5 Yogic Ways to Express Gratitude (To Do Good & Feel Good)
Gratitude practices are easy and beneficial, so why not practice giving thanks as much as possible? As long as you put in just a bit of effort and thoughtfulness, acts of gratitude can make you as well as others feel good—these practices work by activating the brain's feel-good receptors and suppressing stress hormones as we exercise appreciation and receive positive acknowledgment. Despite the boundless benefits (such as the ability to increase happiness, decrease stress, build relationships, and improve health), we often limit how much thanks we give out. However, gratitude can be expressed daily, at any time, and shouldn’t be restricted to just the holiday season. So here are 5 simple and powerful ways to show gratitude every day through yogic principles and poses:
Yogic Acts to Express Gratitude:
1. Seva Yoga: In yoga, there’s a principle called Seva, Sanskrit for “service”. Seva revolves around the philosophy of selfless deeds for others without any expectations or attachments to ideas of gaining something in return. The practice is all about giving your energy, time, and devotion to someone else solely for their benefit. An act of Seva yoga could be any pure and selfless act of kindness or gratitude such as volunteering, holding the door for someone, donating, or picking up litter on the sidewalk to recycle. The art of Seva yoga allows us to outwardly express our genuine gratitude and compassion towards others and can increase our self-awareness as we navigate and disrupt our typical thought and behavior patterns.
2. Thoughtful Journaling: Writing down what you’re appreciative of is a rewarding task and studies suggest that journaling our thoughts and experiences can increase happiness and awareness. For this exercise, simply jot down 5 things you are grateful for presently while trying to be as specific and detailed as possible. Through physically recording your gratitude, you are further acknowledging your thankfulness and may even feel the positive emotions that come with that experience. This practice can be transformational as you learn more about yourself through recognition of the positive aspects of your life.
3. Gratitude Meditation: Meditation has the ability to increase mindfulness, compassion, and gratitude. Through tuning into the breath, we’re able to connect the mind and body in a unique way that helps us acknowledge our presence. For this gratitude meditation, focus solely on your breath with slow and deep inhalations and exhalations through the nose. By attending only to the breath we begin to foster a connection and appreciation for our being—physically, mentally, and emotionally. This self-practice is about supporting ourselves and being grateful for ourselves, for our individual life and current state.
Yoga Poses to Practice for Expressing Gratitude:
4. Child’s Pose: Through physically turning inward, Child’s Pose allows us the opportunity to mentally and emotionally turn inward. Slow, deep breaths in this pose allow the mind and body to relax and just be, setting up a restorative state from which to reflect. Allow gravity to take over as the body gently sinks deeper into the pose and you focus deeper on what you’re grateful for in everyday life.
5. Upward Salute Pose: Standing tall in Mountain Pose and reaching the arms up overhead creates length throughout the entire body as the heart reaches forward. Letting the heart lead in yoga poses is reflective of compassion and gratitude. As you reach higher in your powerful Upward Salute Pose, focus on allowing your heart to shine, opening it forward in a receptive and confident state. Regularly practicing these poses and acts can help build a stronger, more meaningful state of gratitude. The more we work on being appreciative of everything in our lives (the people, the places, the experiences, the good, the bad) the more we are able to tap into and understand a deeper level of ourselves. From there we’re able to extend ourselves farther, appreciating others more and outwardly accepting from a wider view. With sustained practices of gratitude, we have the chance to strengthen relationships as well as increase our tolerance, happiness, and general well-being. Happy practicing!