Yoga can teach you many things and one of them is the amazing skill of being able to re-direct your mind. Think of when you come to class and sit, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Each time we do that we practice the skill of interrupting what can feel like the endless chatter of the mind and open ourselves to the calm spaciousness of what is most essential, breathing in and out.

Now think of a time when you have been worried about something, even obsessing over situations, real or imagined. If you are like me, I can just start to think of something and pretty soon my mind is going down the path of ‘what if’, or ‘she probably thinks that’ or ‘why did I do that?’ and sometimes culminates in the dangerous territory of negative self talk.  Considering and reflecting upon our obstacles and challenges in life is often necessary for growth and change. The trick is to not believe everything you think and to question the stories you tell yourself over and over.  When the thoughts become less productive and you feel stuck,  it may be best to give it a break and use your yoga superpowers to re-direct your mind.

In the Yoga Sutras it says,

II.33 Upon being harassed by negative thoughts, one should cultivate counteracting thoughts.

I think a practice of gratitude changes the somewhat natural negative mindset we sometimes experience.

In neuroscientist Alex Korb’s book “The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time”  he actually provides a scientific explanation of why this practice works. Apparently, cultivating gratitude actually has a beneficial chemical effect on the brain, boosting dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers) and serotonin (a neurotransmitter that affects our mood) levels.”

“One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.” —Dr. Korb

Some people like to keep a gratitude journal, others like to just reflect once a day upon what they are grateful for. Try to look for new things each day to keep it alive and authentic.

Here is my list today.

  1. Friends – A good friend just invited me to dinner, with good food and great company!
  2. Music – I can lift my mood instantly by listening to current favorite CD my daughter made me.
  3. Beauty – nature is completing its cycle of birth and death, the leaves changing and falling reminds me even aging and death have their own spectacular beauty.

I wish you a happy thanksgiving everyone!

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