Yoga by Ceci, Dacia and Gina in Rogers Park, Chicago IL

Gratitude As Asana

I was walking down one of the back staircases in the Merchandise Mart this week, and while there’s nothing especially unusual about that, on this particular day, I noticed something unusual.  I felt the activation of my inner-leg line as my foot reached for the next step.  I felt my inner thigh drawing upward toward my hip joint and the sensation of muscles squeezing to the bone.  Ooh, I thought.  That’s my inner-leg line.

I took a deep breath and let it swell in my ribs.  I let it wrap around the feeling of gratitude I had in my heart; then I said “thanks!” (in my head, obviously, since at this point in the story I am still surrounded by a swarm of business people heading into NeoCon, the 2nd largest convention of the year in a building that—when it was built in 1930—was the largest building in the entire world, and I am still—at this point—in a stairwell, very much descending the stairs).  With a smile, I sent that breath of thanks down the length of my core, through the bifurcation of my pelvis and into my leg, the left leg, the one that had responded so synchronously to the demands of my day, and been a very strong, good leg.

Two wonderful things have resulted from that rather brief moment on the stairs, one is that I got the idea for this blog, which you are so good as to be still reading, and the other is that I learned how to practice a new asana: a gratitude asana!  To set up for this pose, you need yourself and your breath.  And it goes like this:


First, notice that some sensation in your body is great!  Maybe it’s a specific body part, or maybe a whole grouping of muscles begins to respond and it feels really awesome, or just awesome, or AWESOME. Examples: a feeling of activation, (such as lengthening and strengthening in the inner-leg line), or clarity of movement in a “sticky” joint (a hip suddenly feels more open), or something as simple as a really deep, nutritive breath.  All of these are great cause for gratitude.


Set the intention.  Take a deep inhale and cultivate some notion of GRATITUDE.  Just as we “set an intention” for class—for example: working out of pain, picking an area of focus, etc.—set your intention to send gratitude to the part of your body that is being so pleasing! Maybe you like to think the words, “thank you!” or maybe the word “gratitude,” or “grateful” is a strong intention-setting word for you.  Maybe you just want to feel the feeling.  That works.


Notice where you feel that sensation of thankfulness.  Is it a swelling in your heart?  In your throat?  Does it make your forehead feel warm?  Do your hands tingle?  Wherever you feel it, exhale FROM that sensation and send your gratitude to whichever body part you chose.


So that’s Gratitude Asana.  It’s a brief but psychologically buff pose; just one breath can generate a really good feeling.  When I did it on the stairs in the Merch Mart, it reset the day and spun it on a really positive axis.  It took maybe 5 seconds, from beginning to end, and required no actual posturing of my body, no straps, no blocks, no mat.

Turning everyday notions into conscious expressions of gratitude is a powerful practice.  Sending prana to areas of the body that feel gratitude strengthens those areas, and likewise educates your ability to feel gratitude.  It’s also a great way to unify your practice on the mat with the rest of your life off of it.   You can literally practice gratitude yoga everywhere!  Even on stairwells!  In closets! On Airplanes! But seriously, thanking your body for doing a great job, and reinforcing yourself for feeling gratitude is an awesome way to promote self-esteem, self-satisfaction, and self in general.

I was taught that if you love someone, you should say so; that ethic has stretched to include giving thanks.  If you are thankful for something, or someone, you should put that out into the universe.  It’s like saying, “good job, universe, I appreciate what you’re doing for me.”  In so many small ways, expressions of gratitude promote positivity in your environment, and that affects the energetic atmosphere.  Have you ever noticed how a happy group of people seems to lift the roof off of the room they’re standing in?  How much a good conversation with a friend can jar you out of a bad mood?  Whether or not silver lining can be physically tested or quantified, I believe its presence improves the quality of life in the universe, for every living being.

So thank yourself for being awesome.  Take a deep breath and know that I am grateful to you for reading, and that your body, mind and spirit are grateful to you for having a yoga practice.  Namaste!

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