Life is Meant to be Joyful

“Life is meant to be joyful.”  She spoke these words to both open and close the most epic kundalini yoga class at lululemon athletica last night.  Seriously – we were rocking out to “Party Rock Anthem” like you’ve never seen.  Yoga traditionalist wouldn’t have cringed at our awesome asanas us we seriously got our groove on looking more like a dance hall than a yoga studio.  Smiling.  Sweating.  Freeing energy.  Laughing. Playing.  “Life is meant to be joyful.”

Contrast this to the capoeira class that I just returned from this afternoon.  What is it?  Well let’s just say Papa Martial Arts met Mama Brazilian Music and.. boom boom POW!  Capoeira was their darling lovechild.  This dynamic artform weaves together music, drumming, acrobats and self defense.  What’s not to love right?!

Well in all fairness to Baby Cap, it was only my 3rd class.  I like the idea of Capoeira.  I like the playful acrobatics of one handed cartwheels and walking on my hands.  I like the strength and power of the combative dance-like martial artsiness.  I like the idea of having the core strength (and rockin’ bod) of a Capoeira chick. 

So in spite of my efforts to embrace a ‘beginner’s mind’ and enjoy the unknown of my new found activity, I found my mind (and gut) racing back to grade 3 gym class.  Good ol’ Canada Fitness Testing and I was the slowest girl around the track for the endurance test.  (OK not dead last but let’s just say I got a ‘Participation’ badge in the event.)  There was nothing joyful about this instructors’ barking words.  There was nothing joyful about having to do pushups because someone else in class couldn’t name the correct Portuguese word for the drumming beat we were listening to.  There was no smiling or laughing or playing. 

And so I weighed my options.  (1) Stay and sit outside my comfort zone (aka – grow).  Or (2) pursue something more joyful.  With a mounting sense of ‘igottagetouttahere’ filling up my belly,  and the class paused for a water break, I seized my opportunity, my backpack and kindly thanked the instructor as I opted for option two (or dues as they say in Portuguese). 

I know what you’re thinking and part of me is thinking it too.  Growth is achieved outside our comfort zones.  If we don’t grow we die.  Think about it.  Nothing in nature is stagnant.  We’re either growing, blossoming, shining, expanding or we’re receding, retracting sinking, sulking, not to mention boring. Just because something motivates growth doesn’t mean it’s necessarily joyful.  (I can’t say I enjoyed memorizing all 206 bones in the human body but I was damn well chuffed with myself when I ultimately rocked a Masters degree.)  Conversely, joyful activities don’t necessarily inspire growth. (I feel joy when Presidents Choice Candy Cane icecream hits my freezer every Christmas but it doesn’t often spawn personal growth.. other than that of my waistline.) 

But the two aren’t mutually exclusive either.  ” ‘William Butler Yeats wrote that happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing.’  Contemporary researchers make the same argument: that it isn’t goal attainment but the process of striving after goals – that is, growth – that brings happiness.”  –  Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project

The key is finding the optimal combination of joy and growth in an activity that keeps us coming back for more.  A balance that is as unique and personal as each and every one of us.  To complicate it further, because we’re so adaptable, we become accustomed to activities, in turn causing them to lose their luster (like the excitement of driving your Toyota Matrix that wears off over time).  And so, we seek out new more exciting ones – in essence to maintain an environment of growth. 

So just trying capoeira was enough to satisfy my need for growth.  (I can now confidently do one handed cartwheels in both directions thank you very much!) But the lack of joy it brought me wasn’t the right recipe to keep me coming back for more.  Instead, walking home with the warm sun on my back,  relishing in finding a new recipe, cooking it for dinner and then sitting down to write this blog inspired the optimal happiness : growth ration for this gal. 

After all, Life is meant to be joyful.

*Check out the Party Rock Anthem video for some crazy yoga-inspired break-dancing at the end.  And a dancing Jesus.  Enough said.

** For a rockin’ yoga class to inspire joy and challenge growth visit www.vibeyoga.ca

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