I hear a lot of yoga-related questions throughout the average day:

“Am I doing this right?”

“What’s a namaste?’

“What do you mean ‘yoga isn’t just a physical practice’?”

But my favorite question I’ve ever been asked was beautiful in its simplicity:

“What is gratitude?”


photo credit: lionsroar.com

And my answer is not as simple.

Gratitude is an idea and a practice upon which I’ve built much of the last few years of my life. It is an underlying intention from which I live, love, move, and teach. It’s a practice of naming things, people, feelings, and ideas that I am grateful for in my life, and focusing positive attention on these gratitudes big and small, so my mind doesn’t just focus on negativity.

Look what happens when you shift your focus to gratitude. Instead of thinking, “I have too much work to do,” I can think, “I’m so grateful to be healthy and educated enough to do the work that I do.” Rather than getting annoyed that I have to stop at home to take my dog for a walk, I can think, “I’m so grateful to have found this incredible dog who loves me every day, despite whatever mood I might be in.”

They’re little shifts, but they make a difference.

I did a quick Google search for “gratitude” and found two pretty interesting things.

  1. Gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
  2. A “use over time” graph popped up of the word “gratitude” in books from 1800 to 2010. You know what happened? We’re using the word a lot less.
gratitude chart

credit: books.google.com/ngrams/

I’m on Team Gratitude and believe we need to use this word as much as possible.

I have had a conscious gratitude practice for a few years and love to share this idea with friends and students. Starting a gratitude practice of your own can be as simple as writing one gratitude in a journal every day, or a more formal practice. Try this out for starters:

  1. Find a tall, comfortable seated position and close your eyes
  2. Place your left palm over your heart center (chest) and name someone you are grateful to have in your life, past or present. Maybe a teacher, a friend, a parent, co-worker, etc. You can always name more people, but start with one. Feel into the gratitude you have for that person. What about them impacted you?
  3. Place your right hand over your left hand and name something about your home that you are grateful for. Home can mean physical home, a place you spend a lot of time, a trail you love, or someone else’s house that feels like home to you.
  4. Place your left hand back over your right hand and name something about yourself that you are grateful for. A physical part of your body that helps you move the way you like to move, a part of your personality that brings you closer to other people, a “blemish” that makes you unique, etc.
  5. Place your right hand back over your left hand and name something about your family that you are grateful for. Past, present, or future; tangible or intangible; little or big.

Rinse and repeat 🙂