Be happier with 7 minutes of yoga

Story highlights

  • Certain body posturing, respiration and thinking positively influence our physiology
  • Studies show that recalling a happy memory makes you happier

Dana Santas is the creator of Radius Yoga Conditioning, a yoga style designed to help athletes move, breathe and focus better. She's the yoga trainer for the Atlanta Braves, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Lightning, Orlando Magic and dozens of pros in the National Football League, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.

(CNN)Devoted yogis will tell you that yoga is not only the path to enlightenment but also happiness. Numerous studies support this claim, pointing to yoga as a general practice for quelling stress, easing anxiety and elevating mood.

Although there's no scientific analysis of whether particular yoga poses make us happy, research shows that certain body posturing, respiration and thinking positively influence our physiology. When we feel any emotion at all — happiness, unhappiness, anger, etc. — we experience specific hormonal reactions that feed each feeling and prompt unique mental and physical manifestations, such as smiling when happy, crying when sad or crossing our arms when angry or defensive.
    Science has shown that we can effectively, and quite quickly, reverse the emotion-to-body-response process by leveraging our physical and mental states to alter our emotional state. For instance, even forced smiling in stressful situations immediately lessens your stress response and elicits happy hormone production. As such, my yoga for happiness sequence is based on poses, breathing and meditation proven to boost feel-good physiology within minutes.
    Because everyone wants to be happy, I've been using this yoga practice myself and with clients for years; so, I can happily attest to its benefits.

    Breathe in the present moment

    According to a 2010 Harvard study, people spend 47% of their time worrying about things that aren't happening ... and, understandably, are less happy because of it. By focusing on your breathing during yoga, you keep your mind in the present moment on your current action.
    Better still, in as little as 90 seconds of deep, diaphragmatic breathing, you can initiate your parasympathetic nervous system, which shuts down the stress response by lowering cortisol (stress hormone), blood pressure and heart rate while increasing oxytocin and endorphins (happy hormones).
    Establish diaphragmatic breathing
    Diaphragmatic breathing uses the expansion and contraction of your diaphragm to take long, deep breaths. To stimulate diaphragmatic breathing, inhale deeply for a five count into the lowest lobes of your lungs, focusing on expansion of your lower ribs while avoiding any arching in your midback. Then exhale for a five-or-greater count to completely empty your lungs. Continue breathing this way for at least 90 seconds.
    Practice present-moment awareness
    While breathing diaphragmatically, focus all your attention on