Life unfolds from our pursuit of one or many things; things that we believe will bring us joy. Everything that we do is tied to our own joy and happiness. However, life is also consistently challenging us and putting up barriers along the way. We often get lost on our path to contentment, and fall down a rabbit hole of anxiety, stress or irritation.
Everything that happens to us in life, we experience it from within. Happiness and joy, pain and sorrow, fear and anguish, light and love. Our experience as humans is 100% self-created. If you and your friend both eat a pear, neither one of you is going to have the exact same experience – it will taste slightly different to you, you might love it and your friend might not – the experience comes from within and therefore the experience is how you perceive it to be and unique to you. That’s not to say that you create bad moments in your life, however how you react to them is completely up to you. This is not easy to remember nor is it easy to do. That’s why there are so many wonderful tools and practices out there, that can enable you to enjoy your life and all it has to offer, to make the best of what you have and to ensure that you treat yourself with love and respect at all times.
The science of yoga has been around for many years – it originated in ancient India and is a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices or disciplines. Great masters and teachers of the past were aware that a human being is both body and mind; not one without the other. Prana, meaning energy, is the vital force that holds the two together.
The word yoga derives from the verb yujm meaning to unite, to combine, to join, to re-establish a state of balance and harmony. In the Western world yoga often denotes a modern form of yoga as exercise, but did you know that the physical practices of yoga – the postures – are called ‘asanas’ and are only part of this amazing practice? Yoga is more than exercise and physical movement, it has a meditative and spiritual core. The beautiful thing about yoga is that you can focus on the parts of the practice that resonates with you – but isn’t it good to know that there’s more than just one aspect to this wonderful discipline. You might enjoy the physical asanas, the person next to you might enjoy the meditations and breath work, and the person to your other side might be there to focus on being present in the moment – finding clarity and calm. Like forms, there are also many benefits to yoga.
Yoga improves flexibility.
Yoga increases muscle strength and tone.
Yoga helps maintain a healthy metabolism.
Yoga improves cardio health.
Yoga fosters mental calmness.
There are so many more benefits to yoga, but let’s focus on the fact that yoga fosters mental calmness. Because the greatest mystery, as spoken about by Swami Rama in the book Happiness is Your Creation, lies in the depths of the mind itself. He says that;
“A happy mind is the source of all healing powers. A person with a happy mind is full of enthusiasm, courage, and self-motivation. A person with a happy mind is free from all complaints. Cultivating a joyful mind is the greatest of all spiritual practices. All human beings, regardless of whether they come from the East or the West, are equally in need of happiness. According to the yogis, happiness is always preceded by peace. A quiet mind is the foundation for cultivating a joyful mind. Mental quietude depends on one of the greatest virtues: inner purity. Without inner purity, we suffer from inner poverty.”
If your mind is clear, purified and healthy then it can become your best friend and the light along the way. If it is cloudy, impure and unstable it can be the opposite, it can cast a darkness on you and become your enemy.
In order to have a clear and healthy mind, it’s important to take time out to really be in the present moment and enjoy life as it is. Our minds however, are often restless – looking to the next achievement, the next purchase, the next experience, the next place to invest energy. We often invest our energy into the wrong things however, we often design the wrong wish list for life. We should in fact ensure that we are focusing our energies on those things that are useful, healthy and helpful in getting us on the right path in life. How do we know what to focus on? The main advice is that you can only do this once you learn to quiet your mind, with peace will come clarity and a clearer path to finding your true purpose in life.
Understanding the relationship between the mind and our breath plays a very important part in the study of yoga. Breathing and the calming of the mind is instilled in and at the very core of yoga; if you have been to a yoga class before you will be aware of how often the breath is brought into the practice. Your teacher will constantly remind you to be aware of the breath, they might do some breathe work at the start of class, also known as ‘pranayama’ and they will most likely bring you back to your breath and put your focus on having a quiet mind at the end when you relax in savasana, or corpse pose. Your teacher might also bring a guided mediation or yoga nidra into the practice, which also focuses on breath, along with calmness, stillness of the mind, and relaxation. Incorporating these valuable practices into a yoga class are in my opinion, a key reflection of a good teacher. Focusing on the breath and meditating allows you to still your mind.
A great place to begin bringing stillness into the mind is by practising some simple breathing techniques. There are some great apps and resources out here to help with this. Another fantastic way to focus on a healthy mind, body and soul is by practising yoga and incorporating this science into your everyday life. To get started, you can ask friends or check online to find some great yoga teachers near you. Alternatively, you can practice online because luckily, there is an abundance of yoga hubs and communities out there. You can read more about breathe and mindfulness apps, and yoga recommendations in our article ‘Let’s Be Mindful This Month’.
We hope you enjoy our tips on how to lead a more calm and joyful life. You may not have practised yoga before, or you may have taken a break from it but we hope that after reading this article you will take some time out for you - get back on that yoga mat - breathe, stretch, be in the present moment and of course, have fun. Love The Serenity Club x