Gratitude is entirely linked with mental health and wellbeing, there is no doubt about that! Various think tanks, psychologists, CBT therapists, Reiki practitioners, Buddhist practices and other religious orders all specify the importance of gratitude. And of course, Yoga in it's essential form is very much entwined with the practice of gratitude and humility.
To cultivate a practice of gratitude, which might be a daily practice, can encourage a greater sense of connection, reduce a sense of isolation or negative thought patterns and therefore increase mental health and wellbeing.
How do you feel gratitude? What makes you feel grateful? We all have our little things, it might be a cup of tea offered spontaneously, a smile when you really need it.. a hug from another when your feeling low.. gratitude comes about by a variety of means.
That warm fuzzy feeling within may come about when walking in nature, in contemplation of reflection of a trees in water, the passing of a rainbow..
I would say it, for me, comes from a heart-felt connection to an'other' leading to a sense of boundaries dissolving, a porousness and unconfined joyful abundance of awareness that is situated within the heart-space drawing my energy away from the mind-stuff down towards the energetic heart-stuff.
This extension of feeling, recognition or warmth, a sense of burning embers within the heart case, there are many different means to describe this feeling of gratitude. It seems to be connected to a sense of humility, I would say these are completely entwined with one another. Gratitude can be cultivated, but firstly space in order for gratitude to come about, which takes presence or what I call the 'practice of noticing'. Or cultivation of an open and expansive awareness.
How can we cultivate it within our yoga practice? Writing things that you can feel gratitude towards is a great way to start.
But a means to embody and trigger that gratitude within your physical yoga practice is accessible within one of my favourite asanas - Balasana or Childs Pose.
Childs Pose is the go to counterpose for spinal extension practices, calming in it's nature as a forward fold.
There is instant humility in folding torso over thighs, forehead placed on ground touches base with the feedback around Ajna Chaka/chakra or the third eye centre situated inwards between the eyebrows towards the Pineal Gland.
Support can be created under the head, by lifting ground towards forehead, with the use of a folded blanket or stacked blocks to add extra comfort and support.
If the shoulder girdle will allow, extend arms out, reaching ahead of the crown to lengthen serratus anterior and yawn open the armpits. If available within the shoulder girdle, rotate arms and lift palms towards sky.
Optional - to bring hands together in Anjali Mudra the gesture of centering, humility and gratitude and pivot hands to point up above or keep bending at elbows to bring the hands to rest onto the back of head.
Breathe here, let the ribcage expand and open towards thighs in the INHALATION and notice the sense of drawing inwards as the diaphragm arches, ribcage draws inwards and air is EXHALED through NOSTRILS.
Be here now. Enjoy the practice. Notice how you feel.
To bring yourself upright, unfold the arms, pad with the hands and draw torso into the sagittal plane.
Allow yourself the time to notice how you feel, what change has come about. And move on with the day.