backbend

I was terrified of gymnastics week in gym class. Amazingly, now my favorite pose is…the backbend. Apparently, for good reason, too. Do you know that backbends massage and exercise the heart in much the same way that running does? In backbend, the upper quads are engaged to push the pelvis forward while muscles in the feet and hamstrings strengthen the hips, legs and lower back. By moving the spine both forward and backward, the heart is stretched in many directions…just like in gratitude.

Do you spend more time thinking about what you do have or what you don’t have? Is that proverbial glass half-full or half-empty? If it is half-empty, why don’t you fill it? Fill it conceptionally (if not, actually…) because, you see, when we recognize it’s a choice, we become accountable. We do things that fill us…and, more importantly, we stop doing the things that leave us empty. There is absolute perfection in our imperfection and light in our darkness. Because we have eyes which see through the darkness and guide us back to the light.

Where the gratitude hits the road, we find true comfort. Gratitude is the connection to abundance, a practice in acknowledging all we have. It is the avenue through which we receive more. Ironically, when we turn down our consumer-driven “needs”, “wants”, and “wish lists”, we open ourselves to more…more energy, more gifts, and a deeper connection through our heart center. We become an open channel rather than a blocked artery. It is precisely when we find ourselves fixated on lack that we must turn it around. Relief and comfort are right around the corner when we open ourselves to gratitude.

And, with practice, we get good at gratitude…really good. So, let’s practice:

  1. Find it as early in the day as possible. Ideally, before you start scrolling through your inbox or your Facebook feed. I like to over breakfast…
  2. Write (or type) it down. Keep it in a special notebook or day planner, create a list in your iPad, jot it down on the napkin at Starbucks…just find some space and declare your gratitude.
  3. Minimum 10 I am grateful for…’s. Every day, don’t stop until you hit 10. And feel free to keep going if you’re on an inspirational roll. Try to be unique each day. This is not a superstitious act so you don’t have to include everything or all the big stuff. Go on a tangent with whatever is happening in your life…in the world…or just on your breakfast plate. Cold outside? Love a fire in the fireplace or warm fuzzy socks? Thanksgiving this week? Grateful for a day off? Grateful for pants with an elastic waistband…yes, me, too!
  4. Exhale it. In those moments that test your willPower, find gratitude in a great exhale.
  5. Eat with it. Think of all the people behind the meal you are currently eating…this is one of my favorite practices.
  6. Travel with it. Air travel, in particular at this time of year, tends to expose us to delays, colds, and full-out grumpiness…turn it around with legitimate appreciation for everyone involved getting you from x to y.
  7. Pay with it. The water bill. The electric bill. Every single bill. Especially the ones you don’t anticipate. Speeding ticket? ER visit? Yes, bless those, too. Even the exorbitant “this doc saw me for 5 minutes and charged me what?” bills.
  8. Meditate with it. When I’m having a hard time settling into my meditation, I go to gratitude. It grounds me and allows me to relax the competing thoughts and to-do list.
  9. Workout with it. Best practice. My gratitude journal started in competition prep. It was an essential then because my body was being depleted and asked to do things it normally doesn’t have to do (like fasted cardio…). But, even when food is plentiful and an alternative energy source isn’t needed, gratitude helps us get more from the workout as we shift our mentality from “have to” to “get to” workout.
  10. Get lost in it. Backbend. There are so many ways gratitude can permeate your life. Get creative and yes, get lost in it!

When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them.” ~Chinese Proverb

Sarah Ingmanson

Sarah Ingmanson

Sarah is a studio owner, fitness instructor and competitor. She is a former investment banker and equity research analyst with her MBA from the Wharton School and her MA in International Affairs from the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania. Sarah is fluent in Japanese and consults with Japanese companies on corporate governance, finance, and investor relations. Sarah's interest in Japan stemmed from her first tour with Disney On Ice as a professional figure skater. For more info on Sarah and her studio, visit www.starslocker.com.