Friday, October 26, 2012 • San Diego, CA 92103
About 3 months ago, 10 minutes before I was set to teach my Wednesday night vinyasa class, I decided to make the theme birthday-related. I’m not sure why. I didn’t know anyone who was celebrating a trip around the sun that week. I just thought it would be nice if we all acted as if that day was our birthday. So I ran with it—without the stamp of approval from Patanjali.
During the centering I asked everyone to close their eyes, breathe deeply, connect with their bodies and imagine that today was their birthday. “Feel the excitement and anticipation,” I cued. “See your friends and family around you. What does your birthday cake look like? Are the candles lit? Make a wish and allow that wish to be your intention for today’s practice.”
I led my class through a total-body vinyasa experience and chose different key points throughout the practice to weave in the birthday theme. I tried to coax out positive emotions; I challenged them physically at a level that was perfect for them and they dipped into their own flows. I connected with them. I gave them a template to add meaning to their movement and by the end, as they settled into savsana, they felt a sense of accomplishment.
“Bring your birthday cake back to mind,” I said softly. “As you inhale and exhale deeply, recall your birthday wish. On your next exhalation, blow out your candles and give new life to your intention.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was practicing the PERMA model with my students. And if you’re keen to jump on the positive psychology bandwagon—which is a fun place to be—I encourage you to read on.
The PERMA model was developed by positive psychologist Martin Seligman, and was published in his 2011 book, Flourish. It outlines five elements that help us to experience well-being. Elaine O’Brien highlighted this and many other useful tools in her session “Breathing Positive Psychology: Get Happy.” She suggested that we as fitness professionals use this model in our classes as a way to support our students on their journeys to wholeness and happiness. Here’s how the PERMA model breaks down:
Positive Relationships (R)
Her session reminded me of what an enormous opportunity we have as instructors to touch the lives of people on a regular basis. It’s a true honor and privilege. Think about ways you can incorporate the PERMA model into your classes and your life. Let us know if you start seeing tides turn, no matter how small.
And by the way, today IS my birthday.