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The Power of Giving Thanks: Yoga On and Off the Mat

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1 Here I am practicing full Natarajasana by the beautiful waterfall.

2 Summer, who is an exceptional teacher, also has such an incredible inversion practice.

It was an honor to attend friend and fellow yoga teacher Summer Shirey’s retreat at the Waterfall House in the Catskills last Thursday to Sunday. While the enchanting 19th century house offers lovely accommodations, my partner and I opted to camp out on the lawn bordering the edge of the shale ravine above the stunning Kenhuragara (Panther) Falls. As you can imagine, it was incredible to fall asleep to the sound of this large cascade and rise bright and early with the birds.

Summer is an exceptional and passionate alignment-focused teacher who always inspires me. Our weekend was packed with hours of awesome instruction, some of which proved transformational for my handstand practice. Likewise, there was plenty of decadent free time to paint, read, walk, and just be. Not to mention, nearly four days of being entirely off the grid was a celebration for me (I chose to leave my phone in Brooklyn).

In addition to all this, there was a beautiful gratitude assignment Summer devised that I’d like to share with you. In my opinion, a regular appreciation practice is an invaluably grounding, perspective bearing, and empowering force. I deeply encourage you to try this exercise of hers today.

Here’s what we did:

At the end of class on Saturday morning, Summer asked us to write down a list of 20 things we’re grateful for. This list was intended to be organic and honoring of our stream of conscious. After doing so, she requested we jot down three things we’d like to accomplish over the next three to six months, as well as three long-term intentions.

Simply taking the time to do this is a powerful process. Likewise, we can learn a lot about ourselves by reflecting upon the list-making process. What can we learn, for example, from the times we felt stuck? What about the areas where the content poured out of us freely? Was it easier to cultivate gratitude or draw up clear intentions? Was the process very balanced?

I really appreciate how Summer then integrated this gratitude practice on the mat. We were told to bring our lists to the evening asana session and place the 20 things we’re grateful for under the left upper portion of the mat, or where one’s left hand would be in downward facing dog. The list of intentions went on the right-hand side. Throughout practice, Summer encouraged us to reflect upon how these two components are or are not yet incorporated in our lives. When could we be firmer in our intentions, for instance? When do we forget to be appreciative?

I’m grateful my lists are resting here on my desk. They are a beautiful reminder of how much virtue stems from the simple discipline of acknowledging what we’re thankful for. I invite you to try this beautiful ritual and even share your thoughts and/or experiences here.

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Comments (1)

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