Yoga to Say “Thank You”

The Thanksgiving holiday reminds me to be grateful for the opportunity to attend last weekend’s workshop at Kripalu. I am particularly grateful to my yoga students, who graciously gave up their weekend yoga classes so I could take the trip to Massachusetts.

A big take-away from the weekend workshop was insight into my own mental, spiritual and emotional needs. Not surprisingly, considering my latest career choice, I discovered that I am more confident and better at integrating information when I’m moving. It’s no wonder that in my corporate job I fell asleep in business meetings and seminars and never remembered a thing that was discussed.

This got me thinking about Thanksgiving dinner, when my minister brother, whom I love very much, starts the meal by saying grace. It’s nice to express gratitude for food and family, but when he speaks with his well-trained preacher voice I tend to zone out. (Nothing personal, bro. It’s just hard to sit still and listen without my mind drifting away.)

What if we pushed our chairs back from the table and did a moving prayer of gratitude? Moving prayers are nothing new. Dancing has been a form of worship for millennia. The Sufi Whirling Dervishes certainly pray that way. Yoga teacher Seane Corn teaches how to bring prayer into yoga practice in her “Body Prayer” classes.

My chair yoga class helped me work out a prayer of thanksgiving. It’s based on a chair adaptation of a half Sun Salutation.

A chair yoga prayer of thanksgiving.

A chair yoga prayer of thanksgiving.

Reach into the sun’s energy. Sitting near the front of the chair, inhale and reach both arms overhead.

And offer it to the earth. On the exhale, fold forward and lay your belly on your thighs, reaching your hands to the floor.

Open your heart to receive the universe’s grace. Bring your hands onto your knees, inhale and lift your heart, peeling your chest and abdomen off of your legs. Look ahead and press your heart forward through your arms as your spine extends. Lift your chin slightly.

Bow in humble gratitude for abundance shared. Holding your knees, exhale, drop your chin and round your back.

 

This works very nicely with a standing half Sun Salutation as well. You can speak the prayer or simply hold the words in your mind as you move. Flow through the sequence as many times as you need to feel it becoming part of you.

Another benefit? All that forward folding will massage your abdominal organs and stimulate digestion, so your body will be ready for that big plate of sweet potatoes, turkey (or tofu) and corn bread stuffing.

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Start your morning in Happy Dead Baby Bug

My son, Tristan, and I practice yoga every morning. Our current favorite pose is Happy Baby, which looks like the “pose” babies get into when they play with their toes. Some teachers call it Dead Bug pose. Tristan calls it Happy Dead Baby Bug. Whatever he calls it, it’s a great morning hip opener.

Image courtesy of Yogi in My School

Image courtesy of Yogi in My School

To get into Happy Baby (aka Happy Dead Baby Bug or, in Sanskrit, Ananda Balasana), lay on your back and bring your knees over your chest. Grab the insides of the soles of your feet. Keeping your thighs close to your chest, bring your feet over your knees with your feet flexed. Your knees should end up outside your arms. Gently draw your knees down into your armpits. If your tailbone starts lifting, press it back down onto the floor. It’s fun to rock from side to side. If you have enough space, rock all the way to one side then back to the other.

Start your morning playing happy dead baby bug. Your hips will love it, and it’s hard not to giggle like a happy baby. Or a bug. Whatever.

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