Our ancestors adhered to the daily, seasonal, and yearly rhythms of nature by necessity, but modern life overrides these cycles, compromising women’s health and happiness. Millions of women are trying to do it all, all the time, and end up feeling depleted and defeated. In The Way of the Happy Woman: Living the Best Year of Your Life, Sara Avant Stover shows how simple, natural, and refreshingly accessible practices can minimize stress and put us back in sync with our own cycles and those of nature.
Sara Avant Stover is a motivational speaker, teacher, and mentor and the founder and director of The Way of the Happy Woman®. After a health scare in her early twenties, Sara moved to Thailand, where she embarked on an extensive healing and spiritual odyssey throughout Asia and served as one of the pioneer Western yoga teachers in that part of the world. She travels the world leading women’s workshops and lives in Boulder, Colorado.
NWL: What is the Way of the Happy Woman?
SAS: The Way of the Happy Woman is an ancient way of living that puts one in harmony with oneself and one’s surroundings as a feminine being in the modern world. This requires simplifying, slowing down, aligning with the rhythms and cycles of nature, and living from the inside out through the self-care practices of seasonal yoga, meditation, lifestyle, and nutrition.
The Way negates the need to fix or perfect oneself and instead embraces radical acceptance and self-love. It leads women home to their essential natures — radiant, indestructible happiness.
NWL: You mention rhythms and cycles; what do they have to do with happiness?
SAS: In modern society we’ve become so estranged from nature. Those of us who live in cities can go for months without setting foot in a forest or breathing fresh air. Because of electricity our sleeping and waking cycles are no longer dependent upon the rising and setting of the sun; and our menstrual cycles no longer mirror the waxing and waning of the moon. However, we are creatures of nature. And for women this link is especially potent.
As the centers of our families and communities, we’re the ones who preserve the sacred balance of all things. Our bodies, emotions, and spirits are tremendously sensitive to the rhythms of life. But we’ve forgotten this; and so we suffer. We can’t sleep, get cancer, become infertile, develop uterine fibroids and cysts, and more. Reclaiming nature’s rhythms, as they live in our own bodies and hearts, is what can heal us. It can heal the world at large, too.
It’s not sustainable to go full throttle day after day. We need cycles of blooming, maturation, decay, death, and rebirth. We need the full circle of life for true happiness to take root within us. Light is the other side of dark. Birth is the other side of death. And happiness is the other side of sorrow. One can never exist without the other.
NWL: You combine a lot of different elements in the book — the seasons, yoga, meditation, and recipes. Why do you combine all these? What’s the impact?
SAS: As I mentioned earlier, the Way is about living from the inside out. We need tools and practices to connect us with our inner worlds, to bring our inner lives out and our outer lives in. So the yoga and meditation connect us inwardly. We experience ourselves as more than our thoughts and our outer roles and activities. We learn to trust our bodies and our intuition. Then we need nurturing foods to give our bodies the sustenance they need to heal and grow. All these things, when adapted to the seasons, connect us to the changing rhythms of Earth and of our own hearts and lives. When we do this, we feel connected to ourselves and to all of life. We become more trusting of change and steered from an inner compass (rather than the compass of what others demand of us).
NWL: What are the essential ingredients women need in order to start living with more happiness?
SAS: Most important are silence and solitude. Every woman needs pockets of these daily. Also mindfulness. This gets us to pay attention to what’s happening in each moment. It wakes us up to our lives and gets us out of our overly busy minds. You can combine both of these in a minimum of ten minutes of meditation every day; and by meditation I mean sitting quietly with your eyes closed and feeling the rising and falling of your breath in your belly.
We also need sleep. If we’re not sleeping well or enough, everything starts to fall apart. About eight to nine hours is what we need to really thrive. We also need beauty and pleasure — adorning ourselves in nice clothes and jewelry, buying ourselves flowers, dancing, listening to music, making art, and appreciating what is exquisite around us.
If a woman can make sure to have these things each day, she will dramatically improve her happiness.
NWL: What do modern women absolutely need to know to stay healthy and happy?
SAS: You deserve to be happy beyond your wildest dreams. And you’re the only one who can do that for yourself — not a knight in shining armor, a winning lottery ticket, or a magic pill. You have to slow down, simplify, do less, and let your guard down. You have to ask for and receive support. You have to say no more in order to say yes to yourself.
It’s in the quiet, ordinary moments that you’ll truly meet yourself. It’s in weathering the seasons of your life with dignity and grace that you’ll find your true power as a woman in the world. Making yourself happy is not selfish; it’s the most altruistic act you could ever perform.
Visit Sara Avant Stover online at www.TheWayoftheHappyWoman.com.