“Gratitude should not be just a reaction to getting what you want, but an all-the-time gratitude, the kind where you notice the little things and where you constantly look for the good, even in unpleasant situations. Start bringing gratitude to your experiences, instead of waiting for a positive experience in order to feel grateful.” — Marelisa Fábrega
Welcome to November at Tranquil Space. Considering this month of thanksgiving, it felt apropos to muse on the benefits and ways to embrace yoga – along with providing a brief how-to for the sensational sun salutation. Yoga translates to “union” and offers a way to live life with mindfulness. The physical poses and breath work associated with yoga in the West are catalysts, but not the end all be all of this ancient practice. Yoga is a way of being. My favorite mantra lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu translates to “May all beings everywhere be happy and free. May the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” That is yoga!
Like most Washingtonians, you are probably always in motion – meeting deadlines at the office, sipping tea at a café, volunteering at a local shelter. The good news is that you can find balance by staying connected to your yoga practice off the yoga mat. For example, while waiting for a late subway train (hello single tracking red line), instead of growing impatient, shift your weight onto your right leg and place your left foot on your right ankle to practice the tranquility-invoking tree pose and take long, full breaths. You can find peace within the pandemonium by spontaneously practicing the principles of yoga (summarized in the mantra featured above) in your everyday.
Yoga can transform your life on so many levels. A few of the main benefits include: increased confidence; attention to the impact of situations, people, and food on your body; the chance to slow down and take a break from life while on the mat; meet a community of like-minded people; deep breathing to ground you in sticky situations; improved sleep patterns; a connection to your inner voice; toned body; relief from pain, headaches, and stress. Oh, and the list goes on and on. Needless to say, yoga can have profound effects on your joie de vivre!
To get started, I recommend a weekly practice to slowly immerse your body and spirit into yoga. As you become more committed, a daily practice is ideal, even if only for a few minutes. I try to carve out time each day for at least a forward fold or downward dog, especially when traveling or on deadline. You may find that your body begins to crave the practice and your muscles actually ache for it when you take a hiatus. Yoga is different from other forms of exercise because most find they love to practice rather than adding another “should” to their already-packed life.
To get started or to deepen your personal practice, begin to explore sun salutations. This series is sure to bring pep to your step and awaken your spirit. I recommend at least five of these to start and end your day.
- Ground yourself in mountain pose at the top of the mat. Bring your hands to prayer position in front of your heart. Set an intention.
- Inhale, extend your arms up over your head.
- Exhale, reach your arms out to the side as you fold forward.
- Inhale, step back with your right leg to a lunge.
- Exhale, step back with your left leg to down dog.
- Inhale, float your body forward to plank pose.
- Exhale, drop your knees, bend your arms, and lower into half-chaturanga.
- Inhale, drop your belly, slide up to cobra.
- Exhale, curl your toes under, lift your hips up to down dog.
- Inhale, step forward with your right foot into a lunge.
- Exhale, step your left foot in between both hands to a forward fold.
- Inhale, extend your arms out to the sides and up. Exhale your hands to prayer in mountain pose.
Let this month of thanksgiving deepen your yoga practice. Whether it is the practice of poses, deep breaths, or embracing the mantra presented above, you are a yogi. Yoga is about living life in a way that contributes to others and if you achieve headstand along the way, so be it. Bask in being you – mindfully and authentically you. And always choose compassion. Namaste.