Yoga

Embodying Gratitude Through Asana

Portrait outdoors of a young Black woman smiling at sunset
Portrait outdoors of a young Black woman smiling at sunset

Coming to my mat has always been a space to surrender, a space where I take time to connect with myself. It was on my mat that I first learned what it felt like to embody gratitude as a way of being rather than an external expression. So frequently gratitude is expressed outward, where we thank those around us or recall the things we feel blessed to be surrounded by. External practice is a deeply valuable and important mode of the expression of gratitude, and a practice of gratitude can be so much more.

Cultivating a sense of gratitude extends beyond external expression, more than saying “thank you, I appreciate you.” The embodiment of gratitude allows us to become present to the abundance and beauty that not only surrounds us but is within us.

When my practice is an offering to my highest self, I return gratitude towards myself. I embody gratitude for all that I have been, all that I am, and all that I am becoming on this journey to and through myself.

Embracing this level of gratitude paves the way for me to extend that same energy outward towards those surrounding me. We’ve heard time and time again that the practice of gratitude has many proven positive benefits. Harnessing this power is a pivotal practice in nurturing your whole self and finding a lasting connection to your heart.

Asana Practice for Gratitude

Try these shapes to bring the embodiment of gratitude into your world.

Balasana

Child Pose

Start kneeling in a tabletop position and let the tops of your feet ground down into the earth. From here, connect your big toes and bring your knees slightly wider than your hips. Bring your sitting bones towards your heels, if it feels like there is a lot of space between your seat and your heels place a blanket or pillow in the space to ground your seat. Begin to extend your arms forward.

In this variation of child's pose, let the backs of your hands rest to the earth and your palms face up, then connect your pinky fingers as if you are creating a bowl with your hands. Letting this gesture with your hands be a way of offering your practice to your highest self. An expression of gratitude for arriving here today.

Virabhadrasana 2

Warrior 2

From child's pose, bring yourself forward back into a tabletop position. Curl your toes under and lift the hips towards the sky to come into downward-facing dog. Take a few breaths here to arrive, deep inhales through the nose and steady exhales through the nose. You might find movement through pedaling your feet if that feels good or hold in stillness for a few breaths.

When you’re ready, bring your right foot forward towards your right thumb. Connect your left heel to the mat behind you and cartwheel your arms up into a T position to land in warrior 2. Allow your shoulders to stack over your hips and wrists to be loosely over your ankles. To bring in a sense of surrender and a sense of gratitude here, allow your palms to face up once again. Notice if the shoulders get a little bit softer or if any tension you were holding on to begins to dissolve.

Where can you express gratitude for yourself in this shape? Remain here as we make our way into the next shape.

Baddha Virabhadrasana

Humble Warrior

Keep the same stance with your legs from your warrior 2 shape. Guide your hands behind your back and interlace your fingers. From there, with an inhale, press your hands gently towards the earth and feel your heart lifting towards the sky. As you’re ready to exhale surrender your head and your heart towards the inner right leg. Bowing forward into your humble warrior. The right leg will likely be communicating with you here as you add this level of intensity into your shape.

Can you remain in a space of curiosity about how the body communicates with you? Tap into a space of gratitude for all of the wisdom within and all of the ways the body sends messages to you.

When you’re ready, begin to make your way out of this shape and switch sides. Start by drawing your left foot forward to land in warrior 2. From there move towards humble warrior and find that same curiosity as you breathe here.

Paschimottanasana

Seated Forward Fold

From a downward dog, make your way into child's pose as you transition to this more grounded space. From child's pose, shift your seat to one side and extend your legs forward. Your sitting bones will be connected to the earth and your legs will be extended any amount along the length of your mat.

You might let the knees softly bend and place a rolled blanket underneath to ground into as you lengthen your spine. To find more space try placing a blanket or pillow under your seat to elevate the hips slightly. Feel empowered to invite in any props that will support you as we get grounded in space together.

On an inhale reach your arms over your ears, extending your fingertips into the sky then as you exhale, fold forward over your legs. Your hands might connect to your toes, they might land on the shins, they might land to the ground framing your legs. Wherever the hands land, allow them to settle and get grounded. No need to force or push the body here.

As you cultivate gratitude on your mat, settle into all that exists here and now. Feel gratitude for all that you are and all that you are becoming as you honor each moment.

Supported Matsyasana

Supported Fish Pose

Once you feel complete in your forward fold, we will navigate our way into a supported fish pose. It’s recommended to have a large pillow or bolster if that is accessible, any pillows will do to support the spine. Place the narrow edge of the bolster against your sacrum or low back, the prop should be long enough to support the entire length of the spine. Once you have the prop setup, surrender the back body to the pillow or bolster. Let yourself rest here with your heart gently elevated and your legs extended forward.

If you'd like, you can connect the soles of your feet and let your knees fall off to either side taking on a supta baddha konasana (reclined bound angle) variation. Allow your hands to rest wherever is most comfortable. That may be framing the body and grounded to the mat or connected to the torso in some capacity.

Remain here for as long as you need today, give yourself permission to rest and restore as you embrace gratitude.

Within any of these shapes, there is an opportunity to tune into your body, connect with your mind, and hold space for your heart. As you embrace gratitude on your mat, I invite you to bring any mantras into your space that offer you continued connection. You might use “I am Grateful” on each inhale, and “I am enough” on each exhale. Allow these words to be a continued reminder that you are worthy and deserving of your own gratitude and love.


Create space for joy and appreciation this season with Journey to Gratitude, a five-part series with Devi Brown, available now in the Chopra App.