Gratitude in Motion
Mindy Wise is a yoga teacher and a sometimes-exhausted mother of four. Yoga helps her to see the light in others and to stay positive when life gets difficult.
I just finished teaching a series on the Yamas, the first limb of the Eight Limbed Path to Yoga recorded by Patanjali thousands of years ago. I led classes centered on the importance of each of the 5 yamas:
- Ahimsa: non-violence, non-harming, compassion
- Satya: truthfulness
- Asteya: non-stealing
- Bramacharya: harnessing the energy of our physical urges and using that energy for higher purposes
- Aparigraha: non-greed
I really enjoy including this type of philosophical information in my asana classes because it give the physical practice so much more meaning. And it worked out that I came to Aparigraha during the month in which many people in our culture celebrate Thanksgiving, when it is common to take time to think about what we are thankful for.
Our society and culture is really against us on this Yama, telling us that more is better. Bigger is better. Newer, shinier, more expensive, more decadent is better. So, as humans, it is easy to get pulled into the trap of feeling like we need more, that having more will make us more happy. We get sucked into taking more than we need of just about everything!
But the truth is that it does not make us happy. We always desire more, and that desire is the cause of suffering. Part of finding lasting happiness is learning to be satisfied with what we have.
This month I am focusing on the theme of gratitude in my classes, asking students in child’s pose at the beginning of class to remember the physical feeling of gratitude – what it felt like during a time when they were truly grateful – and to conjure up that physical and mental feeling as we move through different postures, focusing on our breath. On each inhale, we say to ourselves, “I am grateful for” and on each exhale think of something different that we are grateful for.
I’m doing this in my own practice as well. When you keep it going for a long time, you never know what will pop into your mind. My vacuum cleaner was one that came to me. I am thankful for my vacuum cleaner! That is kind of funny, but it is true, and I wouldn’t have thought of it without this theme and practice. The asana practice becomes a moving gratitude meditation, and we build that positive energy in our minds, in our bodies, in the room, in the world.