Learning Gratitude with Yoga
The world is getting increasingly yogic. There seems to be a lot of interest in eastern practices, as well as its philosophical foundations. Yoga, which makes people pull their faces and bodies into strange and unfamiliar shapes that they wouldn’t, normally, is an exercise in reaching out for peak performance in physical, mental and spiritual fields. So in a world that is getting quite complex, thankless and violent, yoga exercises can help to pull things back into shape.
One of its interesting benefits is that it helps to boost your gratitude meter.
Now why you should feel grateful has nothing to do with yoga, but feeling grateful to the practice for helping you to feel grateful can boost your well-being. Because, as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Indian Spiritual Guru puts it, you would be able to gear up and lay the foundation for a successful and transformational life. If you don’t achieve a promotion, it helps to remember that you are lucky — not because you didn’t get the promotion you wanted, but because you already have a fairly good job that enables you to aspire for it and reach it at some later date.
So get into the gratitude habit. Be thankful for your limbs, the air, water, food and your job — or even no job, for just being able to walk the skies, and live in a world that is open to you all the time. Why is that so important? Just do it, and watch how it transforms your life, as research shows.
Gratitude is about appreciating every minute of your life, savoring the air in your lungs, your skin, and the stretch that you feel in your hamstrings. Focusing on the positive side of life, and through yoga, to boot, automatically makes your body secrete endorphins, with a rush of adrenaline that boosts your health and happiness.
Begin with the most fundamental exercise of all — breathing. What is there to be thankful about in breathing, you may ask. Plenty — the air is free, and it’s the basic life-support system which is available to you everywhere.
Spine twist: Just contort your body one way and then the other to make your body twist completely, in order to get a range of perspectives into your life.
Foetal posture: Curl up like a child, and feel the energy coursing through you. Bow your head low and make your salutation.
Straight pose: Stand like a ramrod tree, and reflect on the earth’s bounty.
Cat/Cow pose: Of course, a cat or a cow may not be more grateful than you. Still, you could wake up and tune your body in order to learn something from both animals. Stand on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, so that your hands are in line with your shoulders, your knees are parallel to your hips, and your head is at rest. Then lift your chest and push back your butt like a cow as you breathe in. While you breathe out, you can push your back up towards the ceiling even as you bring down your eyes and sit like a cat.
Stand on hands: For this, you need a strong back, shoulders, the core, glutes and legs working hard. You can start using the wall to help your knees and legs crawl up the wall, and eventually do it without it.
Wheel pose: Bend right back and assume a posture like a wheel. Your hands and legs should be positioned on the earth, and your body can lift up.
Corpse Pose: Finally, there is that wonderful, liberating Savasana, or Corpse posture, when you lie down after a long and intense yoga session, and allow your tired body to just melt into the floor. That is the time when you can feel and enjoy the adrenaline rush in the pit of your stomach. Just lie down on your back, with your legs slightly apart, and your arms by your side, with palms facing up. Inhale and exhale slowly, and let your breath, muscles and mind relax completely.
Meditative posture: You could finish with a simple meditation after the grueling round of exercises. Just sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and your eyes closed. Take deep, slow breaths, and list the things you are grateful for.
Meditating, now, is all about connecting with a superior being in the world, in which special parts of your amygdale click on those areas that are related to God. If you think of your blessings and achievements, instead of just focusing on your breathing, you find that after a while, you concentrate on your breathing automatically — or on the moments that lead you to nirvana. You could end by feeling grateful for learning how to feel grateful.
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