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!

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