Even if your to-do list is a mile long, yoga can help you pause, reflect and express gratitude for the good things in your life. As you think about gratitude, I would like to offer my personal collection of techniques and yoga postures that will stimulate and awaken your sense of gratitude.
3 Ways to Bring Gratitude into Your Yoga Practice
1.Set an intention
Before you begin your yoga practice, set a personal intention. Make a mental note of the things you love most about your life—everything from family and friends to your home and career. Also, acknowledge the challenges you face, and give thanks for the lessons. Setting a gratitude-based intention establishes a positive tone for your personal practice and helps nurture your life and relationships.
Don’t be afraid of the word “meditate.” It is a simple act of pausing, breathing, and being in the present moment. In our yoga practice, we sit in a comfortable seated position often at the beginning and end. I like to give myself five to 10 extra minutes at the end to place my hands over my heart, breathe deeply, and mentally run through all of the things that bring me joy.
When negative thoughts creep into your mind, breathe in, and then exhale them out. Utilize your breath (the inhale and exhale) as a tool to reset your mental state both on and off the mat. Breathe in loving, kind, and compassionate thoughts, and exhale the feelings that no longer bring you joy. Breath awareness is the perfect way to reset your mind.
3 Yoga Poses That Evoke Gratitude
Each yoga pose cultivates a different feeling in the body and mind. Here are three of my favorite yoga poses that elicit a feeling of gratitude:
1. Mountain pose
Standing in Mountain Pose not only strengthens your thighs, but it also creates a sense of stability. On a deeper level, this stability translates into feeling grounded and secure. When we feel secure, it is easy to acknowledge all that is wonderful and amazing. When life brings challenges, the stability inspired by the posture gives us the emotional steadiness to handle issues with grace. With this pose, we feel rooted and connected, and from that place of strength, we can be open to take on our challenges and feel grateful for everything that life has to offer.
How to do it: Stand with your heels hip-width apart and your feet parallel or big toes touching. Keeping your weight evenly distributed on both feet, contract your thigh muscles to draw them away from your knees. Draw your belly towards your spine and tilt your tailbone downward towards the floor. Relax your shoulders, open your chest, allow your arms to hang by your sides, and keep your chin parallel to the mat. As an added touch, bring the palms together are the heart. Take five deep breaths.
2. Camel pose
One of the most beautiful heart-opening poses is camel pose. It provides physical expansion across the chest and shoulders. The heart floats towards the sky in a way that truly offers the purest form of gratitude.
How to do it: Kneel with your knees hip-width apart and your thighs perpendicular to the floor. Gently rotate your thighs inward, and place your hands on your lower back near your pelvis with your fingers pointing towards your butt. Inhale, pressing your pelvis forward as you lift your ribcage and slowly arch backward with your upper body until you’re looking at the ceiling. You can either keep your hands on your lower back or move them to your heels, but try to keep your thighs as vertical as possible. Lower your head toward the floor if you can do so without discomfort. Hold this pose for five breaths. Repeat two to three times.
3. Low lunge/Crescent lunge
This posture provides the perfect expression of gratitude. As the legs and hips release to the ground, they connect us to our foundation. Having a strong foundation provides stability and comfort and releases us from fear. The lift of the heart is a lovely gesture of compassion, understanding and openness. This teaches acceptance and love.
How to do it: Begin in a downward-facing dog position. Step one foot between your hands, so that your front knee is bent 90-degrees, and lower your rear knee to the mat, extending your toes backward so the top of your rear foot also rests on the mat. Now lift your chest slowly, raising your arms until they are extended straight overhead. (You can either place your palms together or keep they separate but facing each other.) Relax your shoulders and breathe deeply. Hold that position for three to seven breaths, then reverse the movement to return to the downward-facing dog position. Repeat, this time stepping forward with your other foot.
By incorporating these techniques and yoga poses into your daily practice, you can create a sense of gratitude into your daily life. For more yoga poses, check out Beachbody’s video series 3 Week Yoga Retreat where I, along with three other yoga experts, guide you through the foundations of yoga.