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One of my favorite things to talk about in my yoga classes is gratitude. Cultivating a strong sense of gratitude helps you plug into life that much more – to really connect with the energy of the community, to feel what you share with others. Taking this practice to the mat helps me to fine-tune it and gives me a chance to really reflect on it, which are both processes that can be easily forgotten! Sometimes I just start out thinking about the immediate things that I’m grateful for: my functioning body and mind, the time I have to practice yoga, my friends and family, and being part of a community. From there, it is easier to expand my thinking to larger things: having general safety, people who love me, planet Earth, the warmth of the sun, etc.

Experiencing (and, likely, dwelling on) negative things is a reality for everyone, but it’s important to recognize those reactions and counter them with gratitude for the positive elements of life. It is often said that if you are thinking about what you are grateful for, you cannot be feeling fear or anxiety. However, gratitude doesn’t just make you feel good for a moment; it has some deeper implications that can fuel your longer journey to contentment and stillness. Tapping into the graciousness of the universe and feeling truly supported by it is sometimes hard to hold onto, because it is so abundant and so beautiful.

“It is, as the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, the gift of the whole universe. When you stop and really look, you see that you are supported continuously in literally countless ways. This is the highest wisdom of yoga, the truth of interbeing, of no separation.” – Frank Jude Boccio, via Yoga Journal

Practicing gratitude can lead to some amazing physical benefits, too: according to a UMASS Dartmouth article, people who practice gratitude are more likely to have higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, energy, and sleep. Gratitude can even help create a stronger immune system and reduce the risk of coronary artery disease)!

Some outlets for the expression of gratitude:

1. Write down three things that you are grateful for every day, or whenever you feel like it! These can even live in a special gratefulness journal.

2. Over dinner, tell your roommate or partner a few things that you are grateful for.

3. Write a note to your friend or a family member about why you are grateful to have them in your life. 

One last thought to reflect on: one of my teachers gave this poem to me in at a tumultuous time in my life, and it frequently reminds me to be grateful for things I don’t naturally want to be grateful for:

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

Do you practice gratitude? What are your favorite ways to do so?

About the Author: Jessica Collette is a Durham, NC based Yoga instructor. Yoga has brought more mindfulness, awareness, love, and respect into Jessica’s life. Among other things, it has taught her how to cherish the important things, live more fully, and love her whole self as well as the people around her.  Learn more about Jessica’s work here

Jessica began practicing yoga around 11 years ago, but it wasn't until after running cross country and track at the college level that she realized she needed something more nourishing for her body--something she could rely on for not only her physical health, but for her mental health as well. Jessica views yoga as a chance to practice relaxation, mindfulness, and compassion, which then spills over into her daily life. She can be found at Patanjali's Place practicing to her heart's delight, hanging out in downtown Durham with friends, or spending time with her husband at home. After graduating from Beloit College in 2009 and working in Women's Health for 5 years, Jessica is now a full time yoga instructor and writer. Jessica’s classes combine challenging poses, creative sequencing, and most importantly a sense of levity—she is always reminding herself and her students to never take yoga too seriously. She encourages adventurousness, hard work, and fun in all of her classes! You can stay in touch with Jessica by following her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/lavitayoga), Twitter and Instagram (@lavitayoga). read more about
  • Giselle Jones

    Love the poem. I believe in being grateful every day and we teach our sons that gratitude is the most important prayer. Thanks for the article.

  • CurvyGirlHealth

    Thanks for sharing @giselle_jones:disqus!