As a yoga teacher, I am forever inviting everyone I meet to try a yoga practice. One of the most common excuses I hear is, “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga,” which is kindof like saying, “I’m to dirty to shower.”
Nobody ever cleaned their dirt laden body without taking the action of washing, and flexibility can’t be gained by thinking about it. In these examples a behavior must occur in order to produce a change.
In the same way, how often do we decide we “need a reason” to smile before we do it? Not so my friends. The reason to smile is to change that feeling and thought. The action precedes, as Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
There is cerebral science going on here. Studies show that the physical action of smiling changes brain chemistry!
So practice smiling. You don’t have to go big or go home. Try a “half-smile” on for size. “Half smile” is a “Mona Lisa smile,” a behavioral skill for creating a serene inner environment. Some might call it “fake it ’til you make it.” Either way, the “half-smile” is a mindful skill. I’m not suggesting to be untrue to the less-than-positive feelings, but when the time comes to want to feel better or different…this skill can be employed.
“Negative feelings” can be a blockage to a meditative yoga practice, or a meditation practice in general. Shiva Rae suggests in her Inner Smile Meditation to “Begin by generating a feeling of natural happiness.” She doesn’t say “start by feeling happy.” She says GENERATE. So smile. You have the power to make happy happen, and the yoga mat and meditation block are the perfect place to practice. Did the yoga teacher just cue your most “hated” pose ever? Smile.
The beauty of the simple smile is that it not only permeates our own heart and mind, but it can change our outer environment too. It makes other people feel better to be in the presence of serenity. The half-smile lines up with the mantra in the banner below. “May my actions contribute in some way to the happiness of others…” Take your smile off your yoga mat, and into the busy grocery line. Smile at the little old lady who looks lonely. Show your pearly whites to babies, and you’ll see this science in action!
Other benefits of smiling? It reduces frowny mouth wrinkles, and softens the brow and eyes. And it may just be an antidote to the newest “syndrome”… ha!