Thanksgiving is not just for Thanksgiving day. And yoga practice offers the perfect opportunity to remember to say thank you. It's so simple.
Every time you move into a pose, whisper, "Thank you." That's it. A loved one may come to mind, or a favorite pet, or a long-lost friend, or a wonderful event, or even a painful memory that has something to teach you. Thank you, that's all you need to say.
Or, try a few rounds of Thanksgiving Sun Salutes, which our yoga class first practiced during Thanksgiving week and has continued in the weeks that have followed. Standing in tadasana, mountain pose, choose one person in your life, hold them in your heart, and secretly whisper to them, "Thank you." Each time you move to a new posture in the linked flow, hold that person close and whisper another thanksgiving. Carry that person and your gratitude for them through one complete round of surya namaskar, as you rise up and fall down, as you step forward and bow low, as you return back to an upright stance.
Pause again in tadasana, and let another person climb on board your thanksgiving boat. Hold that person with you as you shift through another round of sun salutes, thanking this soul each step along the way. During another round, thank yet another soul, and just keep going until your ship is packed with blessings and beauty and love and unshakable gratitude.
When you're ready to shake things up, thank an experience. Thank a place. Thank a pet. Thank a long-lost friend. Thank a quality you like about yourself. Thank even your difficulties. Watch what emotions arise as you do this - some thank yous are easier than others, surely.
When you're ready to end, let your last sun salute be one massive and existential expression of gratitude. A thank you in capital letters, a general thank you to the world for everyone and everything. For this life, the sun, the rain, the tears, the laughter, the sharp moments... the all of it. For the gift of being around for this beautiful show of life, for the whole big shebang.
For advanced practice, consider offering a note of gratitude not just during your yoga practice, but to everyone and every experience you have throughout your day. Challenge yourself to mean it, to find some prayer of thanksgiving within each moment. Thank you for this five minute gift of silence, thank you for this hot cup of tea, thank you for a morning without tears, thank you for the sunshine and blue sky, thank you for showing me the limits of my patience, thank you for driving so slowly (even though I'm late!) that you may just have saved me from an accident made in haste. Thank you for showing me my failures, for pointing me toward growth. And thank you for these few last moments of silence, all snuggled safely in bed, as the moonlight pours through the frosty windows.
Remember Meister Eckhart's words: "If the only prayer you ever say in your life is thank you, that will be enough." Make "thank you" your mantra, and let thanksgiving be your offering to the world.