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Developing an attitude of gratitude

During this time of lockdown we are very aware of what we do not have, but we often forget or take for granted our relationships and all the things we do have right now.

I have been practising gratitude for many years, but after coming back from the KYM Study trip in January, my daily habit of journaling had slipped. So, with lockdown I was inspired to start a new gratitude journal, and this idea of giving thanks and appreciation became a theme for one of my Zoom classes, which I would like to share.

I invited the class to reflect on these questions:

What is it that you really appreciate now? For example, your health, family, friends, pet, job, hobbies… What is most important to you and why? Take a few moments to reflect on this and make it into the following mental chant (or affirmation), filling in the gaps for yourself: ‘For ( ) and ( ), I am grateful’.

This mental chant was incorporated into the practice as a bhavana: Inhale – and recite mentally – ‘For ( ) and ( )’ Exhale – mentally reciting – ‘I am grateful’, with the hands in namaste mudra (prayer position).

The feedback after class was positive – the students found the practice personal and meaningful. For my students who were unable to participate online, I emailed them to share what we had done in the online class so that they still felt part of it. I invited them to reflect on these questions too and offered a short meditative practice below.

Get settled into a comfortable seated position of your choice. Settle your breathing. Check in how you feel – physically, energy-wise and mentally. Start to gradually deepen your inhale and gently lengthen your exhale.

  • Inhale – moving the arms out and up above the head bringing the palms together

  • Exhale – bring the hands to the chest in namaste mudra.

  • Repeat this movement, incorporating the mental chant as suggested above for 6+ times.

  • Let go of the mental chant, breathe freely, notice how you feel.

To cultivate a regular gratitude practice, recite the mental chant upon waking up in the morning and before sleep. Try it for a few days and see what happens.

There is a lot of scientific research which has shown that the regular practice of gratitude makes new connections in the brain (neuroplasticity). These changes or rewiring in the brain create new positive patterns of thought and reduce our old, unhelpful patterns of thinking (samskara). The practice of gratitude helps us to view life from a different perspective, as suggested in YS 2.33:

pratipakṣa bhāvanam

And through the practice of yoga comes self-awareness so that change is possible.

When we are content with what we have, we feel more stable and at ease both physically and mentally. I am eternally grateful for Yoga and all my teachers and offer this chant in praise of yoga to them.

yogena yogo jñātavyo Only through yoga, yoga is known

yogo yogāt pravartate Only through yoga, yoga progresses

yo’prama tastu yogena One who is patient with yoga

sa yoge ramate ciram Enjoys the fruits for a long time

This article is also published on the TSYP website. Click here to follow the link.

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