A global pandemic, racial injustice, economic uncertainty, and political divisiveness have taken a toll on our collective well-being. Yet, this very moment can be our greatest teacher. More than ever, our resilience depends on opening ourselves to happiness.
It is with this intention that Yoga Journal’s 2021 Live Be Yoga Experience has chosen “Spark Joy” as our theme. This year’s experience will inspire joy through the practice of movement, mindfulness, rest, gratitude, and kindness. To awaken our natural joy, it’s essential that we consciously prioritize our intention to be happy.
The Power of Movement to Move Us
Movement does more than just strengthen our muscles, bones, and joints. Daily movement releases feel-good endorphins and relieves tension. It supports the lymphatic system, helping to rid the body of toxins. It moves energy, circulates prana, and helps sharpen our minds.
While the core of our practice may be found in asana, this year’s experience invites you to open yourself to the pleasure of movement in every way that serves your body, mind, and spirit. Think of walking your dog as more of a spiritual practice than another chore on your list. Make time every week for the activities you enjoy, like walking, hiking, running, cycling, or whatever moves you especially in nature.. Express yourself, release tensions, and have fun through dance.
See also: Yoga Practice Videos
Cultivating Happiness through Mindfulness
Happiness is not something that happens to you—happiness is a choice. So is the commitment to make it a part of your daily mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.” Kabat-Zinn is the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a mind-body program that combines mindfulness, meditation, and yoga to help treat stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
Whatever the source of our suffering, establishing a practice of daily meditation can help train the mind—and free the heart. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin have shown that meditation increases activity in the left prefrontal cortex—the area of the brain associated with positive moods, equanimity, and emotional resilience. In other words, meditating can help you weather life’s ups and downs with greater ease. It does not require hours on the cushion. Taking even 5 minutes a day to pause, to breathe, and to focus your intention can bring enormous shifts in your perspective and mood. It can clear negativity, experience gratitude, practice self-love, and channel compassion.
See also: Guided Meditations from Yoga Journal
The Science of Well-Being
A popular Yale University class (now available online to the general public) identified three key ingredients to feeling happier: getting a good night’s sleep, keeping a gratitude journal, and performing random acts of kindness.
Consistently getting the prescribed eight hours (or more for some of us!) of sleep each night requires being mindful of our habits and establishing a solid bedtime routine. Cut off your TV/phone/computer time an hour before your head hits the pillow, limit caffeine intake to earlier in the day, and establish a regular sleep-waking schedule to maintain a healthy circadian cycle. Unfortunately, there are so many things that can disrupt our sleep—insomnia, restless mind or body, tinnitus, ADD, cumulative sleep deprivation, and more. But there are just as many ways to enhance sleep—from calming herbs, essential oils, and salt baths to weighted blankets, sound machines, and sleep apps. Experiment and find what works best for you.
See also: 7 Ways to Get Your Best Sleep Ever
Add a Daily Dose of Gratitude
Journaling can help you clear your mind and acknowledge gratitude. But journaling isn’t the only way to practice gratitude. A lovely morning ritual is stepping outside to drink in nature and name out loud the things you are grateful for. You might be thankful for the beauty of the sunrise or the unconditional love of a partner, friend, or treasured family member. The main objective is to elevate awareness of all there is to be grateful for, not to add another task to your day. Practice gratitude by simply taking the time to be aware of and honor all the small to large joys you encounter throughout the day.
See also: More Gratitude Practices
Being compassionate, generous, and kind brings delight into the lives of others, but it can benefit you, too. According to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, acts of kindness lower blood pressure, improve overall heart health, and increase optimism. They trigger the release of feel-good chemicals like serotonin and oxytocin, which contribute to “helpers high,” activating the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. Even just witnessing an act of kindness gives us a boost, which explains why we all love and share social posts about the kindness of strangers. So whether you like to practice random acts of kindness, like paying for a stranger’s coffee, making a difference in your community by volunteering for a local nonprofit, or dedicating yourself to the practice of tonglen—the Tibetan Buddhism “giving and taking” meditation—kindness matters.
The 6th annual Live Be Yoga Experience presented by NOW® runs May through October 2021. Join our Live Be Yoga Ambassador Trisha Fey Elizarde, along with our partner teachers and experts, for video classes, special content, live events, and more! This year our intention is to SPARK JOY through Movement. Mindfulness. Rest. Gratitude. Kindness. Follow the 2021 Live Be Yoga Experience and stay connected with us @livebeyoga.