Flow And Happiness

Finding flow in our daily practices will help us to stay motivated to keep doing it. In various studies done on flow states it has been found that happiness comes from being in a state of flow. So what is flow?

Just as physically finding rhythm in movement helps us to feel more aligned, there is a similar aspect energetically and psychologically. This is reflected in the concept of “flow”. This is what we feel when we find ourselves lost in activity, where time disappears and we feel completely ‘at one’ with what we are doing. Many studies have now been done on the concept of ‘Flow’ and it has been found to be central to feeling ‘happiness’.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced: “Me-High Cheek-Sent-Me-High”), who has spent most of his life studying Flow and coined the concept, found that the following conditions are necessary to get into flow:

  1. Performing an activity that has clear goals and rules
  2. Choosing an activity that requires skill to complete
  3. Matching skills to the level of challenge i.e. the activity shouldn’t be too difficult nor too easy
  4. Getting regular feedback on whether goals have been attained

We could relate the concept of ‘flow’ to a physical body of water – creating a small obstacle to a stream of water, like a stone, can energise it, whereas placing a boulder in it’s course would completely block it, restricting its free movement and, over time, cause stagnation. We are no different. Finding that ‘flow’ is essential to happiness and continuing along our paths.

This is definitely something many people experience when performing a movement practice, like yoga. And it’s this feeling whilst in the flow state that quite possibly keeps people coming back for more.

Yoga Flow

When I’m doing a yoga flow practice, I like to use these conditions as a guide. I select the asana (postures) I want to incorporate, based on my skills – some that I find easy to do, but adding those that I find challenging enough to feel fully engaged, but not too challenging that I feel overwhelmed. After years of practice, this ‘selection’ can become more intuitive and simply ‘flow’ whilst in practice. Sometimes adding an extra element of ‘challenge’ might be changing our breathing pace, refining transitions between asana or holding an asana for longer.

Yoga asana practice has been done for centuries to precede a meditation practice. Bringing our minds into this flow state might be good reason why. Practicing postures and balance requires a certain amount of mental focus and awareness, which would stop the initial ‘mind-chatter’, getting you into a flow state which is the perfect state to lead into a breathing and meditation practice.

Think about some other activities you do on a daily basis that get you into a flow state and see whether these conditions are being met. You might not even realise you’ve been drawn to activities that meet these conditions! Now give some thought to how you could blend these flow conditions into your daily practices?

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