Gratitude, Backbends and Cardio for Happier Holidays

Happiness depends primarily on our capacity for gratitude. The more we remember our blessings, the more we lift the weight that weakens our Spirit. Sure, life is full of conflict, difficulty and sorrow. It's also abundant with happiness, love and beauty. Our reality becomes what we focus on. If we focus only on our problems, then life starts to suck. If we can begin to notice the little gifts the universe is bestowing on us everyday: the sun in the sky, the support of family and friends, the safety of the roof over our head, the beauty of nature, etc… then we can experience more fullness and less emptiness.

To be honest, a lot of my personal work in life is to find lightness, joy and wholeness. I'm not your double-rainbows & unicorns, blissed-out sort of yoga teacher. Just like many of my students, I'm serious, sensitive and I've had a difficult past. I can become melancholy during winter when the nights are long, and especially the holidays when the focus is on relationships and family.

Because we all get the blues sometimes, I want to share what works for me with you:

Sit quietly and reflect on your many blessings. Start by noticing your breath and be thankful. It's been reliable you're entire life, working without being asked. Be thankful you are alive. Life is a precious gift. Everything that happens in your life is part of that gift, rather easy or challenging. As you remember the happy times say thank you. As you remember your struggles say thank you for making me who I am.

When you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, remember that gratitude transforms what's on your plate (no matter how much) into abundance. It's when we focus on what we don't have, instead of what's real and right in front of us, that we feel so hungry.

Backbends are prescribed for depression. They open the upper back, chest, shoulders and thighs and increase flexibility and fluidity in the spine. They stimulate feel-good chemicals in the body, such as seratonin, and release pent up emotions.

Come to my class, we do a lot of backbends!

Yep, cardio. Unless you are doing a lot of advanced vinyasa-style yoga, you're not getting your heart rate up with meditation and asana. Leading a sedentary life is the same as going to the medicine cabinet everyday and taking a handful of downers. Most of us sit at a computer all day and solve problems. We feel stressed and anxious. Sure, running, biking, swimming, etc.. put the body under an amount of physical stress. There's no need to overdo it. A slow jog or crawl across the pool interrupts mental and emotional patterns of stress and provides a physical outlet. We can tap in to the strength required to endure whatever is going on in our lives. It couldn't be simpler. Put on your shoes, crank up Metallica, and go run it out. 

Gratitude, backbends and cardio – simple, skillful, powerful tools for a happier holiday.

"Life is a gift. You don't earn it, you don't deserve it and you can't pay it back. What you can do is offer gratitude" Dr.  Douglas Brooks