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January 2021 - Yoga and Gratitude

Dear Yoga Friends,

We're hearing a lot these days about the relief of having 2020 behind us. Conversely, in some circles we've been encouraged to look for positive takeaways or learnings from 2020. Such positives as "long walks in nature", "more time for meditation/yoga", "quality time with immediate family", "more time with my pets", "connecting via Zoom with people whom I'd lost touch with" are truly gifts. But these kinds of positives, as invaluable as they are to us, myself included, speak at least partially to the stark disparity in our society. What kinds of positives are readily available to front-line workers in health care or other essential areas, pushed to the brink of exhaustion, or to people who have experienced the immediate impact of illness on themselves or a close family member, or to people with very limited resources living in conditions that were challenging before the pandemic hit?

A universal gratitude practice may be elusive, but we can look to what yoga offers. One of the five niyamas, or personal observances, is santosa, contentment. Consider sutra II.42 (translation from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar):

From contentment and benevolence of consciousness come supreme happiness.

I think we would all like to attain supreme happiness, but contentment may not come easily. Most of us cannot just decide to be content one morning and undergo a permanent transformation. Finding things to be thankful for can provide a path. For you scholars of the yoga sutras out there (myself definitely excluded), I'll go out on a limb and say that gratitude might not be a major component of that body of work. Prove me wrong. :)

Fortunately, we are taught from an early age to say "thank you". There are many seemingly small things that may go without thanks if unnoticed, but bringing even a little attention to them will bring some gratitude and hence contentment. Examples abound in day-to-day life—I'm sure many will come to mind for you. For a simple breathing practice, sit quietly for a minute. This could be part of meditation, a break at your desk, or some other moment of your choosing. Let each inhalation be an invitation or welcoming of life's energy, prana, the gift of life. By sitting well as yoga teaches us, we make room for the inhalation like we would make room for a special guest in our house. Let each exhalation be an implicit "thank you".

Personally I am so thankful to have come upon Iyengar yoga, to have yoga in my life, and to have the opportunity to share it with you in community, physical or virtual. Would love to hear your thoughts on these topics or anything else!




* Livestream classes: noon-1:15pm Tuesdays (mixed level) & noon-1:30pm Thursdays (intermediate) at IYISF

* Upcoming workshop: "Yoga for Neck & Shoulders", 1-3pm Saturday, January 16

Chad Balch