By Sejal Shah | Updated: November 23, 2020
Being thankful is for more than just Thanksgiving. Here’s how to express gratitude on the mat, so that you can start or end every day feeling blessed.
“When we see that in our life, we have received far more than what we deserve or are capable of, then gratitude dawns in us. We become thankful, complaints disappear and abundance grows. A person who is grateful never experiences a lack of anything. When gratitude in you stays, that very gratitude flows out of you as grace.” says Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, global humanitarian and spiritual teacher.
Gratitude is rewarding
Gratitude actually helps you way more than the person you feel gratitude towards. When you feel thankful and content in your own life and your own experiences, then you will find that you want less. You’ll find that you’re actually more satisfied with where you are and with what you already have in life.
Moreover, studies show that gratitude is very important for our health and well being. Counting your blessings and giving thanks regularly may lead to increased and sustained happiness, a stronger immune system, increased energy and creativity, improved quality of sleep, a deeper feeling of connection with others, and more.
Fall is in the air and Thanksgiving is getting closer. The season brings many reasons for gratitude, from pumpkin spiced candles to the color of fall leaves. Although this cooler and cozier time of year can especially inspire feelings of gratefulness, gratitude can be practiced all year long. Putting a little gratitude in your daily life is a firststep to achieving many of your hopes, your dreams, your goals.
There are many ways of expressing gratitude, and it can be as simple as:
- Writing a thank you note to a friend or loved one.
- Jotting down five to 10 things in your life you are grateful for each day.
- Offering a handshake.
- Giving hugs.
- Smiling at others.
- Doing random acts of kindness.
- Volunteering for a community project.
- Offering to do a chore, errand, or unpleasant task.
- Offering genuine compliments.
- Being an active and sincere listener.
Gratitude is a habit and a gesture of the heart. Being thankful for your body, the air, water, food, people around you, your job — or even no job, for just being able to walk the earth, and live in a world that is open to you all the time - can transform your life, as this research shows. Regardless of how you express it, practicing gratitude can help you drop victim or blame consciousness and gain a fresh perspective, by reminding you of the positive things in your life and broadening your attention to everybody’s well-being. Personally, when I feel grateful I feel blessed, enriched, nourished, and more appreciative of others around me.
While there are a number of ways to make sure you're giving thanks every day, your yoga practice is another great way to cultivate gratitude daily.
1. Set your intention to appreciate every moment, every breath, and every movement. Gratitude is about appreciating every minute of your life, savoring the air in your lungs, the healing stretch that you feel in your muscles, the strength that you feel in your joints, the vibrations you feel in your body when you chant, the softness you feel in your heart, or the bliss that you feel when you meditate. Yoga makes your body secrete endorphins, with a rush of adrenaline that boosts your health and happiness, and thus yoga naturally boosts gratitude.
2. Make your movements an offering. Whenever I bring my hands together at my heart in Anjali Mudra (Namaste) at the beginning and ending of a Sun Salute, it spreads the feeling of gratitude towards the sun and life in general throughout my practice.
3. Count your blessings with every breath. It's nearly impossible to do this for an entire practice session, but just being aware of this for a few minutes will give your practice a complete turnaround. I like to inhale the essence of the blessing and exhale all limitations keeping me from experiencing the blessing in every area of my life.
4. Focus on the positive. It's easy to get disappointed and grumble about what you perceive as your shortcomings on the mat--maybe you're not as flexible or not as strong, or an injury is inhibiting movement. Make a commitment to use your yoga practice to observe all the amazing things you CAN do instead. You will see that gratitude will spill over into other areas of your life as well.
5. Smile when the pose gets challenging. Generally, we tend to make our face tight when we do a difficult pose or experience some pain. Consciously decide to smile instead. Slowly you will see that you are smiling more easily and often throughout your day.
6. At the end of your practice, express your gratitude towards your yoga teacher, your family, and everyone including yourself who made this yoga session possible for you. This will help to be appreciative of everyone around you in your life.
Start your Thanksgiving day with 8 yoga poses that kindle gratitude
Next time you’re on your mat, try these eight yoga poses that inspire gratitude. For the best results, hold each pose for five to ten breaths.
1. Mountain Pose with Raised Hands ( Urdva Hasta Tadasana)
This welcoming, powerful pose kindles gratitude as you open your heart and stand grounded in receptivity. Feel hopeful and grateful for all your dreams and the unknown adventures of the future that give you a sense of purpose and openness respectively.
2. Standing Forward Fold (Hastapadasana)
This releases the spine and invokes gratitude as you learn to trust your feet to hold you and allow fresh, oxygen-rich blood to move towards your brain for mental clarity. Allow your worries and negativity from the day to roll down your spine and pour onto the floor, and feel renewed with gratitude for the positivity in your life.
3. Child’s Pose (Shishuasana)
This gentle hip-opener inspires gratitude as you fold forward into yourself, get closer to the earth as if you are putting a gentle kiss of gratefulness on the forehead of mother earth. Bow down and surrender. Let go of things that are not serving you. Find gratitude for your very breath—a sign that you are alive and everything is possible.
4. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
This challenging pose inspires gratitude as you practice courage and vulnerability while remaining open. As you open your heart, throat, and shoulders, find gratitude for all the courage you’ve summoned into your life, and how it’s helped you through challenges big and small.
5. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
This hamstring stretch inspires gratitude as you focus your attention inward. As you breathe calmly, consider one part of your body for which you are especially grateful.
6. Supported Reclining Heart Opener (Supta Baddhakonasana)
This relaxing chest opener softens and opens up your heart chakra and inspires gratitude as you allow the props to support you. Think of a friend, family member, or mentor who is dear to you and all you’ve learned from him or her. Allow the thought of this person to inspire feelings of being nurtured and loved. Feel the gratitude for yourself and those around you radiating out from your heart center.
7. Knees-to-Chest (Pavanmutasana)
Lying down, draw your knees into your chest and wrap your arms around your shins. Take a moment to feel gratitude for yourself. Hug yourself and accept who and where you are.
8. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
This “ahhhhh”-inducing pose inspires gratitude as you rest completely and let go of all tension. Find compassion and gratitude for your own journey, for all of your strengths and all of your struggles. Finally feel compassion and gratitude for all beings everywhere, wishing them health, happiness, and ease on their journeys as well.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I encourage you to reflect on what your yoga practice has done for you over the years. Not only will this get you in the spirit of Thanksgiving, but it will also give your practice new meaning and purpose.
Celebrate gratitude for a month
Studies prove that giving thanks can make you happier, and gratitude increases a sense of well-being by 10%. Try it and find out for yourself!
Starting from Thanksgiving day, maintain a Gratitude Journal. Every morning, start your day with a simple gratitude meditation about 3-10 things you are grateful for, both big and small. Simply jot down the little moments of grace that come effortlessly into your life.
You will be amazed at how these small blessings cultivate a beautiful "just right" abundance of love and joy.
Make the whole month about giving thanks, not just one day. And you will see that it will become your life habit.
Finally let us remember that Thanksgiving is much more than turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. This year find gratitude not only for your blessings but also in the challenges that have shaped who you are today.
After Thanksgiving, continue celebrating the giving and gratitude season on Giving Tuesday and donate to Trauma Relief Fund for victims of natural disasters and traumatic events.
I would also like to invite you to attend a free online session, Beyond Breath, to learn about SKY Breath Meditation. This breathwork/meditation combo gives so many many wonderful benefits anyone would be grateful to receive!
Happy Thanksgiving and #GivingTuesday!
Sejal Shah, E-RYT 500 Sri Sri Yoga Teacher, YACEP, C-IAYT, Meditation Teacher, Happiness expert, NYU Post Graduate Medical School approved Yoga-CME retreat facilitator, Mind-Body Wellness Writer, Homeopath. She can be followed on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.