The Happiness Program

I met this fellow earlier today just before my Tai Chi class on the beach. Not sure if he was on his way from a late party or on his way to work and just needed a brief workout before the day began. This weekend, which, incidentally, is our last in Vietnam, I’ve been participating in a workshop called the Happiness Program. It’s designed by a local Vietnamese chapter of the global organization The Art of Living and is primarily focused on breathing exercises, including ancient Pranayama and the So Hum mantra.

The premise behind the proclaimed benefits of So Hum meditation I find very interesting. When practiced with “So” on inhale and “Hum” on exhale, both at various intensities and intervals, the combination not only regulates our breathing pattern temporarily, it’s also supposed to make it easier to take considerably deeper breaths and thereby achieve a level of calmness that can have all kinds of physiological and psychological benefits.

While the benefits might sound like hyperbole, at its core, the effects of these breathing exercises seem perfectly logical to me. Basically, rapid breathing, if not too shallow, will naturally oxygenize the entire body – without demanding much physical exertion. And as our brain is preoccupied with maintaining and adjusting to the breathing mantra’s variable rate, once the session is over, you can’t help but feel really, really relaxed.

An equal measure of theory on how to pair the breathing methods along with a “Happiness mindset” is also part of the workshop’s curriculum. Some of it I’ve heard before, but all of it makes good sense.

Tomorrow we’ll be provided with a version of the breathing technique recommended to practice for 30-40 days in order to see tangible and lasting results.