Gratitude is a wonderful emotion that doesn’t always happen freely. It’s easy to become comfortable with where you are and forget how truly fortunate you may be; I know that I am guilty of not feeling or expressing gratitude as much as I could or should. As I looked back on my 2014 (which Facebook made so easy to do with those nifty “Look Back on my Year” photo albums) I thought of all of the happy times that I shared with my friends and loved ones. I felt and feel grateful for those relationships and experiences. It’s nice to scroll through all of the beach and dinner party photos, but it would be even nicer to vocalize my gratitude, and I don’t mean by means of posting either, I mean by an old school phone call, or a (recycled and/or homemade) card even! Lucky for us all, gratitude is an attitude as well as an emotion, meaning that we can mindfully practice moving towards feelings of gratitude.
However, what social media doesn’t tend to capture are those times in the last year when we were down and out for whatever reason, because in general we selectively chose what sort of virtual image we want portrayed of us, and leave out the bad bits. But if we go within and pull out some skeletons in the closet and recall some of the negative experiences of 2014, then it can potentially be another opportunity for gratitude. We can be thankful for the obstacles and difficult times overcome. Myself as an example, at this time last year I was out of a job and had been briskly kicked out of my apartment in a foreign country, and I can tell you that I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about the year ahead. But things lined up: I got a job, an apartment near the beach, and I’ve been happy where I am since. I’ll admit that while recalling that negative time in my life it wasn’t an instant feeling of thankfulness. Initially, I felt pretty down remembering just how miserable of a time that was, but I made a mindful, strong effort to pull myself away from the negative thoughts. I realized that because of that experience I had learned many lessons, and now a year later, I can be totally grateful for the difference a year makes and where I am today.
This same principle of turning negatives into positives can be translated to our yoga practice on the mat. It’s a wonderful thing that not too often do people remember their times practicing yoga and come up with negative experiences, or at least I hope that that is the case. But certainly there can be a tendency for our minds to wander into those dark little corners even during a yoga practice. It can be true for all of us at some point or another that we let our eyes wander to the outrageously flexible yogini, kitty corner to us in class, who is unexplainably contorting her body into a tightly bound balancing pose and then it happens, our egos creep in and we feel inferior, embarrassed, and bad at yoga. But harness that ego in! There is no such thing as “being bad” at yoga; it is a practice meaning that no you may not be at the same level as someone next to you, but you will progress with practice, just like any other skill. It doesn’t happen over night. The next time you notice your mind creeping towards self-doubt in a class, mindfully exhale those emotions away and feel grateful for the learning opportunity.