Listen to the news at the moment and it's very easy to feel overwhelmed by what sometimes seems to be the insurmountable problem of the current pandemic. So it was refreshing to start my early morning yoga practice by remembering three things I feel grateful for today. It reminded me of the beauty in my life, even as I am aware of the challenges that we all face at present. The yoga practice I was using is from the Yoga Through the Year book, and it's designed to be used around the time of first harvest. The practice focuses on cultivating contentment, gratitude, and happiness.
The inspiration for this practice came from Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 2.42, which states, “Perfect happiness is attained through contentment.” I found it uplifting to affirm "perfect happiness" on the inhale, and "contentment" on the exhale. The affirmation is coordinated with the breathing and simple dynamic (repeated) yoga movements. At a time when the world is so troubled it was lovely to get back in touch with my joy again. Try it now. Close your eyes, and then as you inhale silently affirm "perfect happiness", and as you exhale affirm "contentment". Relax into your bliss!
When we cultivate gratitude as a spiritual practice, contentment (samtosa) naturally follows, and from contentment happiness blooms. Whereas happiness can be elusive, the path of gratitude and contentment is always available to us. The season of first harvest is the perfect time to establish a gratitude practice. It's well documented that cultivating an attitude of gratitude has many health benefits, and research shows that gratitude improves our relationships: people who practice gratitude are more committed and responsive to their partners and are better listeners. Practising gratitude before you go off to sleep helps you get a better night’s sleep.
The contentment we find in our yoga practice energises us to take the actions that will help us find happiness in our lives. Yoga postures, breathing, and relaxation induce states of calm and serenity; this in turn prepares the ground for meditation. With mind and body calm and at ease, during meditation we slip into a state of deep contentment. In this contented state we are neither pushed nor pulled by whatever arises; we neither grasp for happiness nor push away unhappiness; we allow things to be as they are. This meditative, contented state is truly a healthy, wholesome, healing place to be.
First Harvest Yoga Practice
First Harvest Yoga Practice Overview
1. Cultivating Gratitude Exercise, standing. Name three things you are grateful for today.
2. Albatross Sequence 1. Repeat × 4–6.
3. Warrior variation into Intense Side Stretch Pose variation. Inhale: Perfect happiness. Exhale: Contentment. Repeat × 3 and then repeat on other side.
4. Bow to the Earth. Say, I thank the earth for supporting me. Repeat × 3.
5. Lunge Pose with arm movements. Repeat × 4 and then stay in open chest position for a few breaths. Repeat on other side.
6. Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Stay for a few breaths.
7. Half-Locust Pose. Repeat × 4 on each side, alternating sides.
8. Locust Pose. Repeat × 4 and on final time stay for a few breaths.
9. Cat Pose into Child’s Pose. Inhale: Perfect happiness. Exhale: Contentment. Repeat × 6.
10a. Supine Twist. Repeat × 6, alternating sides.
10b. Stay here for a few breaths. Repeat on other side.
11. Knees-to-Chest Pose into Leg Raises. Repeat × 6.
12. Cultivating Gratitude Exercise, standing. Name three things you are grateful for today.
Full instructions for the First Harvest Yoga Practice can be found in the Summer to Autumn chapter of the Yoga Through the Year book.
See Also: The Bow to the Earth Sequence, The Summer to Autumn Page, The Lammas Page
Jilly Shipway, sharing seasonal yoga ideas and inspiration with you through the year...
Coronavirus: Finding Peace in Troubled Times
The next few weeks look set to be a challenging time as the world tries to find a way through and out of this coronavirus crisis.
Many of you will be self-isolating at home, so over the next few weeks I will regularly post simple, accessible yoga and mindfulness techniques to help you find your calm place in the midst of the storm. I will also post short, simple yoga practices for you to do at home.
Please consult the expert advice in your own country on keeping yourself safe and well during the pandemic.
Please feel free to share ideas and resources that you find in my blog, but please do acknowledge me and my website as their source. Thanks!
Disclaimer: if you have any concerns about your health or suitability to do yoga, please consult a medical professional before attempting any of the yoga routines in this blog.