Fall is in the air and people can’t help but be thankful. From pumpkin spiced candles to the colour of fall leaves, from kids playing in scarves to having a warm place to sleep, everyone around you is starting to express their gratitude for what the season brings.
Gratitude is the practice of acknowledging and honouring what you already have and do, and it’s been proven to actually increase your well-being. Plus, it’s free! Although this cooler and cosier time of year can especially inspire feelings of gratefulness, it can be practised all year long.
Expressing gratitude can be as simple as:
- Writing a thank you note to a friend.
- Jotting down five to 10 things in your life you are grateful for each day.
- Offering a handshake.
- Giving a hug.
- Smiling at others.
It can be hard to live in a constant state of gratitude, but you can learn to cultivate it by practising yoga. Next time you’re on your mat, try these eight yoga poses that inspire gratitude. For the best results, hold each pose for five to 10 breaths.
This gentle hip-opener inspires gratitude as you fold forward into yourself and rest near the earth.
• Start on your hands and knees.
• Bring your big toes together behind you.
• Spread your knees as far apart as is comfortable for your body.
• Stretch your arms out in front of you and nestle your hips back to your heels.
• Lay your torso forward and rest your forehead on your mat, blanket, or yoga block.
• As you fold, notice the rhythmic in and out of your breath.
Centering Thought: Find gratitude for your breath—a sign that you are alive and everything is possible.
This hamstring stretch inspires gratitude as you focus your attention inward.
• Come to a comfortable seated position and extend your legs forward. (If your lower back feels tight when you’re sitting up, prop yourself up on a pillow or blanket.)
• Reach your arms up as you inhale and fold forward over your legs as you exhale.
Centering Thought: As you breathe calmly, consider one part of your body for which you are especially grateful.
This relaxing chest opener inspires gratitude as you allow the props to support you and your heart chakra to open.
• Find a bolster, blanket roll, or yoga blocks.
• Set them down and recline so that the props are under your upper back and head.
• Allow yourself to soften into the support and relax your arms beside you with palms turned up.
Centering Thought: Consider a friend or mentor who is dear to you and all you’ve learned from him or her. Allow the thought of this person to inspire feelings of love and gratitude in your heart.
This spine release inspires gratitude as you trust your feet to hold you and allow fresh, oxygen-rich blood to move towards your brain for mental clarity.
• Stand with your feet about as wide as your hips.
• Bend your knees slightly and fold forward.
• Relax your head and neck and allow your arms to dangle.
• Open your eyes and look down.
Centering Thought: Find gratitude for your feet and all the adventures they take you on.
This welcoming, powerful stance inspires gratitude as you open your heart and stand in receptivity.
• Stand up tall with your feet as wide as your hips.
• As you breathe in, reach your arms up over your head.
• Turn your palms towards each other and extend up through your fingertips.
• Gaze up and enjoy five deep breaths.
• Bring a smile to your face.
Centering Thought: Find gratitude for all of your hopes and dreams and the unknown adventure of the future.
This hip flexor stretch inspires gratitude as you remain grounded while reaching up and revealing your heart.
• Step one foot forward and one foot back, and lower down to your back knee. (Pad with a blanket if you wish.)
• Bend your front knee deeply and slide your front foot forward so it lines up under your knee.
• Reach up as you inhale and begin to curl back as you exhale.
• Bend your elbows and roll your shoulder blades toward each other.
Centering Thought: Find gratitude for an aspect of your life or a talent you hold that you appreciate.
This challenging pose inspires gratitude as you practice courage and vulnerability while remaining open.
• Come down to your knees and tuck your toes under for support.
• Stand up on your knees and roll your shoulders back. Imagine a string tied to your heart and feel it being pulled upwards.
• Reach back until your hands find your lower back, the backs of your legs, or your heels.
• Gaze forward as long as you can by keeping your chin into your chest. Finally, tip your head back and stick out your tongue.
Centering Thought: As you open your heart, throat, and shoulders, find gratitude for all the courage you’ve summoned into your life, and how it’s helped you through challenges big and small.
This “ahhhhh”-inducing pose inspires gratitude as you rest completely and let go of all tension.
• Find your most comfortable, fully reclined resting pose. (You may enjoy a rolled up blanket under your knees or a soft pillow under your head.)
• Flop out your feet and turn your palms to face up.
• Inhale and feel yourself full and abundant; exhale and let go of any tension you’ve been carrying.
• Rest peacefully with your eyes closed.
Centering Thought: Find compassion and gratitude for your own journey, for all of your strengths and all of your struggles.
Then, call in compassion and gratitude for all beings everywhere, wishing them health, happiness, and ease on their journeys as well.