When you’re down in the dumps, it can be difficult to feel the bright light of happiness at the end of the dark tunnel. Work, relationships, life – you name it – can bring you down, and the last thing anyone has the energy for is slapping on a chirpy attitude for a quick fix.
But when you’re sad or mad, and stressed or depressed, what do you rely on to make you happy? What makes you feel like you’re coming back to life instead of falling into the darkness?
Well, there are many elements that can cheer us up when we’re feeling low; however, one important rule of thumb to remember is that while these may help temporarily (*here’s looking at you chocolate cookies!), they may not be sustainable or long-term solutions.
If you habitually look to external factors (or quick fixes) to bring you happiness, you could be left feeling disappointed and unfulfilled. Rather, it’s your own perspective and perception that shapes your happiness and experiences. You need to realise that you have a certain amount of control over how you feel, and that is how you begin to understand how to cultivate the art of true happiness within you. In yogic philosophy, in the Vedic tradition, the central belief is that we are all inherently able to find bliss but that we need to remove the layers that obscure our true divine nature.
How to boost happiness naturally
Now more than ever, personal practices to find inner peace are invaluable – and one popular way of connecting to your true self is on a yoga mat. Specifically, solar yoga practices may have the ability to uplift, inspire, motivate and energise your body and mind.
Regular practice of these four poses and breathing techniques can help you release endorphins and harness positive energy to create a lighter outlook on life and the world around you, no matter when darkness strikes.
Yoga poses for positive energy and happiness
1. Cobra pose
Firstly, it’s a great habit to create a positive and light environment around you when practicing yoga. Find an uncluttered space or create a dedicated area to start a regular home practice. If there's a place where you can feel sunlight shining through the window even better!
Find a comfortable spot on your mat. Then, lie on your stomach with your hands placed wider than your shoulders. Inhale and press into the floor as you lift your head, neck, shoulders and chest into cobra pose. Keep your feet facing downwards and press your pelvis into the floor. Hold your breath for one count (if there's no feeling strain), then exhale and release down. Repeat a few times, expanding through the chest.
2. Bow pose
From there, you may naturally be able to evolve into bow pose. However if you have any knee issues or if it feels too intense in any way, you can interlace your hands behind you and just lift the chest off the floor. To come up to bow pose, stay on your stomach, bend your knees and take hold of your ankles, making an effort to move your feet backward and lifting your chest at the same time. Try to stay for a few counts and breathe normally. Then, release all the way back down letting go of your chins and lay your head on your hands with your head turned to one side. Breathe deeply and notice the space you have created. Exhale, release, turn your head the other side and continue to breathe deeply, noticing any sensations in the body and how you feel.
3. Boat pose
Carefully turn over and come up to sitting comfortably, then lift your legs into tabletop position with your hands lifting the back of your knees. Bring your awareness to your abdomen and try to take 5 deep breaths in this position. Keep the chest lifted.
4. Chest-opening stretch
Finally, sit upright, eyes closed in a cross-legged position, using a cushion if you prefer. Take a nice, deep inhale and reach your arms up high, pause at the top while you link your thumbs together. If you feel any strain or pressure, don't hold the breath. If it feels comfortable holding your breath, focus on keeping the mind calm and bring your awareness to your heart centre and feel a sense of calm wash over you. Breathe deeply and tune into the sensation of calm with some deep breaths, keeping the eyes closed.
Breathing exercise to boost energy and relaxation
The sun is the energising force in nature, therefore taking a few moments every day to cultivate regular practice through gentle movement and breath work under glorious rays can be so helpful for everyday stress and anxiety long-term. Even those living where sunlight is scarce at certain times of year can benefit from these exercises to cultivate and connect to their own inner light.
While seated upright in a comfortable position, close your eyes and imagine your whole being filled with radiant light from the sun. Breathe slowly and deeply. Then, place your left hand on your left thigh and lift your right hand with the second and third fingers tucked in towards the palm. Breathe out through the mouth and in through the right side as you close the left nostril with the ring finger. Now breathe out through the left nostril as you close the right nostril with the thumb. Repeat breathing in through the right, closing the left and breathing out through the left, closing the right.
Finally, finish off by exhaling, releasing the hands to the knees and breathe in the calm, warming sensation of the sunlight. After some time of regular practice, you’ll start to carry this radiance with you wherever you go and be able to harness these feelings of tranquility, peace and positive energy.