As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, our thoughts naturally turn to gratitude and thankfulness. Many of us spend most of the year taking our good fortune—our families, our friends, our good health—for granted, and the seasonal focus on thankfulness is a welcome reminder to appreciate what we have.
It's also a good opportunity to think about how we can include more gratitude into our daily lives throughout the year. A common recommendation is to keep a gratitude journal, which is used to record what you are thankful for on a daily basis. I have a planner that prompts me to write down one thing for which I am grateful every day, but it's not necessary to have a special planner or notebook—any old notebook will do. The simple act of committing to thinking about gratitude each day can help you become more appreciative of your life and less likely to focus on the negative.
Another way to instill a feeling of thankfulness in your daily life is to incorporate it into your yoga practice. The ways in which you can do this are limited only by your imagination, but here are three ways you can to bring gratitude into your practice:
Set an intention.
Before you begin practicing, set an intention that will help you focus on gratitude. Some examples include being grateful for your body for carrying you through your practice, for your instructor and fellow students for coming together to share in a practice, or for your practice itself for its positive impact on your life.
Alternatively, you might consider dedicating your practice to someone you love and appreciate, or thinking of them. Shaw Yoga co-founder Elizabeth Sislen recalls a class taken with Shaw Yoga instructor John Horan in which John started the class by saying, “Think of someone who taught you to love.” “He didn’t even mention gratitude,” Elizabeth says, “and that somehow made it even more powerful, because it wasn't a chore, wasn't specific command towards that idea, it just rose up naturally when I thought of someone who taught me love.”
When you return to your intention, dedication, or other thought during and at the conclusion of your practice, you'll be strengthening those feelings of gratitude. Many of our teachers at Shaw Yoga offer gratitude intentions and options at some point during class!
Appreciate your body.
Yoga practice is often physically challenging, and sometimes leaves room for us to feel negatively about our bodies. We might feel discouraged if we're feeling tired and stiff during class, we might be frustrated that a certain pose remains out of our reach despite years of practice, or we might be jealous of a classmate's advanced expression of a pose. When those thoughts begin to infiltrate your mind, push them away and instead focus on the gratitude you feel for what your body can do, the way it has carried you to class and is now carrying you through the poses.
Explore poses that stimulate your heart chakra.
Gratitude isn't the domain of any particular chakra, and it can be expressed through all of the chakras. That said, the heart chakra—associated with love and compassion—is a good one to focus on when you are striving to bring more appreciation into your life. Consider poses that stimulate your heart chakra, such as those that open and expand your chest and shoulders, like backbends.
Join Sadie for a special by-donation class on Thanksgiving morning (10:00-11:15 am)! Donations of the following will be gathered: canned food, non-perishable food, gently used clothing, or cash. Donations will go to So Others Might Eat. Reserve your spot now!
What other techniques do you use for incorporating gratitude into your practice? Let us know in the comments!