Finding Happiness: Free Your Mind and Body

Photo: Sarah Kunst

I was recently in LA for a slew of meetings for the Get Go. I left each with my mind-blown by how good people are at their jobs, how inspired and also how generous. I’ll share learnings from some of these incredible women with whom I met in future posts, but today I want to share a profound moment that took me totally by surprise. It happened in a Lyft. I was on my way home when the driver asked me what I did for a living. I answered that I’d just started my own business, a start-up about happiness.

Secrets Revealed

“So what is your secret to happiness?” he asked.

“Doing at least one thing that makes me happy every day,” I answered. “That way, every day, I find something that makes me happy. Happiness has an accrued effect. When you’re happy, it’s easier to get more of it. At least, that’s the experiment right now.”

“What about you?” I asked. “Do you have a secret to happiness?”

He answered without hesitation. “Number 1: Health. Number 2: Freedom.”

“What does freedom mean to you?” I asked. (When you make your business about happiness, you get into some pretty deep conversations.)

“Freedom is being free from bother,” he replied. “When you are not bothered, you are free.”

It was so simple. So clear. So true. My Lyft driver was a sage. We are so often bothered by a feeling of burden, annoyance, a nip of dissatisfaction. Imagine you sit down to a meal and your companion immediately begins to complain. If we could free ourselves from the bother, we’d be way less annoyed. We could act with more empathy or steer the conversation to more positive topics instead of letting their negativity affect us. It made total sense. How can we shift and operate from a more neutral place, instead of a state of bother and heightened sensitivity?

Train Your Body, Train Your Mind

I often talk about the mind-body connection. To train one is to train the other. How can we smooth the edges of our minds to be free from bother? How can we smooth our physical movements so that our bodies can feel the most free? When our bodies are happier and healthier, so are our minds.

I asked my go-to yogi, Caley Joyner, to translate that idea into some moves to unlock the tension that accumulates in our bodies. Here are a few simple but easy yoga exercises and poses to remove the kinks and tightness that bother us and limit how freely we move through our days.

WIDE LEGGED FORWARD FOLD

Take a wide stance. Interlace fingers behind your back and open your shoulders. Fold slowly forward. Go as far as is comfortable. As you can see, Caley and I have radically different mobility in our folds. Feel the stretch in your hamstrings, back and shoulders. Bonus: Shake your head yes and no to loosen up neck.

DOWNWARD DOG WITH LIFTED LEG

From a downward dog, open up the hip. Stack on hip on top of the other. Hips are a place where we tend to store a lot of tension and emotion. Opening up the hips often creates a feeling of space and release. Once again, Caley’s form and mine differ. Let your body guide where you can comfortably go.

ANAHATASANA VARIATION

Start in tabletop, then extend one leg to the side at a 90 degree angle to your body. Keep your ankle-knee-hip in one line. Walk your hands forward. Feel the stretch in your upper back, groin and extended leg. Look softly ahead.

It’s funny how your focus can affect your stretch and practice. When you fix your stare with intensity, the pose tends to feel harder. When you gave soften your gaze, your body softens as well.

HIP CIRCLES

From tabletop, step a foot outside of one hand. Rotating your thigh bone in hip socket, draw circles with your hip. It’s like stirring a pot. Lubricating your joints creates more mobility and fluidity. We don’t realize that our bodies can get stuck. Stretches and circular motion increase the fluid in the joints, like oiling hinges.

Release comes from moving around to see what feels good. The more you move your body, the more you learn what your body needs, how to release.  You can find those sweet spots with more ease. In many ways, a happy body is a combination of my Lyft driver’s philosophy and my own practice. The fundamental is freedom, the practice is daily.

We look for happiness and answers from all kinds of sources and authorities. But happiness is truly all around us.