That daily gratitude list isn’t just a cute addition to your bullet journal. There are so many real, scientifically founded changes that happen in your mind, body, spirit, and overall life when you cultivate gratitude… Your physical health can improve through lower stress levels, leading to decreased blood pressure, less inflammation, better sleep, a stronger immune system, and much more. Your mental health can also improve through overall increased happiness, decreased symptoms of depression, and improved self-esteem.
Expressing gratitude doesn’t just have to happen on lists, but also in the yoga space. You can reap all the benefits of cultivating gratitude by changing your mindset on your mat. Read on to learn about four ways gratitude will transform your yoga practice.
Recognize the beauty of YOU!
When you step on your mat, take a second to appreciate and feel gratitude for yourself. Realize all the amazing things can you CAN do. You can do SO much. And know that all you are is enough.
You may be struggling with something. You may be struggling with a lot. Your yoga neighbor may be struggling with a little or maybe a lot. Turn your face to the sun (que upward facing dog) and focus on the beauty of what you can do. I love this quote by Martin Luther King Jr, “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” I’d like to add on to it... if you can’t crawl, then just keep breathing.
Creating good karma
After expressing gratitude inward, express gratitude outwards - towards your yogi neighbors, your community, your city, and all the way out to your world. Sending your best wishes for their health, happiness, and well-being. When you open up your heart to express gratitude outward, you also open your heart and create space for gratitude to come right back to you. Good vibes all around.
Check your ego at the door
Walking into your yoga space, leave your ego at the door, and walk into the room without any attachments. When the focus is on gratitude, your yoga practice becomes less about achieving a pose that looks a certain way. This will shift your minds’ eye towards what’s happening internally. You will be better able to move in a way that benefits your mind and body the most in each present moment. You won’t hold yourself to imaginary standards and expectations. But rather, you’ll move organically, and this will fill you with SO much joy. Your practice will become an expression of your true self. Not who you think a yogi person should look, sound, or feel like.
Less injuries from healthy movement
Checking your ego goes hand in hand with decreased injuries. Didn’t think you could get injured from doing yoga? Think again - I’ve pulled my hamstring in yoga… twice. When you are appreciating yourself for where you are at in your practice, you will be less likely to push yourself past your limits. You will ride out the journey. This will result in a healthier and safer movement. You will find the balance between ease and effort.
BKS Iyengar sums this up nicely: “When an asana is done correctly, the body movements are smooth, there is lightness in the body, and freedom in the mind....Performance of the asana should be nourishing and illuminative.”
How to infuse gratitude into your yoga practice
Incorporating gratitude into your yoga practice practice is as simple as setting an intention or dedication at the beginning of class that you carry with you in your mind and in your thoughts throughout your practice.
A great place to start is to feel gratitude for your breath. Your breath is always with you, no matter what else is going on internally and externally. On and off your mat. Inside your yoga space, and outside in the world. No matter what, your breath is a constant flow, giving you life. Express and feel gratitude for this vital life force. Throughout your practice, listen to your breath as you move, and let your breath be a guide for your movement.