You likely already know that yoga is the secret to happiness. But the following article by Angela Pirisi titled "Yogis Score High on Happiness" in Yoga Journal provides some interesting studies and great reminders to continue with your yoga practice for life-long happiness.
No matter how much we lust after worldly objects and material
pleasures, in the end, we all just want to be happy. But despite our
efforts, happiness often eludes us. Now the ranks of science have
stepped in to help unravel the secrets of this precious state of being.
And they're discovering what yogis have known all along.
Happiness, it seems, has a biological component. Groundbreaking
studies conducted by University of Wisconsin psychologist Richard
Davidson over the past decade have shown that people who report high
rates of happy feelings have a larger and more active left prefrontal
cortex than their depressed counterparts. Other studies have concluded
that happiness may be a matter of genetics. A 1996 study of 1,500 pairs
of twins at the University of Minnesota found that, on a self-report
happiness scale, adult twins were highly matched in their scores despite
variations in income, marital status, and education.
Happiness also seems to lie outside the limits of material wealth and
life events. Winning the lottery may tip the emotional scales at first,
but most people return to a certain grade of happiness within three
months. This is nothing new to the practitioners of yoga. As Dr. R.M.
Matthijs Cornelissen of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India, explains, "In the Vedic tradition, ananda,
or delight, is seen as being present in the essence of everything that
exists. Happiness is thus not something that depends on what you have,
but what you are."
In fact, many studies suggest that yoga can effect positive states of
mind, despite life's highs and lows. In 1993, a British team measured
the effects of three relaxation techniques: chair sitting, visualization,
and yoga and found that yoga resulted in the greatest increase in
alertness, mental and physical energy, and lust for life. Likewise, a
1994 German study, which compared a group of women practicing hatha yoga
to a second group that did not, found that the yoginis showed markedly
higher scores in life satisfaction, and lower scores in aggressiveness,
emotionality, and sleep problems.
"Yoga primarily changes your consciousness, which includes your way
of looking at things," says Cornelissen. "In the process, many aspects
of your physical functioning also change, including your brain
Whether we use yoga or some other self-affirming behavior, it's clear
that even born-to-be-negative types can choose to cultivate happiness.
Just as a bad mood can become a bad habit that perpetuates unhappiness,
so can nurturing positive feelings lead to a more permanent positive
state of mind.