The Benefits of Cultivating Joy in Your Yoga PracticeSeptember 24, 2019
Most practitioners understand that yoga makes us feel better mentally and physically but as our practice evolves, it’s easy to become attached to poses and lose sight of what brought us to yoga. For many of us, it was probably connected to joy or how we felt expansive, grounded or liberated in our bodies.
My favorite yoga lesson is happiness lies within. When I connected internally with my body, I immediately feel ease, find self-compassion, and locate calm and peace from within.
Wouldn’t it feel great to come back into the reason why we started practicing yoga in the first place?
Cultivating joy (or rediscovering joy in our practice) can help us soften around the tendency to push or strain ourselves in practice. We don’t have to take yoga so seriously. We can have fun, smile, and feel joy in practice. And when we do, there are hidden benefits to cultivating joy in yoga.
First, and most obvious benefit: if we’re pushing too hard in yoga, or finding ourselves attached to certain poses, our body feels stress. Stress is the opposite of what we’re after in yoga.
Stress can be damaging to our central nervous system; it can also interrupt well being. If the goal of yoga is to find ease and bring well being, tapping into joy can lead us.
When we feel joy in our yoga practice, our whole-body benefits. The heart, mind, body, and spirit come together. Our practice feels fluid in breath and movement. Ease is the result.
Many yoga teachers, like myself, encourage students to take a pause if a pose strains the body. Instead of tensing in this moment, lightening up and finding joy automatically brings relaxation. Just like life, joy quiets the mind in connection with the body. When we slow down, we can locate more calm and flow.
Tapping into joy also increases serotonin and decreases cortisol. These physiological responses feed our whole being. When we feel joy, even laughter, in our being, we’re more apt to take care of ourselves.
In addition, tapping into joy helps locate self-compassion and build self-esteem, which leads to making good decisions. When we connect with joy, or the reasons why we practice yoga in the first place, there’s less need to strain or push – we find space to live more intentionally on and off the mat.
The overall health benefits of joy in yoga are enormous. So, the next time you start to grimace, push, feel tension or become too attached to poses, take a pause and tap into your internal joy quotient. It’s available any time we go within. Bringing joy back into our practice can improve the yoga experience.
Mary Higgs, MA, is a respected writer, speaker, and empowerment coach. She has an extensive history as an active disability advocate working with organizations such as the Yoga & Body Image Coalition and Accessible Yoga. Developing a passion for mindfulness and becoming an Adaptive and Accessible Yoga Teacher transformed Mary’s life in unexpected and profound ways. She loves sharing her message that transformation comes from within and that yoga is for everyone. As a RYT, OYI, and certified Yoga for All and Accessible Yoga Teacher, Mary teaches people to explore and trust their inner wisdom, so they can live more authentically and fully. Her work has been featured by Yoga International, Devata Active, the Yoga & Body Image Coalition, and Mind Body Solutions All-Humanity. www.YogiAble.com.