I had the privilege of teaching a few yoga classes to youth right before Thanksgiving. The first class, for kids (ages 5-12), happened two days before Thanksgiving, and the other class, for teenage girls, on the following day. Those two classes always run completely different, at least in terms of level and pose choices, but this time I brought the same theme to both: being thankful. I read the same story while the kids were in savasana (relaxation) and gave different examples for my interpretation of the story, according to the audience’s level.
In the kids’ class, they finished writing or drawing what they were thankful for. As I explained I was thankful for the sun for instance, one of the kids said she was actually thankful for the rain. Of course, I respected that, as both are needed to create and sustain life. I thought to myself, “How brave of her to say the opposite of what I suggested!” Some other kids mentioned their dog or the turkey they would have for Thanksgiving dinner.
At the end of the teenager’s class, I asked them to write it down anonymously, so they could be honest and not even think about being judged for what they wrote. I took a picture of some of the answers.
Some of them mentioned friends’ names, and some others had a whole list of things to be thankful for! One girl mentioned she was thankful for yoga and God. And then there was this one, which read “I am thankful that I had a few years with my uncle before he passed away.” It brought tears to my eyes. In my opinion, it is beautiful that she is able to remember this from a positive point of view.
We are not able to tell what is going on in other people’s lives, nor even in their heads. This girl in particular was enthusiastic through the whole class and was giving her 100% in all poses. She was happy to hear when relaxation time had come, and was completely still while I read the story. After that, it was time to write (actually it was optional, but they all wrote) down their ideas. Who knows how long that thought had been in her mind? It could also have popped in her head during our talk about being thankful for not just things, but also situations in our lives.
The act of writing things one feels grateful for is healing. I actually found some research on this at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2011/November/in-praise-of-gratitude
Practicing gratitude is a wonderful thing anyone can do. Once you do it, you will then realize you have much to give thanks for. Start counting your blessings and pretty soon you will lose count of them! Appreciate all you have and you will keep getting more to be grateful for. I invite you to try it, be it Thanksgiving day or not.
By the way, I would like to add a thank-you-note here to all my students and teachers (my family, for example, acts as both!), who have helped me expand this year, and experience growth in so many areas in my life. I am so grateful to have you in my life!