Gratitude is taking the time to honor who and what we hold dear and to count our blessings. As a practice, it is life-changing. Appreciation has its own nuance. There is almost nothing as life-shifting as stopping in your tracks to appreciate. It can take a dark mood and bring in the light in a heartbeat. To recognize that we live in this remarkable atmosphere is an awe-inspiring gift. Sometimes these feelings come effortlessly, but there are moments when we must remember and practice being receptive. When we do endeavor consciously to live in a space of appreciation and gratitude, it can soften bad news, hard moments, and scary times and open our hearts and minds to the bounty of love and exquisiteness that surrounds us.
Before practicing the following sequence, we suggest that you do 5–10 rounds of Sun Salutations.
Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana )
From Tadasana, (Mountain Pose) come into Warrior II (below), leading with your left leg. Hold for 3 breaths.
Turn your palms up, and notice your heart lift and open. Inhale and lengthen upward through the crown of your head, making your spine long. Then reach back with your right hand and place the palm on your right thigh. Stretch your left arm up to the sky and then arch back, with your left bicep a few inches from your left ear. You can stay facing to the side, or, if your back allows, you can twist your face and chest upward (below). Avoid putting pressure on the right leg, but rather keep a light touch with the palm and let the legs do the work. Like a tree, grow roots through your feet and let your heart open like a flower. Hold for 3–5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Humble Warrior (Baddha Virabhadrasana )
From Tadasana (Mountain Pose) come into Warrior I, leading with your left leg. Hold for 3 breaths.
Then, maintaining the lower half of the pose, interlace your fingers behind your back, palms facing in, and roll your shoulders in toward each other. Move your right foot a couple of inches to the right. Stay grounded through the left heel as you lift your face and chest to the sky, inhale, and then bow down inside the left leg. Your head is hovering above the floor and your arms are reaching away from your back toward the sky. Hug the thighs toward each other and engage your abdominal muscles.
Breathe and relax into this humble, dynamic asana for 3–5 breaths, then switch sides.
Variation: If you like, you can go from Reverse Warrior to Humble Warrior before changing sides.
Modification: Instead of interlacing the fingers behind you, place your forearms on a chair or blocks and bring the hands together in prayer position.
Cross-legged Pose (Sukhasana ) or Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana ) with Atmanjali Mudra
Sit either cross-legged in Sukhasana or on your shins with your sitting bones on the soles of your feet (Thunderbolt Pose), and bring your hands together in front of your heart center, but not touching the body as in Anjali Mudra. The fingers and base of the palms touch each other but keep an open space in the center of the palms. Lean a few inches forward with the head bowed. This position allows the heart energy to pour right into the hands, and softens the ego to submerge into a state of deep, peaceful gratitude. Stay as long as you like with easy breaths.
This extract is from The Yoga Healer by Christine Burke.