Gratitude is suddenly very en vogue – and not just because Thanksgiving is here. On social media everyone’s documenting their countdowns- “21 Days of Gratitude” or “30 Days of Thankfulness” with correlating quotes and Instagram pics. Stars like Oprah and Gabrielle Bernstein have fans of all ages keeping gratitude journals and even TV commercials during NFL matches and sitcoms are admonishing us to give thanks for our blessings. Right now, being thankful is totally on trend.
I’m not knocking gratitude- we should all recognize and appreciate how fortunate we are on a daily basis- but as yogis, we should also turn a little of that thankfulness inward. This may sound selfish but it’s actually one of the most challenging and “yogic” ways to demonstrate true appreciation. Thanking others makes us look good in the eyes of our peers and gives us the warm fuzzies. As such, it’s easy to thank our moms, husbands, friends or God. How many times though, have you turned inward and just thought, “hey you…thanks for hanging in there with me through this stressful week at work” or “Way to go body! I never thought I’d be able to hold headstand away from the wall- you amaze me.”
For most of us, that sort of personal gratitude happens rarely- if ever. Even after the end of a tough asana practice when our hands are in prayer and our heads bow to the “one true teacher that lies within us”, we’re not really feeling the same powerful thankfulness that we do for others- but we should. When it comes to ourselves, we judge much more harshly and thank much more sparsely. We even beat ourselves up on our yoga mats- thinking nasty thoughts about our lack of balance or our (my) tight hips- rather than using class as an opportunity for moving meditation and self-care. We say the word “Namaste” without truly thinking about what it means: the divine light in me bows to the divine light in you. That’s right. Divine light. It’s inside you, and me. That means you too, Negative Nancy.
You can think about your “self” as the lens through which you see the rest of the world. Your “self” could be the proverbial rose-colored glasses, giving your surrounding environment a warm, sun-tinged, optimistic hue. Alternately, your lenses could be dark, gray-blue, and cloudy making everything you come across just a little more dull, dim and depressing. By taking care of and appreciating ourselves, we are ultimately able to appreciate others and the circumstances of our lives more fully. How can you be wholly thankful for your life if you can’t recognize how amazing you, yourself truly are?
The Bhagavad Gita says that, “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” We are only able to be as good to others as we are to ourselves, so this holiday season- show your “self” some gratitude. Get to your mat, at least a few times a week. If you’re out of town, try an on-demand yoga class to keep your body warm and and your muscles supple. Be kind to yourself while you practice and appreciate the strength, flexibility and mental focus you currently possess, not how much further you still have to go. Nourish your body with wholesome, home-cooked meals and forget about carbs and calories for a few days. If you miss a week straight of practice and eat like crap the whole time, don’t beat yourself up either. Be thankful that you have the ability to return to your practice and your diet, no matter how long you’ve been away. Only YOU are to thank for that- not your mom, your friends, or your dog. Give your “self” a little credit for its role in your kick-ass life.
This Thanksgiving why not spend a few moments thanking you- your mind, your emotions, your body- for getting you where you are today? Surely you are owed just as much gratitude as all the other amazing people in your life.
To check out more of Amanda’s work, click here.