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During the holidays millions will be spending time with loved ones, giving thanks and expressing gratitude. Gratitude is a simple yet powerful spiritual practice that is available to us every day of the year. When we have a grateful heart, it changes how we experience life and how we view the world. It affects our wellbeing, happiness and coping skills.
One of the great benefits of yoga is that it helps increase our level of gratitude, and when our gratitude goes up, so does our level of happiness!
Here are 5 ways to find gratitude in your yoga practice during the holidays and beyond:
1. Find gratitude for the way your practice makes you feel.
Yoga helps us release the ties that bind us. It allows us to relax and to feel our bodies in a different way. As we continue to practice and expand our awareness into other areas of life, the feeling of relaxation and calm begins to seep into every part of your life. For me, yoga makes me more confident, stronger, and more flexible in body and mind. I am so grateful for how my practice has taught me to find my center, and to acknowledge and let go of holding patterns.
2. Find gratitude in learning how to breathe deeply and consciously.
Yoga teaches us how to breathe mindfully on the mat. As we continue to practice, we begin to take mindful breathing off the mat and into other areas of life; and just as it does on the yoga mat, breathing consciously becomes a habitual practice. This is another area of deep gratitude for me. When I came to yoga I had been a shallow breather for most of my life. I was constantly “stressed out” and as a result I held my breath a lot. I now breathe deeply and I am aware when I begin to get stressed and can keep my calm by consciously drawing my awareness to the breath and releasing any tension that is building in my body.
3. Find gratitude for your body and all that it can do.
A committed yoga practice makes us physically stronger. When I came to yoga I wasn’t as strong as I am now. I have grown considerably through a committed practice. I have gained strength, resiliency, and the ability to better ride the waves of life. A strong body on the mat means we are stronger off the mat and able to do more, withstand more, and be more of who we are.
4. Find gratitude in a true moment of presence.
When we practice movement and mindful breathing, relaxation of the mind and body follow. As we move inward, we begin to experience the present moment, as thoughts about the next meeting or what we are going to do about dinner begin to disappear. In the present moment we are free, with no past or future to cause pain, worry, or to create stories in our minds. The more we practice, the more we are able to hold onto that present moment focus and quiet our minds.
5. Find gratitude in knowing more of who you truly are.
Time on the mat gives us a chance to truly see ourselves. It is a microcosm of our life. How we do yoga is how we do life. Each practice is an opportunity to get to know ourselves better, to become aware, and to unravel the holding patterns in the body that are causing problems and the thought processes in the mind that no longer serve our best selves.
There are so many things to be grateful for in the practice of yoga. This is only a few of them. The practice of gratitude goes hand in hand with a yoga practice. Yoga helps us open up to our hearts. With an open-heart gratitude becomes a soul-shifting practice that can change the way we view and experience our lives.