As a yoga teacher, people frequently remark that I must be happy all the time or never get angry, as if yoga is some sort of happy pill which instantly changes all the bad things into good. The truth is, yoga DOES act as a vehicle to find a greater sense of contentment in our lives, so long as you are willing to do the work involved in getting there. Today’s blog will help you decipher whether you are TRULY happy deep within, or if you are just going through the motions on the surface.  But before we go there, it’s vital that you understand the difference between santosha, deep contentment, and the temporary gratification felt from something outside the true self.

True peace and contentment come from within, the result of achieving a state of yoga (clarity, peace, connection to the higher self) by devoting oneself to spiritual practices, often for a length of time. Nothing on the outside can truly influence this state. Clarity does not come from the size of your home, how many friends you have, or the amount of money in your bank account. People whom are peaceful and poor exist, as do those whom are peaceful and rich. Cranky, unhappy people live in both slums and mansions. Gratitude is a choice we make, regardless of where we live or how much we have. Now that we’ve cleared this up, let’s chat about one REAL barometer you can use to measure how happy and confident you truly are within yourself.

A true test of happiness is your ability to be happy for someone else when they are hitting it out of the park, achieving their dreams, and joyfully living the good life. Or maybe even living the life YOU want. In theory, this seems easy. You know you SHOULD be happy for this person and their perfect hair, gorgeous children, and fat bank account. Instead, you feel triggered.  And then you judge yourself for being jealous and catty. Let’s break this scenario down a little further, shall we? Almost everyone, at some point in their lives, feels down on themselves when they want to be happy for someone else.  What was your reaction the last time someone you love experienced something truly joyful?  If you are a regular yoga practitioner, chances are you were thrilled for your friend when he or she received a promotion, had a new baby, or got engaged. Many people, though, are immediately consumed with feelings like,  I wish I had a new _____ (job, partner, retirement account, etc).  All of these feelings, which come from within, are signs that we are not truly content within ourselves.  When we have that deep state of happiness within ourselves, we are able to feel joyful for someone else and truly celebrate their achievements WITHOUT feeling triggered. But it can only happen when we are in a state of yoga, aka a state of true clarity and peace.

If you find your mind jumping to feelings of jealousy or inadequacy when the phone rings with tales of your best friend’s 2 week vacation, step one is to stop judging yourself! It won’t solve anything, so don’t do it. Acknowledge your feelings and let them keep moving through. After all, you’ve got to feel it to heal it. The next step is to get on your mat/meditation cushion. ASAP. Yoga cultivates happiness from within, the kind of happiness which can’t be bought. Keeping up with the Joneses won’t fill your inner void, but time spent seeing yourself clearly and healing your body and mind on a cellular level WILL.

Happiness can only come from a deep state of clarity and peace, and this is the goal of yoga.  Again, this is the whole point of practice. It doesn’t matter what you have around you if you are not content within yourself. The goal of yoga is to cultivate that state of inner peace and acceptance. I also bring this up because part of the practice is to constantly check in with yourself to make sure that the practices you are doing on your yogic path are working. What’s right for one person may not be right for another. If you’re practicing yoga as an ancient science with a knowledgeable teacher, you’ll start to see changes within yourself. You’ll feel more content and you’ll notice that those old feelings of insecurity and jealousy are not as prevalent as they used to be. They might still pop up in small doses, but they don’t take over your whole being the way they used to. It’s not enough to practice asana (poses). You have to check in constantly and practice svadhyaya, self study, to make sure that your yoga is, in fact, changing your state of being. This is the entire point. When you are in that state of yoga, you show up for everyone else in your life as a better friend/relative/spouse because you are more secure and confident. It’s easy to be somebody’s friend when they’re down because you will naturally feel buoyed when you are the one pulling somebody up. It’s our nature to support others. But it takes a truly secure person to step up and be someone’s friend when they’re really thriving and you’re not, when they’re more successful than you, when they’re earning more money than you, when their family life is perfect and yours is in a state of distress, etc. This is the real testament to how secure you are within yourself: not letting happiness be something that comes and goes depending on what’s happening around you, but instead something that is happening within you.

If you’re noticing something within you that you want to work on, get on your mat and  work on it. If you need support, drop me a line in the comments below or send me an email. Don’t be shy, we’re all in this together and there’s no judgment on the path. Have a beautiful day and namaste.

3 Ways to Take Yoga Off the Mat