On Gratitude

by Valerie on July 23, 2009 · 14 comments

Lately, I have been thinking about how much gratitude and yoga and change are inter-linked for me.I started practicing yoga almost 8 years ago, soon after 9/11 – I wish I could say I walked into a yoga class and loved it and it changed my life immediately and I felt all this gratitude and made all these positive changes right away.

Not so much.

As life often is, it’s more complicated. You see, at the time I was struggling to end a bad-for-me relationship. I had known for a long time it was a bad-for-me relationship, but something about how I reacted to 9/11 very differently than my then-boyfriend is actually what really drove it home for me.

In hindsight, it’s almost incomprehensible I did not pull out a notebook, make a list of all the things I wanted to change, and get to work – that’s how I handle a lot of big decisions and fears now – lists, lists and more lists. And the gratitude lists are part of that too. Writing them is not a new development, though posting them on here on the blog is, as is using them to handle different types of situations.

But yes, back then, the lists were not part of my approach yet. Instead I was walking around carrying this feeling of “I need to change my life” and not sure about what I wanted to do – it had nothing to do with professional change and everything to do with personal change.

Like so many people in September of 2001, I walked around in a daze. I also became incredibly addicted to cable news coverage. I had been glued to CNN for weeks, understandably at first, but also obsessively after a while.

And then, over the span of a few short weeks, the following things happened in quick succession:

* I stopped all contact with the bad boyfriend
* I swore off CNN and all other cable news
* I went to several yoga classes, trying a couple different ones, but finding Tranquilspace by far the friendliest and most welcoming to a newbie

But I still didn’t feel better. Yoga was interesting, but mainly uncomfortable considering how stiff and tense I felt. Inversions scared me even stiffer. Even child’s pose felt like work.

Then, I had the stomach flu the two days leading up to New Year’s Eve. I had dreaded New Year’s and feeling lonely and single and instead, by 9pm on December 31, 2001 I was just thankful I could take a shower and get dressed. And keep water down. And a little toast. You get the idea. I made an exception to the no-CNN rule to watch fireworks around the world.

And the click moment occurred two days later – somewhere between the stomach flu and New Year’s and feeling well enough to go to yoga soon after – I realized I had changed two really bad habits (bad-boyfriend and CNN), that I had gone to several yoga classes, that it was starting to feel less foreign to me, and that I was so darn grateful. First, I was grateful I was over the stomach flu, but I was also grateful because I did not really miss the two bad habits.

I took that new feeling of gratitude to another yoga class and somehow I started seeing the class differently. One of the things I really loved about Tranquilspace {this was back before Tranquilspace had a studio per se} in addition to the kindness of the teachers was how grateful people were to have a place to practice yoga. Now, yoga is ubiquitous, with studios opening and growing, but back then, there were so few yoga studios.

My yoga practice has been varied over the years – there’s been phases I practiced 4-6 days a weeks and phases where I barely unrolled my mat – and my gratitude practice has also waxed and waned over the years – but the two are inextricably tied together for me because of those few weeks at the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002. For me yoga and gratitude link so well because I associate both with a lot of positivity – the gratitude students 8 years ago had for just being able to go to a studio, and the gratitude I have felt over the years for how my practice has grown – even when it regresses from lack of unrolling of the mat, I always associate yoga with positivity. And a gratitude practice off the mat has also been incredibly positive for me – though that’s been even more of an off and on lesson for me.

What are your thoughts on yoga and/or gratitude?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachel July 24, 2009 at 12:44 am

Yoga is such a huge part of my life! I felt the same way at the beginning, but I felt like if I just stuck with it and really started to pay attention to the breathing, it would get better.

I started reading a book called Meditations from the Mat. And I also found a teacher that I adored. All of her messages really hit home. She has the most calming voice and a love of life you can just feel!

It is definitely something I am worried about with my big move coming up. Will I find a space and teacher that make me feel the same way she does?

{I also think it's strange that this person probably has no idea what an impact she has had on my life… don't you?}


2 Michelle July 24, 2009 at 6:22 am

I have to go with you on the yoga thing. Adding it to my life has really calmed me down…actually slowed me down so I can enjoy the smaller things in life…to breathe and take in what I am fortunate to have. I also have decided to live life to the fullest and to always try to be thankful for what I do have than what I don't. 9/11 for sure affected me from that day forward. I also swore off watching any news channel and anything depressing. In fact, I read more, craft more…it's so therapeutic for me. :)

Great post!


3 Karley July 24, 2009 at 1:09 pm

What a great post. It takes great courage to follow your gut and get rid of the things you instinctively know are bad for you.

I feel peace and calm and can focus on my own emotional needs and gratitude through my Reiki practice. It keeps me in touch with how I am feeling and reminds me to always trust my gut. Reiki is very calming and soothing to me.

I keep gratitude journals. Each day I write what I am grateful for–it may be something trivial and one sentence, or something more profound and take several pages of writing.

I think that so many people take life's gifts for granted–family, good health, friends, etc. by living a rushed and hurried lifestyle that we don't always pause and REALIZE how much we have to be grateful for.


4 Vienna July 24, 2009 at 5:52 pm

'Gratitude' is the title of this summer for me. Even though everything feels quite chaotic right now, I am learning to be grateful and I have faith that gratitude will show me the right path to follow in order to live the life I want. Unsurprisingly yoga has played an enourmous role in this process both as a catalyst and experience. Another amazing thing that's happened to me is having being invited to join SWIM, BY YOU. I feel I am really growing in this little writing group and I have found wonderful like-minded spirits. So TOP OF THE LIST ON MY GRATITUDE list IS YOU today. Thank you for popping onto my blog and introducing me to this fantastic world.X


5 The Curator July 24, 2009 at 9:06 pm

This is an unpopular opinion, but it's just my opinion and not meant to offend: yoga, for me, is nothing more than glorified stretching. I took a class and tried a video, and just couldn't get into it. As for gratitude, I am very grateful for super comfy yoga pants even I don't actually partake in the activity. đŸ˜‰


6 Vienna July 24, 2009 at 9:33 pm

The Curator: Interesting comment because the same I thought a few years ago. Then, at some point, in one of these 'glorified stretches' something magical happened. And that's it. Couldn't go back to where I was.


7 Globetrotting Cacti July 25, 2009 at 7:39 am

Practicing yoga has enabled me to develop other parts if my life & slow down and enjoy my day to day activities. Even if I am not attending classes I focus on my breathing during the day.. I agree, hitting a pose right is a great feeling. I am also a retired 24/7 cable news watcher… a habit that I only kicked around 18 months ago. As for gratitude, I look at my IVF twins every day & my fab Hubbie and am so grateful every morning (seriously every morning….), life is good right now.


8 Noodlegirl July 25, 2009 at 2:37 pm

I love yoga I do have my good moments and bad moments though but mostly good. I wish bf would stop watching CNN its does drive me nuts with all the info!


9 Jen of A2eatwrite July 25, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Yoga is something I would like to incorporate into my life, but haven't figured out a path yet. Gratitude, on the other hand, is a constant.

And I so agree with you, I think it is a key to life force and to positive change and living.


10 Kiki July 26, 2009 at 5:27 pm

For the last two weeks I've been practicing yoga daily, even if it's just ten minutes on the mat. Moving from practicing 3-4 times weekly to a daily practice has made such a difference physically, emotionally, and intellectually.

Your gratitude lists lately have been really terrific, especially within the theme of being a mindful city dweller. Do you read/follow/listen to Darren Main's "Resources for an Urban Mystic" at all? Might be something you would enjoy!


11 dharmagirl July 26, 2009 at 9:34 pm

what a lovely post. sometimes we can't see the shifts we actually are making because we're looking for something seismic, when really change happens in milimeters…

i started my daily bliss feature on my blog at the beginning of this year as a way to cultivate a more positive attitude in the face of a word that can grind me down and make me feel jaded and bitter. i wanted to actually see something blissful each and every day, as hard as it might be.

and yoga definitely helps. i can tell when i've fallen away from the practice and my body, mind, soul are screaming, "get on your mat!"


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