This afternoon, I stumbled across an interesting piece in the New Yorker regarding the concept of eudaemonic happiness, which Aristotle described in Nicomachean Ethics. Eudaemonic happiness is, quite simply, the idea that happiness is a practice, not a feeling or a destination. It’s being in the moment, being engaged in the action.
It goes without saying that this concept is nothing new. *rim shot* However, in studies that have since been replicated, researchers have found correlations between levels of eudaemonic happiness and genome function. Whereas loneliness and isolation induced a defensive state in the body–increased inflammation, decreased antiviral response–high levels of eudaemonic happiness were associated with the opposite profile. In short, increased eudaemonic happiness may lead to health benefits.
Although the article did not address yoga per se, I nonetheless see parallels between the yogic idea of “being in the now” and Aristotle’s eudaemonic happiness. Both concepts say, “Be present. Engage with the process. Find happiness here in this moment.” It’s worth remembering that when we live this practice, we may be helping ourselves on a physiologically fundamental level.