Yoga is so much more than the postures we practice on our mat. In fact, yoga has the power to shift how we go out into the world! Try these yoga poses to cultivate gratitude, and become a healthier, happier you!
Often the real power of our yoga practice occurs when we take our practice off the mat and into our daily lives. This is in large part because yoga is as much of an “inner-cise” as it is an exercise. By showing up to our yoga practice every day, we open the door for serious mind-body-soul transformation.
And one of the best ways you can begin to integrate your physical practice with your daily life is to cultivate gratitude in your yoga practice.
We all have countless blessings to be thankful for, but it can be difficult to remember this when the weight of the world bears down on us. Bumper-to-bumper traffic, impossible co-workers, and other daily stressors block us from seeing the beauty that is right in front of us.
Gratitude is a practice, just like yoga. When we continually make focused efforts to cultivate gratitude, it becomes easier and easier to find joy in the blessings around us. And over time, a significant shift occurs—gratitude becomes a way of life. It begins to fill the nooks and crannies of our being, soon overflowing and impacting those around us who need it most.
Of course, it’s easier said than done to cultivate gratitude—especially when things aren’t going quite right. Cultivate gratitude in your yoga practice with these poses and find joy when you need it most:
While not a yoga pose per-say, meditation is one of the most powerful ways to cultivate gratitude. Find an easy seated position and take the time to simply be. Slow down, observe your breath, and quiet the monkey-mind that so often distracts us from what is truly important. Begin to meditate on all of the blessings in your life. Start small and observe your surrounding, such as the sun shining down on your face, the sounds of birds chirping outside, or even the seemingly simple ability to breath. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your soul fills with gratitude for the subtle details we typically take for granted.
While meditating on all you have to be grateful for, consider keeping a gratitude journal nearby. Often it is easier to remember what we are thankful for when we write it down. Plus you’ll have a tangible record of encouraging reminders when you need it most.
2. Open Your Heart
Yoga poses that encourage us to open our hearts are fantastic ways to cultivate gratitude. For starters, heart-opening yoga poses are huge emotional releases. We store countless memories and emotions in the heart center, including past traumas that no longer serve us. By holding heart-opening yoga poses, we allow ourselves to bring to the surface buried emotions, finally releasing that which we need not keep holding on to. And when we release those heavy emotions that have been holding us down, we invite space in our life for joy and gratitude.
After warming up the spine, practice yoga postures that encourage you to lift your heart to the sky. Reverse Warrior, Wild Thing, and Camel Pose are all fantastic poses to open the heart center. Visualize your chest and heart opening to let go of negative emotions and invite gratitude in instead. You’ll leave your practice feeling lighter, more energized, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Sometimes the most powerful way to cultivate gratitude is by surrendering; letting go of expectations for how we think things should be, and instead accepting things for the way they are. That doesn’t mean giving up on goals or losing our dreams and aspirations. But when we let go of our attachment to the results of our actions, then we find gratitude for wherever we are on the journey right now.
In contrast to the heart opening postures, many yoga poses that encourage an act of surrender include gentle forward folds. Bowing Hero Pose, Seated Forward Folds, and Child’s Pose are all excellent postures that promote an act of letting go. Stay in these postures as long as is comfortable for you.
Remember, the act of surrender in your yoga practice is not one of defeat or sadness, but rather a way to let go of that which we cannot control. And when we stop worrying about the past or the future, we have more energy to cultivate gratitude for the presence!
It can be difficult at first to cultivate gratitude on a daily basis. But with continued practice both on and off the mat, you’ll soon find that gratitude is a way of life—and that you’re healthier and happier as a result.
How do you cultivate gratitude in your yoga practice, or your daily life? Share your stories in the comments below!
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