seated yoga pose feeling gratitude giving thanks

Giving Thanks, Cultivating Contentment

Published on November 22, 2012

At Thanksgiving, we pause to gather with friends and family to express gratitude for the year’s blessings. Although this North American holiday is usually associated with the pilgrims’ first successful harvest, dating to nearly 400 years ago, the idea of setting aside a time for giving thanks has even older origins in spiritual and cultural traditions around the globe.

Great teachers from Aesop to Oprah have taught how cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” can lead to a sense of well-being and fulfillment. In the yoga tradition, gratitude is related to samtosha—most often translated as contentment and counted as one the five observances or niyamas outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Samtosha is the antidote for attachment (raga), which gives birth to desires or cravings, and which, in turn, lead to envy or frustration over unmet expectations. These are all symptoms of what meditators call “monkey mind,” uncontrolled, incessant—and usually unhelpful—thoughts. Whatever we focus on has a tendency to magnify and define us, like a negative whirlpool that drags us ever deeper.

One way to calm the swirling thoughts and feelings of dis-contentment is to focus on what we are grateful for. Cultivating samtosha is one of the most important practices for calming the mind which is the very essence of yoga as defined by the sage Patanjali in his second sutra (“Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind waves.”)

While you may associate Thanksgiving with yoga more in terms of a brisk vinyasa to burn off the extra stuffing and gravy, consider making the holiday the beginning of an everyday gratitude practice. It’s by cultivating contentment daily that the seeds of serenity and peace will grow and blossom outward. In sutra II:42, Patanjali says: “From contentment, supreme joy is attained.”

What are some ways you’ve integrated contentment or gratitude with your yoga practice?

Share with


Our Latest

Yoga Articles
  • Saying Thank You to a Yoga Teacher

    12 Ways to Say Thank You to a Yoga Teacher

  • Yoga for Thanksgiving

    Yoga for Thanksgiving: 10 Asanas for Gratitude

  • Siddhis

    Siddhis: Definition, Types, Tips and Dangers

  • Spiritual Health and Wellness

    12 Yogic Ways to Cultivate Spiritual Health and Wellness

  • Bhakti Yoga

    Bhakti Yoga: the Yoga of Devotion

  • Sri Yantra

    Sri Yantra: Meaning, Symbolism, and Benefits

  • Yoga Weight Loss Plan

    7 Ways To Add Yoga To Your Weight Loss Plan

  • Yoga for Psychic Abilities

    10 Ways Yoga Can Boost Your Psychic Abilities

Remove Ads with a

Premium Membership

Viewing ads supports YogaBasics, which allows us to continue bringing you quality yoga content. Sign up for a premium membership to remove all ads and enjoy uninterrupted access to the best yoga resources on the web.

Explore More

Yoga TipsAdviceArticlesPracticesBasicsTechniques

  • Beginner Yoga Poses

    The 18 Best Yoga Poses for Beginners

  • Standing Balance Poses tips

    The Duality of Standing Balance Poses

  • Traditional inversion pose

    Top Tips and Benefits of Practicing Yoga Inversions

  • hot yoga

    Hot Yoga: Definition, Benefits, Cautions and Tips for Newbies

  • drinking water in yoga

    Water and Yoga: When Is the Best Time to Drink?

  • Best Yoga Straps

    The Best Yoga Straps for Newbies and Pros

  • meditation before bed benefits 2

    11 Benefits of Meditation Before Bed

  • Crystals for Yoga Meditation

    9 Crystals to Empower Your Yoga Practice

  • Home Yoga Studio

    15 Tips for Creating an Amazing Home Yoga Studio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Kathleen Bryant Avatar
About the author
A former teacher and forever student, Kathleen Bryant swapped her running shoes for a yoga blanket in 1992, when she joined her first Hatha Yoga class in the back room of a local crystal shop. After earning a 500-hour teaching certificate from the International Yoga College, she taught anatomy, asana, and other subjects at 7 Centers School of Yoga Arts in Sedona, AZ. Kathleen is especially interested in the therapeutic aspects of yoga and continues to learn from Rama Jyoti Vernon, an amazing yogini who inspires her students to integrate yoga philosophy and mythology with contemporary life. An award-winning author, she has also published a children’s story, a cookbook, and books that focus on Southwest culture, travel, and natural history.
Yoga Basics