I want to confess something, something that has been weighing heavily on my mind and heart. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that lately, I have been feeling down; with all that is being revealed in the news, threats between leaders, mass shootings, sexual assault – I sometimes find it hard to remain positive and not let all the sadness get to me.
But, I spent some time meditating and I reminded myself that worry doesn’t get me anywhere, plus, it only diminishes the value of the good things I have in my life; a roof over my head, my family and friends, and my health.
With Thanksgiving unfolding quickly, I think we can all benefit, myself included, with making gratitude yoga a regular practice. When we open ourselves up to be grateful for what we already have, we open ourselves up to all life has to offer.
What is Gratitude Yoga
Gratitude yoga is mostly about your state of mind. It involves making a conscious effort to incorporate thankfulness into your yoga routine. This can be done in a variety of ways: through setting an intention at the beginning of the day, before you begin your practice, or as part of your meditation.
The point is, if we remind ourselves to be grateful for what we do have, we lose the negative thoughts that often flutter in our head uninvited. By choosing to be thankful, that little bit of fear, sadness, anxiety, and even anger gets pushed aside and our gratitude makes room for strength, happiness, confidence, and peace to come in.
When I use the term gratitude yoga, keep in mind it is not limited to the mat. I firmly believe that we can demonstrate our appreciation through all areas of our life. Let’s begin with the one day of the year that speaks to gratitude more than any other holiday out there, after all, they named it Thanksgiving, right?
1. Give Thanks and Be Present in the MomenT
Every year that I have all of my family with me during such special times, I remind myself to be grateful for their love and presence and I prompt myself to be in the present. This is where I take my gratitude yoga off the mat and bring it into everyday life. I am thankful that I have my parents and family around me to enjoy this day and this special meal, and I make sure to show this to them by giving them my full attention; no screens, no devices, just me.
2. A Daily GratitudE
There are two ways you can accomplish a daily gratitude. The first is to begin your day with an intention, one that you plan to recognize throughout the day. Although this can be sometimes hard to do, in the rush of the morning it can be difficult to take a moment for yourself, but I promise you, it is worth it.
Intentions are a great way to set up your day for a positive outcome. They can be simple: “Thank-you for the patience I will have with my children today.” Or, more complex and targeted to a goal: “Thank -you for my positive attitude all day, and for allowing me to complete my project on time.” By saying thank-you before we actually achieve our intentions, we are forecasting our own success. We are reminding ourselves to be grateful throughout the day.
I am not a morning person, so, I often use the first intention when I know I didn’t get enough sleep the night before; I know that when I am tired, my patience for my children’s shenanigans is at a low level. When my morning intention of gratitude is set, it helps me to remember to be more understanding with my children, even when I am frustrated. It reminds me to be thankful for their presence in my life, no matter how hard of a day I am having.
#1 - THE POWER OF REGULAR GRATITUDE
A morning intention can change daily based on your personal reflections from the day before or can remain the same if you feel that you have not accomplished what you set out to do that day. They can also be based on goals and aspirations for the future, anything to help you accomplish your objective.
Try this every day for one month, set a daily intention of gratitude. Throughout your day, think back to your intention. When you do this, you make a conscious effort to apply your intention to your daily activities. Your form new pathways of thought that allow for positive change to happen, including a show of gratitude. (And! If you need support with your monthly goal, Urban Fit Yoga offers a 30-Day Challenge to support you the whole way through.)
Consider this, if I remind myself every day to have more patience, what do I develop? More patience. If I remind myself to be more thankful, I too will become more thankful. This valuable habit is something I strive to complete every day, it is as important to me as my morning cup of tea.
#2 - SET AN INTENTION BEFORE YOUR YOGA PRACTICE
The second way you can accomplish a daily gratitude is before you begin your yoga practice. This is a great way to practice gratitude yoga, in that you can demonstrate your gratitude towards your practice, what it does for you, and for your body.
If you have ever experienced what it is like to break a bone, suffer from a long bout of sickness, or had any part of your body not be able to perform to its usual standard, then chances are you have learned to appreciate all that your body can do for you on a regular basis.
One of the best ways to thank your body is to be kind to it in return. This includes healthy food, exercise, and a loving, respectful relationship with yourself. I love to practice yoga as it has allowed me to develop a self-love attitude for my body, more than any other form of exercise.
With yoga, it isn’t about self-judgment, it’s not about being good or bad, it is simply about showing up on the mat and putting the effort in. When I show gratitude towards my body, it gives me so much in return; it gives me the ability to just be me, which is something that we should all be thankful for.
3. Meditate Your Way to GratitudE
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a study from 2011 actually showed that if you take a few moments to write down all that you are thankful for before bed, that you may not only sleep better but longer as well. Perhaps this is simply because it distracts us from negative thought, or it simply brings peace into our lives, however it works, it’s one of my favorite ways to help reduce the stress in my life.
4. Always Keep in Mind the Bigger PicturE
It can be easy to forget that we have a lot of things to be grateful for when life turns bleak and grey, but that just means we have even more of a reason to include gratitude in our yoga practice, on and off the mat.
Whether your wellness practice includes yoga, meditation, following a virtuous path, or just being mindful of yourself and others, don’t forget to add some gratitude to the mix. Show appreciation for life and all that it has given to you; life gives what you put in, so make sure that you put in your best so that you will always receive the best in return.
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