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Top 3 Yoga Poses to Help Cultivate Grace and Gratitude

As we draw closer to the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m drawn to the subject of gratitude and how to practice it on a daily basis.

Researchers have learned that people who express their gratitude are happier, healthier, less stressed, and less prone to depression than the average person.

If you possess a high amount of gratitude, you often live life with a sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation.

Acknowledging the benefits of gratitude is one thing, but it can be difficult to feel grateful when we experience hardships. That’s why practicing gratitude on a daily basis, whether in good times or bad, is so important.

If we give ourselves the chance to be open and become aware of all of the wonderful gifts in our lives, seeing the good in every situation, and expressing our heartfelt gratitude to others, we can increase our sense of well-being and quality of life.

So, how can we embrace gratitude on and off the mat? By embracing the teachings from our yoga practice, we are able to slow down, find balance, and tune into our deepest compassion resulting in endless gratitude.

Slow down

We live in a world of immediate communication, results, and demands. We’re impatient, overbooked, and over stressed.

Sound familiar?

Pause and draw awareness to your breath. Notice how your breath flows through your body. Is it free flowing, tight, or rapid? Pay attention to the thoughts flowing through your mind. Are they nurturing or self-defeating? Where are you holding tension and where do you feel more relaxed?

Find balance

Thanks to the many balance poses that are available in yoga, I have learned that balance is not all about perfect posture and core strength. While those do play a part, balance has a lot to do with focusing the mind.

Before going into any balance pose, take a few minutes to set your focus and clear your mind. Acknowledge all thoughts and sensations, draw strength from your core, set your gaze, take a deep breath, and open into the pose. Understanding where your focus is can help to develop awareness both within and around you.

Below are three balance poses that will help you acknowledge all thoughts and sensations.

Tree pose

Woman yoga teacher in various poses (asana) isolated on white background

Sanskrit: Vrksasana

Step by step:

  1. Start with your feet firmly planted on your mat and hands at your heart center.
  2. Draw your weight into your right foot, creating a firm foundation.
  3. Bring your left foot to your right heel or thigh.
  4. Slowly extend your arms out to the sky, becoming the branches of your tree.
  5. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and then switch sides.

Airplane pose

Woman yoga teacher in various poses (asana) isolated on white background

Sanskrit: Vimanasana

Step by step:

  1. Start with your feet firmly planted on your mat and hands at your heart center.
  2. Extend your arms out to your sides.
  3. Slowly begin to hinge forward from your hips as you extend your right leg behind you.
  4. Drawing strength from your core and setting your gaze, hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
  5. Switch sides.

Dancer pose

Woman yoga teacher in various poses (asana) isolated on white background

Sanskrit: Natarajasana

Step by step:

  1. Start with your feet firmly planted on your mat and hands at your heart center.
  2. Draw your weight into your right foot.
  3. Bring your right hand to your hip.
  4. Bend your left leg and reach for your foot with your left hand.
  5. Slowly hinge forward as you extend your right arm overhead and left leg behind you.
  6. Drawing strength from your core and setting your gaze, hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
  7. Switch sides.

Compassionate awareness

Take a minute to think about that yoga pose that scares you or challenges you. Try to understand your limits and fears that come with this pose, then find a way to approach it with compassion.

For me, Handstand is a challenge. No matter how much I know about how to get in and out of Handstand safely, the fear of falling over and losing control flood my brain. Before I know it,  my breath constricts and I lose focus.

We all have these reactions to certain poses and while it’s easy to avoid them, there is so much to learn by confronting them in a safe environment.

Whenever I’m in the mindset to try Handstand, I know I need to have a wall as my support to provide that safety net for me, so that I can breathe and stay focused, embracing the detoxifying benefits of being inverted.

Thanks to these lessons from my yoga practice, gratitude is now a daily practice for me, both on and off the mat.

Michelle Finerty
Michelle Finerty
Michelle has been writing professionally for over a decade. She started in the business world, focusing on cross-cultural communication and technical writing, and is now infusing the teachings of yoga with modern life, blending two of her passions...yoga and writing. Michelle also teaches yoga. Receiving her teacher training in Vinyasa Yoga in 2007 and adding Prenatal and Kids Yoga after becoming a mother. In her spare time, Michelle likes to meditate, hike, and read.

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