Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude Through Yoga

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

It’s Thanksgiving week, and I wanted to post about bringing gratitude into our everyday yoga practice. Having an attitude of gratitude can be a huge first step on the path to personal contentment. Yoga offers us many ways to cultivate gratitude and carry that feeling with us both on and off the mat.

Bringing an Attitude of Gratitude to Our Practice

Some days, it really seems as though the world is against us. Those days, it’s hard to be grateful for what we have. It can be even harder on those days to convince ourselves to step onto our mats and practice with a thankful heart. So, how do we go about cheerfully doing our practice with a heart full of gratitude?

On those days, I find it helpful to start very slowly, and without much expectation for the length or difficulty of my practice. Just starting out in a simple child’s pose for several minutes can be enough to help me find my center and get moving. I usually stick to a tried-and-true warm-up, which also really helps with my attitude and motivation. Doing familiar and gentle sequences, rather than trying to be fancy and creative, gives my mind a chance to rest and simply do my practice.

I also try to focus on each movement, and be truly grateful for my health and a body that allows me to do this practice. Our bodies are really very  extraordinary if you stop to think about it.  Even the simplest movement requires complex internal interactions between our brain, nerves, and muscles. When you really take a moment during your practice to consider the wonder that you are, having an attitude of gratitude becomes that much easier.

Mantras for An Attitude of Gratitude

Mantras can really help with building that attitude of gratitude. The more we repeat something to ourselves, the more likely we are to believe it is true. Repeating a trusted mantra can “trick” our brains and put us in a better emotional state.

When selecting a mantra, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First, be sure to keep it simple. You want it to be something easy to remember and repeat to yourself. If you choose a sanskrit mantra, be sure that you understand how it translates to your native language.

Secondly, be sure to keep it positive. Our brains do not always register “negating” words as we repeat a mantra, so keeping it affirmative will give the best result. For instance, your mantra might simply be, “I am grateful.” This works better than, “I will not complain,” because your brain might skip over that “not”. In that instance, your mantra might accidentally become, “I will complain.” Yikes! Not what we wanted!

Some great mantras to cultivate an attitude of gratitude might be:

  • I am thankful.
  • I feel grateful.
  • Dhanya vad (I feel gratitude).
  • Kritanja hum (I am gratitude).
  • Thank you.

You might even try listening to a song based on your chosen mantra. Just hearing the words can help you reap the same benefits. Saying or listening these mantras while you meditate or practice can help you really internalize those feelings of gratefulness and thanksgiving.

Eagle Pose in Fall Leaves

Taking That Attitude of Gratitude Off the Mat

Our yoga practice can continue to help us when we step off the mat. What we do within the confines of that rectangle of rubber gives us a template for how we can act and react when we meet with real-world circumstances. Like any other skill, we practice our gratitude in a relatively safe and peaceful environment. As we practice, we get better at having an attitude of gratitude. That way, when we are eventually confronted with a more difficult situation in our daily lives, we can react with that well-practiced grateful heart.

That isn’t to say that it will be easy. Particularly in the beginning, life always has a way of testing us when we feel we aren’t quite ready. However, having even that little bit of practice can ground us. As we step onto our mat, we remember, “Oh, yes. Life can suck sometimes, but I can find a way to be grateful here in my practice.” As time goes on, that will become easier and easier to do, until it simply becomes our natural reaction.

Giving Thanks

I hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this week. If you aren’t in the U.S., I still hope that you will take the time to give thanks this week. Whether that’s for your yoga practice, your amazing body, your family and friends, or any of the million other things we can find to be thankful for, if only we seek first to have an attitude of gratitude.