Practicing gratitude improves your mood and overall attitude about life, but that’s not all. It also helps reduce stress, which is no small thing when it comes to your physical health. Studies show that stress can increase the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even obesity.
We also know yoga can help to reduce feelings of stress, but can it help you develop and feel a stronger sense of gratitude, too? Yes! It can.
Feeling genuinely grateful is a skill you must learn by being present in and focusing on the moment. Yoga can help you develop that sense of mindfulness, which corresponds to being able to really feel gratitude — and when gratitude is combined with the other benefits yoga provides, you’ll likely stay happier and healthier, even when your yoga routine comes to an end.
Here are five poses to inspire your inner gratefulness:
Humble Warrior is an excellent beginning to cultivate gratitude. Humility and gratitude go hand-in-hand, and bowing forward at the beginning of your practice sets a tone of humility.
Begin in Warrior 1.
Behind your back, clasp your hands together.
Lengthen your spine by trying to touch the ceiling with the crown of your head.
On an exhale, slowly bend forward, bringing your right shoulder to touch the inside of your right knee.
Point the top of your head toward the ground, and lift your clasped hands toward the sky as much as possible. As you do, repeat the mantra “I feel gratitude” for two-three breaths to set your intention.
One of the ways we non-verbally show love is by touching our hands to our heart. We can all use reminders to be grateful for the things we love, so this pose will help you focus on what you are grateful for about the ones you love most.
From a standing position at the back of your mat, step forward with your right foot.
Moving with your breath, slowly bend your right knee.
Drop your left knee to the mat while keeping it straight.
Begin sinking your hips to the floor, straight down.
Check to be sure your right knee is not over your toes. If it is, sink your hips lower to the ground. If this is too painful to hold for a series of breaths, shorten your stance.
Clasp your hands together over your heart.
As you breathe, bring to mind the people you love and focus on what you are most grateful for about them before bringing your hands above your head.
We can’t fully embrace gratitude if we are holding onto grudges or anger, so we must focus on letting go of the things that prevent us from being grateful. Pigeon Pose requires consciously releasing tension in our body, which reminds us of the importance of letting go.
Begin in Downward Facing Dog.
Slide your right foot forward as you turn your knee to the side, as if you are going to touch the arch of your right foot to your left wrist. Try to bring your shin as close as you can to parallel with the top of the mat.
As you lower your right leg to the mat, your left leg will naturally lower as well. Continue lowering until your left knee is on the mat.
Untuck the toes of your left foot and slide your left leg backwards, allowing your hips to lower toward the ground.
It’s important to keep your right knee at a 90-degree angle on the mat, so stop lowering if your right foot is beginning to slide toward your hips.
With each exhale, focus on releasing the tension in your hips so you can press them close to the ground.
Once you’ve found your holding place, hold for two-three breaths. With each exhale, picture letting go of whatever may be blocking your gratitude.
The hand placement in Lotus Pose is both giving and receiving, signifying that we are giving thanks for things we have received.
Begin in a seated position with your legs crossed in front of you.
Lengthen your spine by imagining the crown of your head touching the ceiling.
Bring your hands to rest on your knees, palms facing upward.
Picture things you are grateful for being placed in your hands, and give thanks for the good each one brings to your life.
Corpse Pose is the perfect time to reflect on what you have to be grateful for. The more your awareness is focused on being grateful, the more health benefits you will gain from this practice.
Lie down on your back.
Stretch your legs out, lengthening your spine, and widen your legs to the edges of the mat. Release the tension in your legs so your feet naturally fall to the side.
Slide your shoulder blades down your back and extend your arms out to the side, with palms facing the ceiling.
Tilt your chin upward and release your facial muscles.
As you breathe, visualize the people and things you are grateful you have in your life. Repeat the mantra “I feel gratitude” once more as each image comes to mind.
Yoga may be the perfect medium to help you intentionally cultivate gratitude. In addition to the many health benefits, being grateful also allows you to look at the world in a different way and to live your fullest, happiest life.