How to Cultivate Gratitude Through Yoga

By Monique Minahan

lightOur yoga practice is a multifaceted gem. It's like a prism that reflects a different color depending on how the light hits it. Our practice can reflect back to us different emotions, feelings, or thoughts depending on how we approach it.

Yoga can draw out parts of ourselves we know exist but have difficulty accessing at times, such as strength, flexibility, balance, trust, love, and gratitude.

These are often physical traits we tap into on our yoga mat. Interestingly, we often find after practicing that we have access to them on a mental and emotional level as well.

I first noticed this transformative quality of yoga while practicing backbends. The steadiness and strength they require revealed to me the power and the past housed in my back body. The more I allowed this opening process physically, the more I was able to allow myself to open more fully to the people in my life. Seeing this natural evolution, I started adding intention to the mix.

I often bring to my backbend practice people or situations I'm having difficulty "loving." I visualize them through my practice and try to allow myself to soften and open to them mentally as I soften and open physically.

I've been able to transform how I relate to many challenging relationships in this way.

Gratitude is a powerful quality we can develop deeply through yoga. This is especially helpful when we experience times in our lives where we don't feel so grateful. Maybe our lives or loves just fell apart and we don't feel grateful for anything.

This is when our yoga practice can help.

Great gratitude comes ultimately from a place of great humility. Replacing expectation with awe, we see the world through childlike eyes. Everything is a gift, everything is alive, everything is thrilling.

We let the quality of life fill us up instead of the quantity.

In yoga poses it's easy to forget the quality aspect sometimes also. The quality of our breath, the quality of our skin, the quality of our heartbeat.

In poses that require strength, when we simultaneously relax our hearts, minds, and bodies into the muscles that are holding us up, it feels vulnerable. It also feels liberating, delicious, and open.

We now have a fertile space for true gratitude. Gratitude for our bodies, for our minds, for our lives, for the floor that supports us and the air that inspires us.

In that space we can plant seeds of gratitude, love, trust - whatever we need in our lives. We can notice where we are taking things for granted and we can connect with the whole part of ourselves that allows us to give freely.

Developing a quality of gratitude can infuse our lives with deep peace and joy. I like making gratitude lists, especially on occasions like birthdays. Try it on your next birthday. Make a list of the 20 or 35 or 45 things you're grateful for.

Dig deep for gratitude and you will often find gold. It's always right in front of us, but we can't always see it through the dust of daily life that makes it look ordinary and unimportant.

I'll leave you with this gratitude poem and a sweet gratitude practice by Jeanie Manchester below on the Gaiam TV platform.

I am grateful for my limits
that teach me patience and pace

I am grateful for challenge, defeat, and loss

They teach me hope is not a light at the end of the dark tunnel
It's the ember burning within me that I forgot to fan

I am grateful to my teachers
for introducing me to myself

I am grateful for my past
that has delivered me to my present

I am grateful for all I have found and all I have lost
Both remind me I can live with and without

I am grateful for silence and for laughter
And for my ears that can hear both

I am grateful to my heart
that beats and breaks and heals

I am grateful for the fullness of my life
For the brief, heartbreaking, heartwarming fullness of life.

I highly recommend Jeanie Manchester's Gratitude Flow as a practice for cultivating gratitude. Enjoy!

Monique Minahan is a writer, yogi, and lover of life. She's inspired by nature's simplicity and the healing power of love. She finds true liberation in living life fully from the inside out. Her intention is to offer her heart to the world through words that motivate, inspire, and encourage. You can visit her at her blog, mindfulmo.com

Photo credit: _Lev_

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