“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”
― Meister Eckhart
At the end of my classes, I often suggest that my students take a moment in gratitude – a moment where they can appreciate someone or something in their lives. I’ll consciously pause with them, and find myself smiling as I feel my heart soften. Gratitude has a way of bringing us into the present moment, allowing us to be with what is. Our mind is no longer chasing after something in the future or lingering somewhere in the past. We are content.
In yoga terms, this contentment is called Santosha. To be clear, it is not synonymous with complacency. Instead you’ll find yourself perceiving the world and yourself from a more centered and authentic place, which will allow you to make better and healthier choices. One way to cultivate Santosha is to practice gratitude, and our yoga practice is a wonderful place to start. Here are five effective tools:
- A moment in silence after your practice. Choose to appreciate someone or something in your life. Place your hands on your chest one on top of the other. Close your eyes and feel them touching your chest. Observe how that simple gesture softens your heart and attitude. See if you can visualize that special person and reflect on his or her qualities.
- 5 minute meditation. Close your eyes, and if you like, place your hands onto the center of your chest. Choose to work from the inside out. Start by appreciating your body, then your family and friends, your home, your work, nature, etc. Before you open your eyes, notice how you feel, mentally and physically. With the hands in Anjali Mudra (namaste hands) and your mind’s eye resting in the center of your chest, make a quiet offering, sharing your gratitude with the world.
- Appreciate your breath the same way you appreciate a child, a flower, or anything that is special to you. The breath is an amazing tool. Feel it. Listen to it. Make the breath a priority and let it guide your practice. It brings you directly into the present moment. You might sense how incredible and sacred the act of breathing is. It means you are alive and part of this mysterious universe.
- Reflect on what you can do. In our practice it is easy to focus on what we cannot do. Instead, pause in child’s pose for a moment and reflect on all the poses you are able to do. Choose to appreciate your body’s abilities, strengths, and also remind yourself why you are doing yoga. I might be jumping to conclusions, but I think that most of us are doing yoga because it simply makes us happier, not because we want to be part of Cirque de Soleil!
- Say “thank you.” As you take yoga off the mat, express your gratitude in simple words such as “thank you.” Be sincere. Look those you’re thanking in the eyes. See if you can come from a place where you are not expecting anything back. Notice how it makes you feel.
Birgitte Kristen is a YogaWorks teacher, YogaWorks teacher trainer, and MyYogaWorks online yoga instructor. Birgitte’s yoga classes offer a mindful, methodical, and meditative approach to yoga where she encourages students to slow down and to listen to their bodies, to respect and honor themselves. Check out Birgitte’s website, take one of her online yoga classes on MyYogaWorks, one of her public classes at YogaWorks Santa Monica, or connect with her on Facebook.