I am getting tired of people confusing the hope and optimism I experience on a daily basis for naivety. Seriously. Get over it. I can’t help myself. I’m a happy person. A few years ago I had a roommate who enjoyed calling me a ‘Pollyanna’ whenever I expressed any positive thoughts about – well – about pretty much anything. And then, over the weekend, my Mom said to me, “I was naïve like you are. I trusted everybody. I believed in love…but you can’t trust anyone.”
It must be very sad to wake up every morning believing there isn’t one soul in the whole wide world batting for you.
Listen, it’s not like I spend my days skipping through imaginary fields of flowers, the air filled with birdsong and woodland creatures gathering ‘round to bask in my glow of giddy positivity. It’s not like that at all.
Anyone who’s been near me when I’m pre-menstrual knows I have a fierce snark streak. Traveling companions know that I throw f-bombs at bicyclists who run stop signs (not directly at them, of course – I wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings). And don’t get me started on people who bring more than fourteen items to the Express Check-out line at the local Safeway.
Like everyone, my moods vary. They can cover the gamut of the Seven Dwarfs in the time it takes you to watch an episode of the Big Bang Theory. But underneath it all is the knowledge that everything will be all right. This isn’t a ‘hope’ or a ‘wish’ – it’s a knowing. I know. Some people wear their bitterness and cynicism as if it’s something to be proud of. But if I didn’t know there was good in the world – or the potential for joy in every moment – I would lose my mind.
Opening Your Heart
The truth is, while I believe it’s possible for individuals to have a predisposition toward being either preternaturally happy or melancholy, it’s yoga that elevates my mood and keeps it elevated.
Of course there are other mood enhancers, but why would we choose a cheap, processed sugar-filled meal over a fresh, organic feast? The first might provide a fast high, but it’s inevitably followed by a mighty crash. A regular yoga practice sustains me.
Let’s Get Physical
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that the asanas in yoga have a physiological effect on our body. We can feel the stretching and strengthening, the twisting and the rush of blood. But the poses have an emotional effect as well. For instance, forward bends tend to be calming while backbends are heart-opening energizers. And that’s pretty much any forward bend or back bend. As you might have guessed – I’m a big fan of the back bend. My favorites? Simple, supported poses that utilize props to protect the lower back:
How simple is this? Nancy has used Three Minute Egg blocks to arch her spine and support her head. But the same effect can be achieved with a bolster and pillow. And you can see the lift in her chest as well as the way her shoulders open back. Her legs are straight, but knees can remain bent or placed soles of the feet together in cobbler’s pose. Come out of the pose when your body tells you to (although I wouldn’t hold the pose longer than ten minutes – but that’s just me). Follow the pose with knees to chest.
Not only will opening the heart energize and enhance your mood, it will reverse the chronic rolling forward of shoulders computer work and driving encourages.
Go ahead – get happy.