It’s no secret that exercise boosts your endorphins and makes you feel happier—and that when you combine meditation and mindfulness, it can be an effective treatment for depression. But Rupa Mehta, the creator of the Nalini Method, has taken things a step further.
With her Happiness Workout, the renowned instructor (who knows a thing or two about spreading positivity, as a teacher and philanthropist) has designed a workout specifically designed to lift your mood and bring more joy into your life. And she does it by (temporarily) making you feel…not great. (As in that grit-your-teeth moment when you think you have zero pulses left to give.)
This isn’t an hour of stretching and thinking pleasant thoughts; it’s about overcoming challenges joyfully and intentionally. Think: a high-rep workout that draws from Pilates, yoga, barre, and strength training and includes enough cardio to get the sweat flowing along with the happiness.
Not only does the workout pump up your heart rate and make your muscles burn, but Mehta promises that it helps you shed your emotional weight too, cleansing negative thoughts from your system. And the mantra through it all? Thank you. “When you’re happy, take a moment to reflect on the people, places and things that came together for that moment to happen,” she says.
Curious? Lucky for us, the New York City-based fitness maven shares some of her giddy workout right here. And if you want more mood-based workouts, check out Mehta’s book The Nalini Method: 7 Workouts for 7 Moods.
Follow along with Mehta as she guides you through each endorphin-boosting exercise and offers an intention to set before most of them as well.
1. Standing march
Your intention: “I’m going to have fun marching to my own beat.”
Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart and arms by your side. With your gaze forward, start marching, lifting your right knee and left arm up toward the ceiling. Switch sides. Bring your knees up higher than your hips and arms above your head. Tap into your core strength to lift your arms and legs. Try to stay in place as you increase your tempo. March for 1 minute. Don’t move too slowly—you want to get your heart rate up!
2. Shoulder jumping jacks
Your intention: “My mood is even giving my normal jumping jacks an upgrade!”
Stand with your feet wider than hip-width distance apart. Raise your arms to T with your palms facing down. Jump your feet in, bringing your arms in front of you. Return to your starting position and complete 20 reps. Be sure to jump high and wide and move quickly.
3. Chair clap squats
Your intention: “This is hard and fun; I’m in the zone.”
Stand with your feet together. Press your feet firmly into the floor as you bend your knees and drop your hips to come to Chair Pose. Try to keep your knees in line with your heels and thighs parallel to the floor. Bend from your hips and reach your fingertips toward the floor, palms facing each other. Bring your weight into your heels (but don’t stick your butt out).
Maintain this position as you jump your feet to a wide squat (think wide-legged chair pose) and bring your arms and palms together between your legs. Continue to reach through the fingertips to the floor. Jump back to starting position. Complete 20 reps.
4. Boxing jabs
Your intention: “I have power and stamina.”
Start in a plié position with your feet turned out at a 45-degree angle. Bend your knees and lower your hips so they’re in line with your knees. Make a fist and bend your arms at a 90-degree angle. Maintaining a low squat position, rotate from your hips and core to twist to the left, coming up on the ball of the right foot. Jab the right arm across your body to the left. Keep your non-jabbing arm tight against your body. Rotate and twist to the right, jabbing the left arm across the body. Complete 20 right/left jabs.
5. Drum jog
Your intention: “I’m drumming up my mood, celebrating my internal music.”
Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart and heels raised slightly. Bend your knees and drop your hips. Lean your torso forward slightly like you’re in chair pose. Cross your arms across your chest and hug yourself. Maintain this position and start jogging quickly, like you’re beating the floor with drumsticks. Jog for 30 seconds, staying in one place.
6. Knee raise jog
Your intention: “I’m drumming a little louder now!”
Stand with your feet hips-width distance apart. Raise your right knee in line with your hip, forming a 90-degree angle. Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle with your palms facing in. Begin jogging, stepping the right foot down and lifting the left knee up to a 90-degree angle. Alternate quickly for 30 seconds while your arms and abs remain steady.
7. Plank spider-mans
Your intention: “My core is steady as I climb to my limits.”
Begin in plank position. Shift your heels forward slightly. Hold for 5 seconds. Keeping your left leg straight, bend your right knee and draw it out and up toward your right shoulder. Return to starting position. Repeat on the left side. Complete 10 Spider-mans (right and left). End with a 10-second plank hold. Be sure not to let your hips drop or pike up.
8. Push-up spider-mans
Your intention: “Even if it is tiny, it counts—and I’m getting stronger.”
Begin in a plank position. Complete a plank spider-man on the right and left side followed by a push-up for one rep. Be sure to lead with your chest! Complete 10 reps followed by 10 regular push-ups.
9. Child’s pose with arm extension
Come to child’s pose, sitting back on your heels with your feet together and knees wider than your hips. Fold forward and rest your forehead on the floor. Clasp your hands together behind your back. As you inhale, reach your knuckles up towards the ceiling and toward your head. As you exhale, lower your arms down. Hold for 10 seconds.
10. Tricep dips
Your intention: “Let me train myself to feel the targeted triceps and not give up.”
Sit with your palms on the floor under your shoulders and comfortably on the outside of your hips. Turn your palms out to a 90-degree angle. Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground. Press through your feet and hands to lift your hips up, coming to a tabletop position. Align your shoulders slightly behind your wrists. Keeping your hips lifted, bend your elbows and then straighten. Complete 10 reps (down and up), 10 pulses, and 10 reps (down and up).
11. Stationary bicycle ab series
Your intention: “This is supposed to be tough; I want things challenging and effective. I’m going to let go of any ego; I will strive for proper form as opposed to feeling pressure to be too advanced.”
Lie on your back. Lift and bend your right knee so that it’s stacked over your hip, shin parallel to the ground. Point through the feet. Round your upper body off the floor. Take your hands behind your right thigh, keeping your elbows wide. Scoop in your belly and curl your chest up toward your knee while keeping your lower back on the floor. (Imagine you’re creating the letter C.) Hold 5 seconds.
Don’t let your legs or feet drop as you create an even deeper C, pulling your belly in and ground your lower back. The movement should be small. Complete 10 reps, curling up and releasing down. Then release your arms, palms facing down. Complete 10 reps, curling up and release down with your arms out to the side. Only release your hands if you are able to maintain form. Then, make a fist and tap your fist in and out behind your knee. Complete 10 reps. Switch legs and repeat the series on the left side.
12. Tricep dip with twisting claps
Your intention: “Let me have fun the way a kid would, isolating my triceps and not giving up.”
Come to a tabletop position, pressing through your feet and hands to lift your hips up. Bend your elbows and straighten your arms, returning to starting position. Balance on your right hand and left foot. Extend and reach your left hand and right leg toward the ceiling and together, keeping your body steady. Return to tabletop. Do a tricep dip and then balance on your left hand and right foot. Extend and reach your right hand and left leg toward the ceiling and together. Complete 20 reps.
13. Beach bum leg lifts
Your intention: “It’s as if I’m at the beach and the sun is shining on my back as I enjoy getting a great workout for my butt just lying here!”
Lie on your stomach with your forehead resting on your hands. Bend your right knee and flex the foot. Draw your right heel toward your sitting bones, creating a 90-degree angle and engaging your hamstrings. Extend through the left leg. Tuck your hips slightly and keep them grounded as you lift your right foot up toward the ceiling. Your right thigh should lift up off the ground slightly.
Complete 20 reps (up and down), 20 pulses, 20 reps (counting up, up, down to starting position), 10 reps (counting up, up, up, and down to starting position), 10 pulses, and a 5-second hold. Rest briefly (not too long!) and repeat the series on the other side.
14. Down dog
Begin in a plank position with your hands under your shoulders. Press and spread your fingers on the floor. Lift your hips and up and back to come into an upside-down V shape. Keep pressing through your hands and press the top of your thighs back. Draw the heels down toward the floor. Keep the knees soft if you have tight hamstrings and your lower back rounds. Hold for 10 seconds.
15. Kneeling meditation
Your mantra: Thank you.
Kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width distance apart and your shins parallel. Stack your knees, hips, and shoulders in line with each other. Bring your palms together in front of your chest. Inhale to lift your chest up and exhale your shoulder down and back. Hold for 30 seconds or longer and embrace your gratitude!