A former student of mine emailed this week to share an amazing Ted Talk by Robert Waldinger, a Harvard professor who studies what keeps us healthy and happy. Waldinger is a researcher, yet a unique one, in that he is looking at data that has followed the same men for 75 years. It is the longest study of adult development, and gives insight into what actually gives us long-term happiness. Most of the men in the study still living are in their 90s.
The message is quite clear and simple, and also not overly surprising. Fame, fortune, and achievement do not promise a happy life. The thing that makes us most happy in the long run is the relationships we keep. Good relationships not only make us happier, but also healthier. Loneliness kills, and the more social connections we have to friends, family, and community, the happier we are and the better we do physically. People who do best are the ones that lean into relationships.
The true point of yoga is connection. That is the literal translation – yoga is meant to yoke us to our best self, to others, and to connect our mind, body, and spirit. Even though it’s an internal and personal practice, it increases our ability to connect with others and have richer relationships.
I can tell story after story about people who have connected in profound ways after yoga class. A student once told me how she has the best and most authentic conversations with people after class….no small talk or BS, just deep connection.
Yoga helps us heal and balance ourselves, and in turn, we improve our relationships because we enter them with clearer minds and more open hearts.