“Turn the corners of your mouth up.”
Time continues to fly…. It’s 90 degrees in my house as I write this, so clearly summer has arrived! I hope you are carving out some time this summer to do the things that make you HAPPY AND FULFILLED.
As many of you know, in February I went “back to school” to become a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach. I am loving how the evidenced-based research of the program lines up so well with the mind-body practices of yoga. Among the understandings I’ve gained is an increased appreciation of how happiness, positive emotion and good health go hand in hand.
It’s now well known that happiness and positive emotions are correlated with increased cardiovascular health, optimal gene expression, decreased pain, and a stronger immune system, etc. Studies have shown associations between increased “perception of happiness” and decreases in systemic inflammation. Happiness may suppress the peripheral circulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, meaning…
Happiness itself appears to be anti-inflammatory.
Furthermore, the happiness that arises from deep meaningfulness and purpose offers greater health benefits than the happiness that arises from pleasure-driven gratification. In fact, chasing or actively seeking happiness can sometimes correlate with decreased health and well-being! (Think addictive behaviors.)
So how do we honor our own happiness without chasing it? How do we move towards the greater wellness that arises from living a life of purpose and meaning? How do we engage the PRACTICE OF HAPPINESS in everyday living?
Your life is full of all the answers and non-answers to these complex questions… buthatha yoga always invites us to start HERE AND NOW, IN OUR BODIES, both with and in spite of our current conditions.
One of my favorite (and most irritating) yoga cues is: “TURN THE CORNERS OF YOUR MOUTH UP”. It’s challenging because it invites us to change our state. Its effective because it actually changes our state. Being ABLE to change our state is one of the most potent possibilities the practice of yoga offers. It reminds us that wherever we are, no matter how terrifying or unmanageable our lives may seem or be, we can take those first steps back towards our happiness, again and again.
TRY THIS RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE:
Sit more comfortably.
Begin to notice the breath moving easily in and easily out.
Lengthen your spine and the sides of your body from your hips to your ears.
Turn the corners of your mouth up (however much you’d like).
Now set an intention for happiness, for yourself and for and all beings.
Stay with the smile for 10 breaths.
After 10 breaths let your face move freely in whatever way that it wants to.
Be present and accept whatever arises, including all of the feelings that aren’t happiness.
But also know that the action of changing your facial expression is positively impacting your inner state. It’s a small but potent step.
Siri Peterson Cavanna