Every time someone thinks about doing yoga for the first time, similar thoughts arise. What if I’m not flexible enough? You need to be calm to practice yoga - and I’m everything but relaxed. What if I’m not strong enough to hold any of the poses? My thoughts wander too much, I will never be able to meditate.
As common, and completely normal, these thoughts are - they also dissipate with the first, and every following yoga session. The thing is - yoga gives you exactly the things you think you’re lacking. In the end, the reason why we practice yoga in the first place, is to develop those virtues and skills.
Most people know by now yoga may help make them feel more relaxed, but the increased happiness is much less discussed.
However, one of the immediate benefits of practicing yoga is indeed feeling happier. Regardless of the mental state you had when you entered the studio, or your current situation at home or at work, yoga practice will elevate your mood.
So, if you were looking for a good reason to begin your yoga journey - happiness alone may make it well worth a try.
Here is how yoga can make you happier.
Immediate Mental Health Improvements
Most benefits of every physical or spiritual practice come with long-term and continuous practice. However, the happiness benefit of yoga comes nearly immediately after you begin your class.
Although we’re still yet to full discover the full scientific explanation why we feel so happy after a yoga class, there are already some revelations. For example, studies have revealed the gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels increase significantly after yoga practice. GABA is a chemical in the brain which regulates nerve response, and it is reduced in those who struggle with depression and anxiety. The opposite is also true - higher GABA levels
reduce these mental health states, and instantly improve your mood.
Another thing to consider when we talk about these immediate changes is the emphasis on breath work in yoga. The deep breathing practice activates your parasympathetic system. This brings a sense of tranquility, lowers stress and any negative thoughts that have bothered you - consequently also making you happier.
In general, learning how to regulate breath has shown to be crucial to also be able to regulate your emotions. In this way, yoga can give you the skills you can use to increase your happiness both on and off the mat.
Significant Changes With Long-Term Practice
The immediate chemical response in our bodies isn’t the only way yoga makes us happier. There are also changes that happen over time. People who built a regular yoga practice report they are much happier than they were before, but also that this feeling doesn’t fluctuate as much.
There are many reasons why that is true - and only a part of them can be explained by science. In the end, the changes don’t only occur on a physical level. There is also deeper mental and spiritual work that happens with long term yoga practice.
A part of the reason why yogis feel happier over time CAN be explained through the physical changes. Yoga reduces fatigue, anger and anxiety. All these factors naturally make you feel happier. Your postural habits also improve when you practice yoga, and your posture has a significant impact on your mood. The more time you spend siting or standing straight, instead of slouching and looking down, the more you will feel confident and positive.
On the other hand, yoga works on a cellular level. With time, it can help you retrain emotional triggers that make you go into flight-or-fight response. In this manner, it taps into your sympathetic nervous system, and teaches you how to better manage your mood.
The new understanding of the world and spiritual growth that come with yoga, change your perspective on life. As you work to improve your self and learn different concepts from yoga philosophy, you also gain a more positive view on life, and learn to control your emotions and responses to things from the outside world.
Last but not least - yoga comes with a community of supportive, kind and loving people who are on a similar path. We think we can all agree that hardly anything gives us the same sense of content and happiness, as being among those who make us feel loved and accepted.