In a goal-oriented, material-focused society, it’s easy to get stuck in a mindset of always wanting more. We can become so focused on what we seek that we completely forget the many blessings we already have. The practice of gratitude is scientifically proven to improve our mood, increase energy, and evoke a deeper sense of presence, just like yoga! So, by combining these two powerful practices, the benefits amplify!
In this article, we’re sharing how to implement gratitude techniques on the yoga mat so that every practice leaves you feeling blissful, thankful, and content.
The Link Between Yoga and Gratitude
Both yoga and gratitude practice can help us disconnect from our egos and connect to our true selves and the universal energy running through us. Therefore, incorporating gratitude techniques in our yoga practice can significantly enhance our mental health and spiritual well-being.
We can also find other links between yoga and gratitude when we look at the eight limbs of yoga. Santosha, one of the niyamas (personal restraints), translates to contentment and is about appreciating what we already have.
On the mat, this translates as being grateful for what our body can do rather than getting hung up on what it cannot. It reminds us that having a strong and healthy body is much more important than if we can do handstands or full splits.
Santosha teaches us to focus on our strengths and positive qualities rather than our weaknesses and limitations. This is important for mental health, as when we think of the latter, we struggle with self-loathing and low self-esteem. However, when we focus on what we are good at, we feel worthy and confident.
5 Ways To Bring Gratitude Into Your Yoga Practice
Bringing the attitude of gratitude into your practice can give you a deeper and more meaningful experience. Here are five easy ways to evoke joy and contentment on the mat.
I. Set an intention of gratitude
Setting an intention at the beginning of our yoga practice is a way to bring awareness to a quality or virtue we want to cultivate. Often, we choose our intention based on what we feel we are lacking and need more of.
Choosing gratitude for your intention can shift your focus from the bad to the good. This is particularly helpful when you feel pessimistic or overly focused on everything you need/want. Setting an intention for gratitude is a simple yet powerful way to shift your mindset and perspective to a more positive and appreciative one.
Still, remember that you should return to your intention throughout the practice. Resting poses like Child’s or Hero’s pose are ideal moments to think about your intent.
II. Start and end with a short gratitude meditation
If setting an intention is not enough to get you out of a low vibrational state, try a gratitude meditation instead.
First, spend a few minutes centering yourself by focusing on your natural breath. Once you feel present and calm, bring to mind one person in your life you feel grateful for. This could be a loved one, a pet, or a stranger or colleague who recently helped you. Spend a few moments thinking about WHY specifically you are thankful for them.
Next, bring to mind a recent positive experience you are grateful for. Perhaps someone did an act of kindness for you, you just returned from a wonderful holiday, or you are thankful for a peaceful Sunday, spending quality time with your family.
Finally, think of a recent challenge that you are thankful for. When challenges arise, we often think of them as something terrible, but in time we start to see it carries a hidden blessing. Is there something bad that happened in your life that actually turned into something good?
III. Practice gratitude evoking yoga poses
Specific yoga asanas inspire gratitude by calling us to pause, reflect, and connect to ourselves. Add the following poses to your practice to increase feelings of gratitude:
- Humble warrior – Spiritually, poses where you bow towards the earth like are associated with giving thanks. The humble warrior is particularly powerful as it also involves a backbend, opening the heart chakra before folding forwards to the earth.
- Child’s pose – The child’s pose allows us to pause and go within. As a grounding posture, it also increases our connection to the earth, allowing us to thank mother nature for sustaining us. Plus, as it is used as a resting pose to reconnect to our breath, it can be an opportunity to be grateful for breathing and being alive.
- Camel pose – Heart openers like camel pose stimulate the heart chakra, which is associated with joy and gratitude. Camel is an excellent pose for releasing stagnating energy in the heart and lifting your mood and vibration.
IV. Incorporate Mudras
According to ancient yoga teachings, the positioning and placement of our hands can evoke certain qualities and virtues. Anjali mudra, also known as the prayer position, represents gratitude, universal connectivity, and equality, particularly when bowing your head towards your pressed palms.
Anjali mudra is naturally practiced in a few yoga poses, such as mountain and tree pose. However, we can bring it into other postures to carry the feeling of gratitude throughout our practice.
For example, you can practice Anjali mudra in any of the warrior poses. Alternatively, you can practice the reverse prayer pose (bringing the palms to touch behind the back) in the pyramid pose or seated postures like gentle twists. Reverse Anjali mudra also carries the additional benefit of stimulating energy in the heart chakra.
V. Chant Mantras
Mantras are an ancient yogic technique that can evoke joy and contentment. Mantras are sacred Sanskrit words or phrases that carry powerful vibrational energy and invoke spiritual qualities.
The mantra Kritajna Hum (pronounced krit-ah-nah hum) translates as, “I am gratitude” or “My true self is always grateful.”
Ananda hum is another common mantra, which means “I am bliss” or “Happiness is my true nature.” Chanting these mantras at the start, end, or during your yoga practice will leave you full of bliss and gratitude.
Use these techniques to bring a deeper sense of gratitude into your yoga practice and life, boosting your mood and shifting your mindset. And for more thankful vibes, check out this week’s yoga classes, specifically sequenced to help you appreciate your blessings!
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