Gratitude is a catalyst for happiness. When we are grateful for what we have we stop focusing on the things we lack. Why gratitude? Gratitude expert, Robert Emmons shares that when people help one another, they feel happier. The actions they take release the feel good chemical Oxytocin. The same chemical that positive touch activates. So while gratitude itself doesn’t release the happy chemical, the actions we take when we are full of gratitude do.
From my personal experiences, I know that holding gratitude in my heart and mind always leads me to feel happier. For me, it’s not just the actions I take but the reminder that I have so much to be thankful and appreciative for. That alone can get my thinking from dark and depressed to being full of joy.
Gratitude is a vital step in my happiness.
Since I’d done the Compassion Yoga with Adriene, I wanted to try Grounding Into Gratitude – Root Chakra Yoga with her as well. Gratitude—in my experience—is more practical as opposed to just a ‘feeling’, so incorporating it into my yoga practice sounded like an excellent method for increasing my gratitude and therefore, happiness.
Right from the start, Adriene asked that we trust ourselves, her, and the Gratitude Yoga practice. She opens with a request that we are the ‘observer’. It made perfect sense to me since, in order to feel full of gratitude, we have to be able to observe the good happening all around us. It takes us from a place of internal focus and allows us to look outward.
The video is also shorter, only about 30 minutes. So it’s a good video for those that don’t have a full hour for daily practice.
Next, she has the practitioners focus their energy in their root chakra which is the space right behind the pubic bone. Our root chakra is our base, foundation, our connection to the earth and the physical. When it is out of balance, we can experience higher levels of negativity, trouble eating, greater insecurity, greediness, and more. With all the negative aspects of the root being out of balance, having a practice that focuses on balance seemed the right choice.
While I mentioned the heart chakra in Part One, I didn’t get much into it. But in this case, understanding chakras is helpful as they are often used in Yoga to focus on a particular area of the body, an energy flow. The chakras are associated with seven energy points in the body, colours, organs, and they have corresponding Yoga poses to help balance them.
Because yoga and balancing the mind, body, and spirit are very connected to the thoughts in our heads, Yoga Journal uses words like ‘imagine’. Which took the idea of the chakras from a place of ‘this is real, and therefore we must prove it’ to a place of ‘this is real in my mind and therefore, helpful for visualisations during my practice’.
I mention this because when I go to therapy, we often discuss the differences between things that are proven scientifically and things that we simply believe. Belief is powerful; there’s no doubt about it. But science and belief aren’t the same. So if you are new to the idea of chakras and desire a science-based explanation, you might do better with the idea of chakras as visualisations as opposed to actual energy points in the body.
For our purposes here, the root is our base and our balance.
The first pose of Gratitude Yoga in which I felt my energy and grounding (or connection to earth with) was the in the Malasana pose. It is hard to stay in the pose at first as I felt unbalanced. But I kept trying.
Slowly, my hips opened. I felt my energy shoot from my root down through the floor and into the earth. Then fresh energy back up into me. I visualised this energy, and the more I did so, the sturdier I felt. Finally, I was able to stay in the Gratitude Yoga pose and fully embrace that feeling of balance. Which then led to me feeling so much giddy happiness. Because when I feel balanced, I feel like I can trust myself and that is a vital step in maintaining my joy.
During a variation of Malasana, Adriene has the practitioner work with their feet. She mentions that feet are an essential step in finding grounding. Since my feet often ache, I took what she said to heart and massaged my feet while rocking back and forth in a sort of frog-like squat. It’s close to Malasana, but not quite the same.
I found this helped me relax into the more challenging poses later on. If I was struggling with balance, I rubbed the bottoms of my feet for thirty seconds, and I was instantly able to balance more efficiently.
Another Gratitude Yoga pose I found helpful was called Humble Warrior. I’d done Warrior pose many times, even Peaceful Warrior, but not Humble. I was amazed how much this pose released in my body. All the tension I carry in my shoulders and neck began to loosen, and the longer I maintained the posture, the more I felt the release.
Gratitude, I am, and Happiness
I can’t deny that when I finished the video (and this happened multiple times) that I felt lighter, more grounded and connected to earth, and at peace with myself. One of the mantras Adriene used—because as she stated in the video, it relates to the root chakra—was ‘I am’.
During the entire session, I focused on gratitude for all the wonderful people in my life, for the healing in myself that I’ve allowed happening and worked so hard for, and also the thought “I Am”. I kept repeating ‘I am’ in my head. Sometimes I’d say it aloud. Each time, I felt more accepting of myself. Less judgement and self-shaming behaviour for all the things I am not.
I’ve known about ‘I am’ for years now. In fact, my first introduction to it was when I was young and being raised in a religious household. I was told that this was God’s response when asked what he was. Later I was shown meditations and Native American and Buddhist practices that incorporated it. But I didn’t understand that really all ‘I am’ means is acceptance and embracing of the self. It’s not to embrace my bad habits, but to embrace that I have those bad habits and to choose to love myself anyway. It’s in accepting myself fully that I find the ability to break my bad habits.
Not only is the mantra ‘I am’ helpful for self-acceptance, but it’s also useful for gratitude toward others as well as affirmations. I am thankful… I am grateful… I am happy…
Self-acceptance is an important step on our path to happiness. Self-help books and large goal setting can lead to unhappiness. There’s a ‘should be’ and ‘should do’ mentality and it directly leads to ‘I am not enough’. The right place to start with developing one self though is self-acceptance “I am enough“. While self-acceptance—I am—can result in seeing our worth as we are. As I mentioned above, this isn’t reason to perpetuate bad habits. What it is, is an opportunity for embracing ourselves and loving who we are.
I feel gratitude, the ‘I am’ mantra, and happiness are connected. I didn’t possess any of these until I jumped onto the wheel (as I see it in my mind’s eye). Once I had gratitude, I felt happier. Once I felt happier, I was able to accept the parts of myself that I was judging. Then when I let go of self-judgement, I felt a deeper level of gratitude. If I stay on this wheel, these things feed one another, and I end up feeling each stronger.
Modelphotos: colourbox.com, Yoga with Adriene