Expressing gratitude, gratefulness, and thankfulness feels really good, and research shows it is good for us. The practice of gratitude “allows for positive attribution, which has been shown to protect against stress and depression” and gratitude can also increase one’s overall life satisfaction. It is awesome that we have a national holiday dedicated to giving thanks, but research in positive psychology has shown that to increase your levels of happiness a daily practice of gratitude is essential. Fortunately, the many paths of yoga give us several techniques to bring an attitude of gratitude on to our yoga mats.
The simplest approach to incorporating more gratitude into your yoga practice is to use a sankalpa or intention. Creating an intention of feeling and expressing gratitude at all times, and across all situations, can be a powerful guiding force in your yoga practice. If you need something more concrete and accessible, you can also start or end your practice by reflecting on three recent life experiences that you are thankful for.
Another easy way to add some gratefulness to your hatha yoga practice is to incorporate more upper body opening poses—especially asanas that activate the heart and throat chakras. If you already use these poses, try holding them for a few more breaths than you normally do. You can also supercharge these asanas by remembering and focusing on your gratitude sankalpa while practicing them.
The 8 best yoga poses to cultivate gratitude
Two mantras to cultivate gratitude
One of the most powerful ways to activate gratitude, gratefulness, and thankfulness is through chanting a mantra. There are two mantras you can use with mantra meditation or you can chant a few rounds of either of these mantras as an invocation for your asana practice. The Tibetan mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is difficult to translate, but chanting it will cultivate compassion, kindness, and gratefulness. The Sanskrit mantra Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu is usually translated as “may all beings everywhere be happy and free” and encourages feelings of gratitude, kindness, forgiveness, and peace.
Traditionally mantras are chanting with one’s full attention and focus and repeated in sets of 108. Mala beads are often used to count the mantras, and you can boost the power of the practice if the mala you are using is made with a gratitude gemstone. Stones that are said to promote gratitude are green garnet, green jasper, green aventurine, blue tiger eye, and green apatite.
Ending your yoga practice by bringing the hands into Anjali Mudra (prayer pose) in front of your heart and gently bowing your head is a wonderful way to close your practice with a sense of gratefulness and thankfulness.