Gratitude is a huge part of our yoga practice and it has very little to do with postures. The idea is that being grateful for what we have will ultimately make our lives much tastier, happier and less stressful.
At the start of yoga practice, I often ask my students to try to recall what brought them to their mats the very first time they practiced; often it is fitness (doctor's orders or a self image ideal), sometimes it’s a friend that dragged them, more likely it was an injury that needed healing, occasionally it is pure curiosity.
Gratitude is a practice that we use a lot on our mats in the hopes that we become able to take it off that mat and into our daily lives.
I ask them to consider how their practice makes them feel now, and why they keep coming back. They begin to pick out the positive that has come from that injury, demanding friend, un-healthfulness, or lack of self-esteem.
Then I ask them to send an array of gratitude and appreciation for that thing that brought them to their mat, and for the sensations that keep them returning. This process is a practice that we use a lot on our mats in the hopes that we become able to take it off that mat and into our daily lives.
There is a lot for each and every one of us to be grateful for, no matter what our circumstances may be; people, places, opportunities, food, shelter, the list can go on and on.
Here are a few ways to show gratitude to the world even for the smallest of things:
1. Touch someone
Next time you’re saying thank you to someone, reach out and lay your hand on their arm. Portray just how grateful you are.
Give something small to those closest to you for no reason at all - just to show that they are on your mind.
3. Feel lucky
Feel lucky that you have a few dollars to spend on something like socks… take a brand new pair from that bulk bag you just got and hand them to someone homeless - new socks are priceless to them, but a dime a dozen to you.
Show your thanks to the world with an ear-to-ear smile and help spread that yummy feeling. Your grin is contagious, not just to others but to yourself as well. So, even if you are having a bad day, try to smile at as many people as you can; it will encourage you to reflect on the things you are truly grateful for.
5. Give again
Spend your Thanksgiving in a soup kitchen, feeling gratitude for the capacity to volunteer your time and the fact that you have a home with a fridge stocked with food waiting for you. And take that giant smile with you.
6. Act without reward
Pay the bridge toll for the person behind you. This is something one of my family members made a habit of doing every time he crossed the Golden Gate Bridge (back when it was a cash bridge). As kids we always plastered our faces against the back window to see their response - but our driver would always just keep driving without seeking out the grateful waves and beeps and flashing lights of the people behind us. It took a while for me to see that this was his way of being grateful to something else, so he didn’t need to look back for a reward.
7. Write a note
A co-worker or a family member, or perhaps the guy who packs your groceries will all appreciate a handwritten note from you. In fact I bet they keep it somewhere for years to come.
8. Be present
Show gratitude by showing up and paying attention. Clear your mind and be in the room with the people you’re with, put your phone away and open your ears.
Be grateful for what you already have by trying to further it, grow it and then spread it. Taking anything for granted often results in complacency and will stunt your growth as a human being.
10. Have courage
Show your thanks for the health, wellness and presence of others around you by having the bravado to say it, live it and keep it that way.
Keep your practice strong and your gratitude stronger, 'tis the season after all!
Image credit: Andrea Taylor