Sustaining a practice can be hard, we are warned in the Yoga Sutras about many of the obstacles that come up on the path.
Luckily we are given antidotes these obstacles, and cultivating gratitude is one of these. Often negative experiences stick to our minds like Velcro, whereas positive ones tend to slide off like teflon. Gratitude helps these positive experiences to stick. I recently joined in with a capturing gratitude project. I'm not a very good photographer, but taking great shots wasn't the aim of the project.
It of course made me very aware of how grateful I am for my yoga practice. The practice of yoga is an offering of gratitude to ourselves. We offer asanas to our body, pranayam to our breath, meditation to our mind. As I went through this practice, I also developed a yoga sequence to practice gratitude on the mat and thought I would share it with you.
1. kneeling prayer pose or cross legs. Feel the breath moving in and out. Cultivate the feeling of gratitude for your body, mind and breath.
2. Dynamic child's pose. From kneeling with buttocks on your heels inhale to high kneeling as you raise your arms out and up. Look up if it feels ok. As you exhale sweep your arms to your sides as you lower your body over your knees to child. Rest your head on your fists if needed.Inhale back up, repeat 3 times or so.
3. Extended child's pose. From child's pose extend your arms out. Allow the spine to start to lengthen. Hands spread on the floor, tailbone reaching back. Your bum can lift up away from the heels if needed. Stay for 3 breaths or so.
4. Cat pose. Lift to all fours. Inhale as you lift your sternum and tail bone, exhale as you draw the navel in and gaze down.
5. Dog pose. Tuck your toes under and reach back through the tail bone as you exhale. Stay for a few breaths.
6. Strong lunge. Take one leg forward, foot in line with the hands, keep the knee over the ankle as you come into a lunge. Feel free to put the back knee on the ground, or keep it lifted. Step back to dog and try the other side. Feel free to rest in child any time in between.
7. Squat. From dog pose, take one foot to the outside of your hand, and then the other to the outside of your other hand, then brig your hands to prayer in a wide squat. Stay for a few breaths.
8. Boat pose. From squat, guide your bottom to the floor (use hands in you need!) and lift your legs in front- they can be bent or straight as you come to boat pose. Again stay for a few breaths.
9. Seated bound angle. Bring the soles of your feet together. Lift the sternum, breathe for a while. You could go straight to bridge pose (no 12) from here, or stay seated for 10&11.
10. Janusirsasana (head to knee pose). Extend one leg out, while the sole of the other foot stays connected to your inner thigh of that extended leg, knee bent. Inhale lift the spine, exhale forward, moving from the pelvis. Extended leg can also be bent, and just because the pose is called head to knee pose, it doesn't have to look like that (and probably won't!. Swap legs.
11. Seated twist. Keeping one leg extended, step the other one over the thigh. Hug the opposite arm around the bent up knee. Inhale to left the spine and exhale to move into the twist. Again stay for few breaths and then repeat on the other side.
12. Bridge pose. (Dynamic version) Lie on your back, knees bent, feet in line with hips and close-ish to the buttocks. Inhale to lift the pelvis and spine. Arms can come up and over to the floor behind as well if you want. We are opening the chest here. Do 3 rounds or so. Stay in the last round for a few breaths if you want.
13. Apanasana. (wind relieving pose) Hug the knees over the chest. As you inhale guide the knees away so the belly can lift, as you exhale guide the knees in. Practice a few rounds.
14. Lying twist. Bring the soles of the feet to the floor, arms out at shoulder height. Turn one hand up and the other down. Look towards the upturned palm as you allow your knees to fall to the other side. Swap hands, allowing the whole of the arm and shoulder to be part of this movement. Swap head and knees as well. Find a slow smooth rhythm with this that allows you to feel like you are wringing yourself out like a cloth.
15. Savasana. Find stillness in the body. Allow the eyes to close, find the natural movement of the breath. Stay for about 3 minutes. When you come out, roll to one side, give your self a hug. Remember to offer gratitude to your body, mind and breath. As an extra gratitude practice, list in your mind 10 things you are grateful for before you get up and roll away your mat.