When most people think of yoga practice, they often envision a peaceful man sitting cross-legged on a beach, meditating. Or they imagine a woman standing on her hands while her legs are bound like pretzel.
What many don’t realize is that there are several aspects of yogathat help us create a happier, more fulfilling, and positive life. No sticky mat required. How does yoga do this? By emphasizing an ancient, but very basic principle that states that what we focus on expands.
This is the reason meditation and concentration is such a big part of yoga practice.
Here’s how it works in a nutshell. Modern neuroscience teaches us that our brains are wired to seek out information that is similar to our current thoughts and beliefs.
So, when we take time to focus on positive aspects, our subconscious goes to work looking for more positive aspects, even when we’re doing other things. This in turn helps us to see the “silver lining” in our busy days.
With that said, here are five of my favorite yoga practice strategies for creating more positivity and optimism in our lives, even when situations are less than rosy.
5 Yoga Practice and Strategies for More Positivity
1) Express gratitude.
Even before your feet hit the floor each morning, mentally list a few things you are grateful for. These can be simple things like the coziness of your bed, or the fact that you woke up to begin with.
Gratitude requires that we actively look for positive aspects. It makes us practice what the yogis call Dharana (or concentration). Hence, this gets our brains moving in a positive direction.
2) Set an intention.
At the start of each yoga class I teach, I ask my students to set an intention for their yoga practice or day. Why? Because creating a positive life is an intentional activity. It doesn’t just happen by accident. No worries, you don’t have to go to a yoga class to do this.
Simply decide at the start of each day how you’d like to feel. Do you want to feel ease, joy, peace? When we know how we want to feel, we are more mindful of choosing activities in keeping with our established intention.
3) Keep the TV (and social media) off.
This is the modern day yoga practice of pratyahara (sense withdrawal). The ancient yogis understood that in order to focus on the positive, healthy, life we want, sometimes we have to close our senses off to the world that distracts us from our goals.
In the morning, our thoughts are generally more still, making it an ideal time for reflection and setting up our mental attitudes for the day. The last thing we need during this impressionable time is other people’s negativity interrupting our intended optimism.
4) Read something inspirational.
Again, this comes back to focusing on positive aspects and one more yogic concept called svadhyaya (self-study).
Studying ourselves means different things to different people. For some, it means going to a weekly spiritual community. While for others, it means reading something encouraging that makes you feel the positive emotion you have intended for that day.
5) Keep a journal.
Even after our best efforts, we sometimes wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Yoga practice is a great medium for the yogic principle of shaucha (purity).
The ancient yogis understood that in order to maintain our physical health, we have to keep our bodies clean. Likewise, it’s equally important to honor our negative feelings and give them an opportunity to be expressed and cleansed from our mental and emotional body.
Think of your journal like a trusted, non-judgemental confidant that you can say anything to without any filters. Once you’ve expressed your negative emotions in writing, turn it around by finding the silver lining in the negative experiences you’ve written about.
The bottom line? Creating a positive and optimistic life is completely doable. With a little effort and persistence, you will soon find yourself being the happiest person you know.