How Your Yoga Practice Can Spark Gratitude
In the fast-paced and busy lives we live, it can be easy to slip into a routine and lose sight of the things we're grateful for in life. Studies have shown that being able to consciously note what you’re grateful for and actively practicing the habit of thanking the people in your life can improve your mental and physical health.
As a yogi, you’re aware that yoga isn’t just a practice of the physical body–– it’s a practice of the mind, body, and spirit. Every time you step onto the mat, you’re engaging in an energetic lesson that goes beyond just your muscles and breathing–– it’s a practice that can spark gratitude. And as many experienced yogis can attest, when you put out love and gratitude into the universe, it comes back to you.
So how exactly do you channel your energy on the mat to become more grateful in life?
Your Physical Capability Brings Body Gratitude
The simplest and easiest way to recognize that spark of gratitude in your yoga practice is with the physical body. At times, we’ve all struggled with self-judgment of the way our bodies look or operate. Regular yoga practice changes your perspective of what your body is capable of doing. There’s no equipment, no weights, no workout machinery involved–– in yoga, it’s just the weight of your own body and reliance on your body strength.
Doing poses successfully gives you greater confidence, thus making you more grateful for your body. For those with serious body image issues such as body dysmorphia or eating disorders, yoga can really change their lives by sparking gratitude and changing the relationship with their bodies. With gratitude comes heightened levels of self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Specific Poses for Inspiring Gratitude
According to a Harvard study in 2010, “power poses” that require you to keep your body open for two minutes or more “decrease cortisol and increase testosterone, a confidence-boosting hormone, for less anxiety and more self-assuredness.” These responses in your body can help you feel happier, more positive, and more open to expressing gratitude and
The following are a few power poses that will help you open up physically, mentally, and spiritually:
This powerful and towering stance inspires gratitude as you reach upward and open your heart. Breathe all the way into your extended fingertips and gaze upward to find gratitude in uncertainty.
This pose is a relaxing opener that not only helps you open your heart chakra but helps you channel gratitude for a person you’re grateful for in your life. As you soften into the object you use to support yourself, relax your arms with your palms facing upward while letting the feelings of love and gratitude wash over year heart.
The wheel pose, which is also a heart opener, opens you to expressing gratitude for new opportunities and love through vulnerability. By pressing your hands and feet into the earth while opening your hips and shoulders, you surrender yourself to the universe–– grateful for whatever feelings that pass through you.
This pose also requires vulnerability in exchange for the gratitude of your courage. Open your heart, throat, and shoulders to find gratitude for your ability to persevere through all challenges in your life. Because this is a difficult pose, there are many opportunities to be grateful for the small successes in your progress to achieving this pose. And when you finally do get camel pose for the first time will be a huge rush of gratitude!
This session-concluding pose helps inspire gratitude as you totally relax and release all tension, flat peacefully with your back to the earth. This particular gratitude comes with reflecting on all your strengths and struggles.
Mantras and Positive Affirmations Reinforce Your Gratitude Practice
As a yogi, you’re aware of the strength that mantras can have at the end of a class. Whether it’s in Sanskrit or through positive affirmations in the English language, these words impact yogis by helping with self-reflection.
Mantras can bring you back to center after a session of heavy movement–– and with your centeredness comes gratitude for your practice itself. You honor yourself for taking the time to care for yourself with this practice. Plus, taking the time to repeat these phrases helps you get in the habit of acknowledging positivity throughout your daily life. Having gratitude for the ability to ground yourself and care for yourself is an important thing to be grateful for.
Gratitude Begets More Gratitude
Gratitude and happiness go hand-in-hand. When you bring that practice of gratitude off the mat, you’re creating habits of happiness for yourself–– and that’s truly invaluable. Practicing gratitude in your everyday life compounds gratitude and, therefore, your happiness compounds too.
Studies have found that a one-time act of thoughtful gratitude produced an immediate 10% increase in happiness and a 35% reduction in depressive symptoms. The happy effects wore off within three to six months, indicating that gratitude as an act is meant to be repeated. So act on that gratitude you felt on the mat and commit to an act of kindness a day. The more you practice gratitude, the more it spreads.
Here a few ways you can practice expressing gratitude:
Keeping a journal of things you're grateful for
Volunteering, donating your time to others
Focusing on the most challenging things in life to find gratitude
Appreciating everything including the small things
Use your yoga practice as an opportunity to be grateful. When you practice gratitude, you build habits for a happier life. Who doesn’t want a happier life?