Gratitude, the quality of being thankful, is an action, emotion, and cornerstone of the contentement movement. You may have heard that this simple yet incredibly challenging quality of being thankful in the present moment can profoundly change your life, but how do you attain this seemingly elusive quality?
As much as gratitude is sold to you in beautiful packaging, you cannot buy it from the store or find it on a shelf. It is an inward practice to be thankful right here, right now which takes conscious effort (sthira) and surrender (sukha). So let’s start practicing now (atha).
Goodnight, Moon: Warm-up with Chandra Namaskar
If your body would like to move a little before you settle, try three to five rounds of Chandra Namaskar (Moon Salutation). There are a different ways to salute the moon, see here for one beginner’s variation. If you have limited time or want to skip ahead to the 15 minute evening flow, go for it. This is your practice.
Westside Practice: Forward Folds and Inward Intention
In yoga philosophy, the front of the body is the East and opens to salute the sun. The back of the body is the West and closes to salute the moon. Accordingly, this practice will focus on inward intention and forward folds.
1. Let’s start in a Seated Butterfly against the wall. Blocks under the outer thighs support the legs and help the muscles relax. Open with a three-part opening meditation: Identify, Embrace, and Relish. Hold for two to three minutes.
a. Identify by verbalizing the moment, “Right now, I give myself this moment to pause and breathe.”
b. Embrace by noticing the experience, “In life, there are moments of goodness when I can pause and notice my breath. This is one of those moments.”
c. Relish by expressing gratitude for what you are feeling, “Thank you for this good moment to pause and breathe.”
2. If it feels good to you, open the legs into a Straddle. If you have tighter hamstrings, a Half Butterfly or blocks under the arms may suit you better. Gently fold forward, keep the legs active to stretch the inner thighs and groin. Lengthen the spine and soften your face. Hold for two minutes on each side for Half Butterfly or four minutes total for Straddle.
3. Gently lift out of the forward fold and bring the legs together to Legs-Up-The-Wall. Play around with a bolster or pillow under the hips as well as move the hips closer to or away from the wall, until you find a spot to land that feels good for you. The hands can be open beside the hips or one hand on the belly and the other on the heart can feel nice here. Hold for five minutes.
4. If you used a pillow or bolster, gently move it out of the way. Push your legs against the wall to slide your body away. Keep the feet actively pressing against the wall and open the arms by the hips for a slightly more active variation of Savasana. Hold for five to six minutes.
To cultivate gratitude, you practice with intention everyday. It is less important what you practice than to notice how you practice. This four part flow was designed to be gentle on the body so you can practice it everyday. Feel free to follow the complete flow or take a pose or two to practice at night. However you practice, it is recommended to end with at least a three to five minute Savasana.