How does our yoga practice help us become more mindful of the blessings in our lives, especially during this month of November as we prepare to pause and give thanks?
Why should performing various poses on our mat—stretching, twisting, bending, and reaching—infuse us with a sense of gratitude toward others?
Why should pressing into Downward Dog or lifting our shoulders and chests off the mat in Cobra increase our ability to sense a divine presence in the universe?
Whether we fold over in a Forward Bend, lean backward in Camel, or stretch and twist in Triangle, what happens, I think, is that our poses grant us the chance to slow down from the frenetic, ever-rushing pace of our daily lives to live fully in each moment.
The poses are a gift that let us feel the mystery of our breath, the beating of our hearts, and through these mysteries we can sense a greater mystery much larger than ourselves. It’s in these moments that we can feel a deep and abiding sense of gratitude for a divine presence and for our ability to be present in that larger presence.
With this increased self-awareness—this ability to hear our own beating hearts, to listen to the sound of our own breath—we can become aware of other hearts beating like ours. We can sense the heart beating in the person practicing on a nearby mat, or in the person practicing on a mat across the room or sitting behind the front desk or walking past the studio.
It’s through our poses that we come to this awareness, this deep understanding that we share the same earth, breathe the same air, inhabit the same flesh, the same blood.
Through our poses we become aware that this increased sense of awareness is yoga’s gift to us, and it’s what I’m most grateful for about my practice.
Yoga has helped me pay closer attention to the smallest details in my life, details that I used to take for granted or overlook. Now I can see friends and relatives as integral to my life, can see which activities support and nurture me, sustaining my efforts, my hopes, and my dreams.
Downward Dog has helped me notice the blessing of a flexible spine and the mobility of my hips. Tree Pose has helped me notice the sturdiness of my legs, ankles, and toes. Plank has helped me notice the strength of my wrists and fingers. And with growing awareness of these qualities–flexibility, sturdiness, and strength–I’ve noticed subtle changes in my life.
Increased flexibility, for instance, has helped me become more able to listen to opinions that may differ from my own. Greater sturdiness has given me the ability to face challenges with more confidence. And new-found strength lets me stay longer (and with greater equanimity) in a challenging situation or relationship.
When I’m in a pose, each muscle, each tendon and bone in my body sings of gratitude, and so does each fingernail, each strand of hair, each cell.
As this month unfolds and our national day of thanksgiving makes its annual approach, you might ask yourself how your yoga practice helps you become more mindful of—and grateful for—the world around you.
When you sit down at your Thanksgiving table later this month, remember the blessings in your life, and try to understand how yoga might help you become more aware of each moment, each heartbeat, each breath, each gift of life.
Practice Journal: What are you grateful for today? How does your yoga practice help you become aware of these blessings? Take a moment to make a list. Then consider how a particular person inspires your gratitude. How might you express your gratitude? Write: 15 min.