A Yoga of Gratitude
Posted by Alexandra at
From Wikipedia: "The
has the literal meaning of "yoke", from a root
meaning to join, to unite, or to attach." I am not by any means a yoga scholar; I have never even read the Yoga Sutras, much less any of the millions of other pages written on the art, science, and practice of the dozens of forms of yoga. But as with dance, I think about it a lot.
My practice has developed from the purely physical to a more multifaceted approach. The physical practice of yoga (asana) creates an open body which has led, not intentionally but consequentially, to a more open mind. I would think of "my" yoga as uniting physical practice, meditation, and an open attitude to life - to my immediate environment and to the world.
An attitude of openness creates space for appreciation and gratitude. Asana has been essential for my physical health, but cultivating an open mind and heart has done wonders for my mental health.
I am by nature a classic Type A personality: driven, ambitious, competitive, intolerant, impatient, efficient, disciplined, and productive.
I am also a creative, with a love of useless beauty; and an introvert, with a deep need for frequent solitude and quiet.
Over a period of years, as I worked in my asana practice to open up the tight, knotted places in my body, my personality has not really changed, but my recognition of it has greatly improved. I can now be aware of my Type A tendencies, aware that they have not served me all that well in life, and aware that I am in control of the extent to which I let those tendencies out to play.
The things that make me feel good, I have learned, have very little to do with drive, ambition, or discipline. The things that make me feel good, in fact,
no drive, ambition, or discipline. I do not "force" myself to do asana or to prepare a healthy meal. If I want to do it, I do it. I almost always want to do it, because I am
aware that I feel good when I do - and I feel less good when I don't.
And I appreciate that. I deeply appreciate that I am sufficiently conscious of my body-mind connection to know that, however "convenient" that fast food may be, I will feel worse after eating it. Not because I feel guilty about eating it, but because my body would simply rather have the Caesar salad with chicken than the cheeseburger, almost all the time. My body would much rather have the Greek yogurt than the muffin for breakfast. And it certainly lets me know when it would rather do ten minutes of leg massage than ten minutes of sun salutations.
Other things I appreciate:
- I appreciate my employers, who pay me well to do a physically easy job that provides just enough mental stimulation and very little stress;
- I appreciate the developers who created a lovely green space between my office building and the next, and the fact that when I go outside I can smell grass;
- I appreciate my apartment, which despite noisy neighbors is a haven of peace and beauty in this crowded, polluted city;
- I appreciate the city, which despite its chaos and expense is nonetheless exciting and rich in resources;
- I appreciate my family, which provides frequent examples of stability, self-sufficiency, decency, generosity, and the most practical expressions of love.
Great Blue Heron, persistently optimistic. In a pond for stormwater mgmt.
Above all I am grateful for nature, and its persistent optimism, which leads to peregrine falcon nests on skyscraper ledges and hummingbird nests on my patio.
These are gratitudes and appreciations which I can be mindful of, and acknowledge, every single day.
The practice of mindfulness or acknowledgement is essential to a practice of gratitude. We must see, or more precisely,
our environment in order to acknowledge the parts of it we can appreciate.
And there is always something.