Off Your Mat

Bringing yoga off your mat into your life, one pose at a time.


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The Powerful Pose: Practicing Gratitude

gratitudeThere is power in giving thanks.

The act of saying “Thank you” to someone acknowledges the effort or thought that person put into you. It makes that person feel appreciated. They understand that you understand what they did. It strengthens the relationship and paves the way for more positive interactions. ScienceOfRelationships.com does a good job of exploring that dynamic.

But, what about offering up thanks to the universe? Why is it so important to say “Thank you” to a higher power?

Expressing gratitude validates all the fate, luck, fortune, blessings that arrive at your door. When we stop to acknowledge what we have to be grateful for, we give ourselves the ability to see what is positive in our lives. Just being aware of what is good, draws more good to you. That is powerful.

Gratitude is not about the material. It is about training the mind to see what truly holds value. buddha quote

Practicing gratitude is a form of self love. It is a moment to appreciate all of the good in all of the winding ways it has come to you. Just like thanking people in your life for their help or thoughtfulness builds trust and love, practicing gratitude creates an ability to more readily recognize the positive. Like any skill, if it is not practiced it can become weak or forgotten.

If you don’t stop to consciously be grateful, you might very well overlook something worthy of your gratitude. That would be a shame.

Initially, moments to be grateful for do not always look like good fortune. They can arrive unexpectedly, sometimes in the form of a complete disaster. Often it is those disasters that shed light on tremendous strength or understanding or truth. Only when we stop to reflect and be grateful, can we decipher the value.

gratitude

Here are 6 steps to a daily practice of gratitude:

1. Pick or create a quiet moment.

2. Envision one thing for which you are grateful.

3. Let all other thoughts fall away.

4. Allow yourself to feel the joy related to that thought.

5. Say aloud (or form a complete thought), “Thank you for _____________.”

6. Repeat daily.

 

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The Opportunity Pose: A Less Stressed Holiday Season

Sometimes an opportunity is obvious, sometimes it can be cloaked by perception. Often opportunities can pass right by because they look like a problem. When fear comes into the picture it seems opportunities dry up all together.opportunity1

During my first few attempts at yoga I was afraid of looking foolish. The fear I harbored inhibited my confidence. I was thinking about all the things I hadn’t learned to do yet. I was looking at it backwards. I considered my newbie status to be a detriment, when I should have focused on the limitless opportunity of learning that stretched out before me.87577938

Luckily, I loosened up and figured it out. I relaxed into a practice were I can be realistic about my abilities, push my boundaries, try new things and understand that mistakes are not failures. As always, this lesson in my yoga practice allowed me to reflect on how I approach similar circumstances in everyday life.

I think the approaching holiday season is a great opportunity to take this yoga lesson out into the world.

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There is a lot of anxiety that accompanies the approach of the holidays. People become stressed on so many levels. There are the logistics of gathering with family and friends, the extra expenses that come with gifts and travel, the extra responsibilities of cooking and entertaining and the less talked about family tensions that often come to a head at this time of year. It can be challenging.

But isn’t every challenge an opportunity?

Here are 6 practical tips to using yoga philosophies to create a less stressed holiday season.*

1. Acknowledge how you are feeling. The holiday season is built up to be an extra happy and festive time. For many people it is and that is terrific. However, if you find yourself feeling blue or down you should not force yourself to be happy just because it is the holidays. Do not bottle it up. Being human, it is normal to have a whole range of emotions. It is not normal to suppress emotions and pretend to be cheerful when you are not. Do not judge yourself and find a safe place to express yourself.

2. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.

3. Practice acceptance. Work to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.

4. Take a breather. Find some time for yourself, even if it is just 15 minutes. A little bit of time alone can recharge you enough to take on the next “to do list.” Here are some relaxing activities you can do on your own:

Take a seated position. Ideally, your knees should be slightly lower than your hips and your eyes should be closed. Sit up straight and inhale for a count of eight. Pause when your lungs are full and then exhale for a count of eight, emptying your lungs completely. Repeat at least 3 times.

  • Take a walk
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Read
  • Nap

5. Practice gratitude. Yes, this time of year brings added stress but it is also a time to count our blessings. Often our stress is created by expectations we hold that are not necessarily based in reality. Let go of that stuff, enjoy the people you want to enjoy, take in the beauty of the season and let it all unfold.

6. Give back. This time of year is the perfect opportunity to practice altruism. That doesn’t necessarily mean writing a check. This is an opportunity to start a family tradition of donating time around the holidays.

I hope you love your holiday season. But if you don’t, I hope you take the opportunity to make changes so that you can create something that you do love.

 

*For a more in-depth list visit The Mayo Clinic.