If I asked you to tell me something your yoga practice has helped you appreciate, would you have an answer? I’m going to guess the answer is yes. And I’ll bet it’s the simple things you appreciate most. Things like breathing or the opportunity to move or the ability to move come to mind. There’s no doubt that yoga inspires gratitude.
Have you ever been hunched anxiously over your desk when suddenly your yoga teacher’s voice is in your head? “Big deep breath in. Big deep breath out,” mine says when I’m in this situation. Or it may happen while I’m waiting in traffic fretting about how all these people on the road have sabotaged my intention to make a quick run to the store to pick up some groceries. Then I might call upon my ability to be in the present moment.
Observe your own day and see how yoga has helped you experience life in a more grounded, joyful way. If you’re newer to the practice, you may wonder how this can happen. Here are some specific things we do that impact how yoga inspires gratitude.
1. Anjali mudra. When we bring our hands to our hearts in Anjali mudra—some teachers call it prayer hands—we’re reminded that we are part of something greater than ourselves. Whether you’re a religious person or not, this simple act of acknowledging the divine is a powerful way yoga inspires gratitude.
2. Heart openers. Many poses, particularly back bends, open the heart. This is not just for physical benefit. It’s also an action that can literally open us up to everything and everyone around us.
3. Setting an intention. We can set many kinds of intentions for our practice. The simplest way to set an intention is to notice the blessings in our lives. Taking a moment to do this before we begin our asana practice is another real way in which yoga inspires gratitude.
4. Resting poses. The more you practice yoga, the more you begin to appreciate all the ways you can move your body, particularly when you notice you can do a challenging pose you couldn’t do before. And it’s in resting poses like child’s pose, mountain pose, and savasana that you can truly appreciate your body. As one of my teachers says at these moments —after we’ve met the challenging of doing a difficult flow or series— “stop and just feel.”
5. Reminders to be grateful. I first started keeping a gratitude journal several years ago, when one of my yoga teachers suggested it in class. It was a powerful experience. Since then, the theme of gratitude has come up in countless yoga classes. “Find one thing to be grateful for,” may be the cue my yoga teachers give most, and gratitude is often the subject of dharma talks in classes I’ve attended. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. Yoga and gratitude are closely connected.
What about you? We’d love to know how yoga inspires gratitude in your life? Let us know in the comments.