The one Yoga practice I never leave out of my day

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Gratitude. It might sound too simple or even cheesy, but honestly. Gratitude is one of the things that keep me straight on a daily basis. 

In the Swedish language, we have a great word for being in the role of a victim, offerkofta. It basically means the victim sweater and unfortunately, I put it on quite frequently. I forget how fortunate I am and get caught up in what I consider to be wrong or not good enough.

At first “offerkoftan” feels warm and cozy, it makes me feel safe, self-righteous and busy. I have something to do, a position to defend. I’m right about something, which means that someone else is wrong, and poor me who has to be the one to point it out and feel so taken advantage of. 
But after a while, the sweater feels itchy. I don't really help me accomplish anything, I’m just sweaty and uncomfortable. The feeling spreads through my body and shows up in my posture. My head starts tilting forward, my shoulders slouch and my upper back hurts. Poor me. 

It takes a while for me to remember that I have a solution to my problem that doesn’t keep me trapped: gratitude. Nothing can snap me out of self-doubt, anxiety, regret or self-pity like a good dose of gratitude. Nothing is ever perfect, but there’s good to be seen in everything. And what if things don’t happen to me, but for me? What if I manifest my reality and create the experiences that I need to grow?

Every evening before I go to bed I write down three things that I’m grateful for and three things I need help with the next day. It’s a tender and surprising reminder of how easy it is to be grateful, but how little practice I have in this area. It takes me a few seconds to reset my intention, and then the gratitude comes pouring out through the pen onto the paper. Some days I can only think of mundane things, like toilet paper, that I get to sleep, or that I am at the close of a long day. Other days I realize that I’m grateful to be exactly where I am, doing the work I am doing and having the people around me that I’m blessed with. It’s a mysterious experience, it never gets old. 

The first thing I do in the morning before anything else is to read what I wrote the night before. It reminds me to start the day with gratitude and to be humble about what I need help with. Some days I need to pick up my gratitude notes several times throughout the day. The writing and reading really help; it brings me back to myself in the now. 

Yoga means union, and I consider anything that takes me toward a state of connection to be a Yoga practice. An asana practice or other physical exercises can also do the trick, they help me come back into my body and keep my thoughts at bay. But Yoga is so much more than physical postures. Spending time in nature, reading something inspirational, time with loved ones, listening to music, singing in the shower, playing with a child or a puppy, cooking, sharing my truth and feeling grateful is all Yoga for me. These practices close the gap between my mind, body, and spirit. Just like emotions feed thoughts (and the other way around), if my physical body isn’t in balance, my mind and spirit won’t be in balance. When what I think and feel align with my spirit’s intention, I’m at peace. 

This is an encouraging reminder that I found at my parent's place long ago. The English translation is from a magazine article published in 1999. It reminds me of how powerful gratitude is, and that there are always two sides to the same coin.

I Am Thankful for… 
...the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
...the taxes I pay because it means that I am employed.
...the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.
...my shadow who watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.
...a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means that I have a home.
...the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.
...all the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.
...my huge heating bill because it means that I am warm.
...the lady behind me who sings off key because it means I can hear.
...the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.
...the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I'm alive.
...weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been productive.


- Det är aldrig kört, Kristina Reftel

Today I am especially grateful for my strong body that allows me to travel and move freely throughout my life and the world. I get to see so many interesting places, meet fascinating people and create new experiences. What are you grateful for today? 

 

This blog post was originally written for the Hale Pule blog, 
read the original article and others here.

Lisa Åkesson Stryker