important, deepening your connection with Spirit. All this will help you live in ever-greater happiness.
And even more!
Yoga can take you farther still—beyond ordinary happiness to the ultimate fulfillment: Self-realization, the direct experience of your eternal bliss nature. This spiritual dimension has always been the highest focus of Yoga.
I’ve been practicing and living Yoga full-time for more than 30 years, and I know from experience: it works. I may not have reached the ultimate fulfillment yet, but I’m much stronger now in my ability to be happy regardless of circumstances. My relationship with the Divine Source of happiness has likewise been strengthened. And I’ve no doubt that, as I continue with it, I’ll become even happier. Yoga truly is a technology for happiness.
May your own Yoga experience help you find the happiness that you seek.
|Nayaswami Gyandev has taught all aspects of Yoga since 1983. He is director of Ananda Yoga worldwide, a co-founder of Yoga Alliance®, and a long-time disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. His most recent book, Spiritual Yoga: Awakening to Higher Awareness, explores the higher Yoga practices described here. His most recent yoga videos form the 12 volumes (48 classes) of The Ananda Yoga Series. He lives at the Ananda Village ashram in Northern California, where he teaches at The Expanding Light Retreat. For more info, visit AnandaYoga.org.