Most people come to yoga looking for something. A few are curious, but in general folks are looking at yoga to help them. To bring relaxation, flexibility, tone, or mobility. Others stop by a class for stress relief or even to find God.
Our reasons for unrolling the mat are as varied as we ourselves are. What brings us happiness and joy, also, differs from person to person.
Max Strom says, "We may 'achieve' our physical goals but move even further away from joy and contentment."
He raises a good point: Joy and happiness do not always come from physical fitness. Ironically, if you push yourself beyond your limits and belittle yourself to reach an "ideal" body, you can easily end up with depression, headaches, anxiety, or worse. The outer body might be looking fine, but the insides and mind have paid a high price.
The flip side is that it feelsgood to be in shape! We have more energy and physical comfort to play with our children, hike in the Rockies, or dance the night away. So, some happiness must come with being in shape.
It's your motivation or intention, behind the external goals, that really determines where you find joy.
If your goal to fitness is to get back your old crappy boyfriend (or girlfriend), this is not such a great idea. And is almost guaranteed to backfire in emotional trauma.
But what if you want fitness to live life more fully? To increase your health and live a long and productive life? Then "achieving your physical goals" really can bring more joy and contentment.
One of the keys is to stay focused before every single practice (and every single day) on your intention. This helps you to act appropriately.
For example, in your asana practice, if your goal was to look hot, then you are more likely to end up feeling crappy inside and are more prone to injury from forcing yourself. This happens because the goal is about you not being good enough.
However, let's say your postures are about to becoming fit in order to be healthy. Health means a positive attitude and "self-talk" as well. Health is not about force or compromising one aspect of your being for another. It involves looking at the big picture. This is where contentment lies.
Here's another example of how different intentions for the same goal are so important. Dr. Joe Vitale has a web site to attract a new car. This seems superficial and not a path to true satisfaction or inner happiness. However, when you hear Dr. Vitale talk about manifesting material things, he always says "It's not about the car" or whatever item you are bringing into your life. He describes the material possession as a constant reminder of how powerful you are. It's a symbol of what you can accomplish when your intention is set, you have faith in the Universe, and you then let it go.
So, again, if you want to new car to impress your neighbors or because you think it will solve all of your troubles, then you might just be in for a surprise. On the other hand, if you want to learn how to intend, believe, and let go, then perhaps going for the car might be just the thing.
Looking for more happiness?
Before each practice and upon rising in the morning, become consciously aware of your heart's intentions and the joy will be there.