Ahhh… a month of Gratitude to practice, behold and share. Gratitude certainly doesn’t end after the turkey is eaten, the pumpkin pie is gobbled up and 3/4 of your guests are comatose on the couch. Begin your practice today with a few of my favorite meditations on gratitude and keep your journal handy as you may want to jot down bits and pieces of thankfulness along the way. And after your big Thanksgiving meal, turn your gaze inward as your digestive system says “Thanks”. Expressing gratitude can benefit your own health as well. Benefits include better sleep, fewer physical ailments, and a better ability to cope with stressful situations.
Three Part Breath (Durga Pranayama) with Hands to Belly and Heart
This is one of my favorite breaths because I can actually feel the movement of the breath through my body, like a “hands on”. This brings greater breath awareness and it is considered a “complete” breath where the entire lungs are filled up. I use it to calm me down, center, become more in tune with my physical body.
Can be done either laying down, seated or standing. Try all three positions.
Begin the first part of the breath by placing one hand on your belly, the other hand on your heart. Inhale long and deep to the belly. Feel the abdomen press against your palm and fingers with inhale. Keep breathing in to chest so that it rises. Exhale from heart to belly feeling the chest fall and the belly deflate with the exhale. Stay for as many breaths as you feel comfortable. Inhaling from belly to heart and exhaling from heart to belly. Feel the connection between the two. The breath may be so deep and full that the complete breath may even be felt to the base of the skull.
Supported Forward Fold with Legs Extended (Paschimottasana)
Benefits: calming, gently stretches lower back, nice transition from the days activities. A good pose to do if you need a few minutes break from your daily work, easy to do and easily accessible. Good for headaches. Breathing is easier since muscles of the respiratory system are relaxed. Massage for the digestive system.
Props: bolster, 3 blankets, 1 extra blanket for warmth and or laying on lower back to ground
Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddhakonasana)
Props: bolster, 4 blocks (or firm cushions, pillows or rolled-up blankets), 4 blankets and one extra blanket for warmth, strap and eye pillow
Contentment is a mental decision, a moral choice, a practiced observance, a step into the reality of the cosmos. Contentment/santosha is the natural state of our humanness and our divinity and allows for our creativity and love to emerge. It is knowing our place in the universe at every moment. It is unity with the largest, most abiding, reality.
The practices listed above are not mutually exclusive either. While in a Warrior Two, breath deep and send some thanks to your strong legs as the hold you up. Meditation combined with a deep diaphragmatic breath and a mantra of thanks can also be an effective way to cultivate contentment. Try a 40 Day Gratitude Journal listing the major things in your life that you are grateful for. As you proceed with the journal entries, you may start to notice and be thankful for the little things as well. Your heart may begin to open up more and let ease, peace and santosha in. Recently, I’ve changed the image on the blog to my cat, Maxine, for the month of November as a reminder to all of us that contentment is for everyone. I see and feel that she is content. Granted her daily responsibilities are not the same as mine but she is a cat with her own cat survival responsibilities. She stretches, she breathes, she is completely in the moment as she hears the birds, chases the butterflies and flees from me catching her. But her heart is open. She has this uncanny sense to come to me when I am upset. She greets each of us by the window when we come home. She is my daily reminder.
Sit comfortably. Close your eyes and, for a few moments, focus on the gentle movement of your breath.