In Search of the Yoga High

Woman blissing out on the beach

November 9, 2010

If you practice yoga, don’t you just love the way you feel after you finish a class? You know what I’m talking about—that tingling feeling throughout your body, a sense of inner peace and happiness, and that heady feeling of being high. If you don’t practice yoga, I’m sure what I just described may have made you feel a little like a kid in high school hearing about how his friends got high the night before and wanting to get in on the fun. Seriously, if you have not tried yoga, it is one of the best highs I know and one that won’t leave you feeling like crap the next day.

So, I got to thinking about it and wondered what is it exactly about yoga that leaves me feeling high. I used to think it was the concentrated, deep breathing for over a full hour, all that oxygen coursing through my lungs and making its way to each of my internal organs and filling up my brain with delicious nutrients. Yeah, that is good stuff, but it has to be more than just the breathing.

During a typical workday, I sit in a chair, head bent down, looking at a computer screen, right hand clenched around a mouse, left hand perched on the keyboard, and as much as I try to watch my posture, I’m sure that I am slouched over throughout a good portion of the day. When I finally finish working and disengage the mouse from my gnarled hand, I am a big, fat pile of stress. Yoga allows me to stretch and release the tension that built up in my neck, shoulders, and back muscles. After an hour of breaking a sweat, stretching my muscles, and chanting Om with a room full of people, I’m suddenly relaxed and smiling again. When I practice after work, the high I get is the direct result of my body saying, “Thank you, Maria. Let’s try doing this yoga thing a little more often to relieve all that pent-up stress you keep throwing at us.”

Then there is the music that is played during class. Listening to an awesome playlist and “dancing” through an incredible yoga flow is the perfect prescription for making me happy, so the music element must contribute as well to the overall feeling of being high.

Still searching for the elusive source of the yoga high, I thought about the practice of setting an intention in my classes and how I often dedicate my practice to someone I love or who needs some special love and attention. I’m thinking an hour of selfless giving and taking the focus off of me and putting it on someone else who really needs it could leave me feeling a little giddy.

I’ve finally come to the realization that there is a myriad of inputs that creates this overall feeling of the yoga high. I’m not done exploring the origins of the yoga high, and I’m going to continue to write about it on The Daily Downward Dog. I’d love to hear your reasons why you think yoga gives you a high or about a particular class or place where you did yoga and got an incredible high.

How often do you find an inexpensive activity that can make you feel so great, not give you the munchies, make you feel paranoid, put on weight, or make you feel rotten the following day? We’ve got to pass the yoga high around to others!

Leave a Comment

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicola November 9, 2010 at 8:26 AM

Great post Maria! I think it’s love that makes us high. A yoga class is the seventy five minutes of total love and devotion you give to your body and mind. How can you possibly not feel good after that?

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Cathy November 9, 2010 at 3:33 PM

Excellent question, Maria! I think for me the high comes from a combination of the physical benefits of yoga with the mental and spiritual. I can get a high from running or swimming, but it’s not the same kind of high as I get with yoga. And it certainly doesn’t last as long. Yoga has the unique combination of physical, mental, spiritual aspects that definitely elevate my mood !

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ashmastandrea November 9, 2010 at 4:59 PM

Oh, the yoga high! My students tell me about theirs all the time! It’s immediate!

I think it comes from the awareness a yoga practice brings. Perhaps, we’re always in this “high” state, but we’re not aware of it…until we spend upwards of an hour concentrating on ourselves, making ourselves feel good.

I love this discussion! I can’t wait to read what others have to share!

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@yogasavestheday November 16, 2010 at 9:55 PM

Perfectly timed post for me – I had a blissful yoga high tonight. The paragraph about how you spend your workday was totally resonant. I agree – the release through yoga of your hunched/gnarled work-body is a contributor to the yoga high. Also, I think you experience a lot of adrenaline when you push your body to new and unusual limits. I love this topic!

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sukkha February 18, 2011 at 11:35 AM

Hi,

It’s very nice to see this blogs about yoga. Very nice conversation. I’m practicing yoga since 1999 and I’m also a Buddhist, practicing Buddhist meditation and studying this tradition. Yoga helps me to have a better seating practice. I think we have to look at the subtle body to get a full understanding of what is happening when we practice yoga.
We have 3 main channels: the central, one at the right and one at the left of the central cannel. We have energy circulating in the body (prana), then we have thoughts riding on the wind, thoughts and wind always goes together (like a horse and it’s rider). Then, we have to know that prana can only be mainly in at channel at a time.
Why are we usually unhappy? Because the prana is usually circulating in our right and left channel, this channels are where emotions that make us unhappy are (to summarize : anger and desire). The emotions/thoughts that make us happy are in the central channel (love, wisdom…). I.e. if we feel happy, it’s a signe that our prana is in our central channel. If we feel unhappy, it’s because our prana is in the right or the left channel.
Because thoughts and wind are always together, we can work in 2 ways : we can move the thoughts and the wind (prana) will follow (i.e. we generate love, wisdom or joy during our meditation, the prana will go in the central channel), or we can move the prana and the thoughts will follow (i.e. we practice asasans, the prana goes in the central channel, and we fell more love, wisdom, joy…)
So, what does a yoga practice? It brings the prana to the central channel (i.e. the asanas, breathing exercices loosen the chakras -the knots- and the prana can go and flow in the central channel). So, we have the prana in the central channel, so we feel happy, we feel spacious, love, our mind is clearer, there is more wisdom…

Hope this makes sense, this is very important things to study if we practice yoga, then we get a bigger picture, well, at least i think!!

much love to all

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Maria @dailydownwarddog February 18, 2011 at 1:46 PM

Sukkha – Thank you for that beautiful comment! I’ve been learning more and more about the science of the breath and your insight is extremely helpful!

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Heather Ferreira August 9, 2012 at 10:34 PM

Mmmm, the Yoga High… (Homer Simpson drooling sound) Experiencing it right now… it’s 100% groovy :)

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Maria @dailydownwarddog August 10, 2012 at 6:46 PM

LOL – Heather you crack me up!! Hope your buzz lasts a long time :)

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John Bray February 26, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Hi

I have only been doing yoga about 6 weeks but I practice at home as well as my weekly class. I have been practicing daily for about 3 or 4 weeks now, but then I had a night off. The following day I felt like I had been dumped. All the energy seemed to have evaporated from my body.

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