‘Tis the season. You’ll see lots of advertisements about coming together, sharing with friends and family, and counting blessings at this time of year. But what if gratitude was a daily practice, not a seasonal one with just one special day?
As yogis, gratitude is often talked about in a very cerebral sense:
“Think about what you’re grateful for.”
“Be mindful of your surroundings and appreciate this moment.”
“Send some love, light and mental gratitude to someone today.”
Gratitude absolutely begins in the mind. But your whole being can become an energetic channel for grace and gratitude each and every time you come to the mat, and when you get off it as well. Here are some ways to live gratefully.
In our hurry-scurry world, it’s easy to succumb to resting bitch face. We often don’t even notice it’s happening. But you don’t even need to speak in order to project gratitude into your life. Smiling can change the course of a moment, and the course of your day – or someone else’s. A quick smile to the flustered and busy barista will be noticed. A goofy grin that makes your toddler’s belly laugh radiate through the subway will induce other smiles. Kindness in your eyes and a smile when giving some change to someone in need is not a small act. With your grateful smiles, you’re telling the world that there is more to this life than getting the turkey just right. Be a smile warrior – you’ll win more battles than you lose.
Speak Kind Words
Of course we all try to be nice, but sometimes life makes it hard to do so. When you’re traveling this holiday season and the lines get just a little too long, or when your bag doesn’t show up at exactly the right time, say something nice. Even if it’s just to yourself. A quick reminder that everything is temporary may help you get through to a happier moment after the crunchy one has passed. A simple “Thank you” with a smile to someone who is trying to help you will not only show them a spark of gratefulness but may start a kindness ripple effect.
A yoga practice is the constant balancing of effort and ease. Not unlike life, right? So take this thought and use it to create a grateful yoga practice this holiday season. It’s a time of year that can be extra stressful. It’s ok if you don’t power through the most advanced expression of every pose. It’s ok to take a little extra time in savasana. It’s ok to sit back and breathe a little deeper during a hard practice. You show your own body gratefulness by allowing yourself to do what is best at that time. Your body does a lot to hold you up each and every day. Yoga is already a big “thank you”, but being extra nice to yourself isn’t selfish – it’s a well-deserved pat on the back.
Do Something More
Yoga has a way of creating a better headspace for gratitude. And as your practice grows, we often find ourselves feeling a little bummed at how many problems there are in the world and how small our efforts sometimes seem. Remind yourself that kindness is never a mistake. That every smile, kind word and positive practice sends good energy out into a big world. But if you’ve got the itch to do something more, go do it. Volunteer for a cause that means something to you. Ask your family to get involved. Or take some time for yourself and go on a journey. Yoga Trade has lots of opportunities to experience yoga all over the world, and many of the experiences have a volunteer or work trade component. Your efforts are rewarded with fantastic teachers, a unique way to grow your practice and the journey of a lifetime.
This Thanksgiving season, be more than mindful. Be wholly and energetically grateful.
Sara Sherman is a freelance writer, yogi and accidental island girl living on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Contact Sara via her website at www.SaraMSherman.com, and read more about her island adventures at www.IslandersFromIowa.com