Winter is officially upon us and in many parts of the world, signifies a slowdown in nature. In the spring and summer months, nature is vibrant with color. Trees have green leaves and colorful blossoms, flowers open to the sunlight, and plants grow from a seed to a vegetable in a matter of months. Earth is alive and active. As winter approaches, the leaves turn brown and fall from the trees. The flowers close up and shrivel back into the soil, and we harvest our colorful vegetables, leaving behind a pile of soil to use again next year.
Winter is nature’s way of taking a break, or surrendering to the natural flow of the Universe, of restoration and preparation for the spring to come. Although winter can sometimes feel too long and as if we’ve put some of our life on hold, we can use this transitional time in nature to our advantage. During these quiet, cold months, we can draw inward to reflect on our past year and let go of things that no longer serve us. We can let go of unhealthy habits, attitudes, relationships, and anything that hinders our spiritual progress or feels like it weighs us down.
In order to take full advantage of this restorative time, we must learn how to surrender to the flow of life, and to have gratitude in the face of adversity. In this post, we’ll learn about the concepts of surrender and gratitude, and how we can use yoga as a tool to manifest them in our lives. We’ll look at some ways yoga can bring about the opportunity to realize true gratitude and help us let go of things that are out of our control.
If you are new to yoga, check out our post for beginners here! It addresses some of the questions you might have about attending your first class. At Inspiring Actions, we have classes for every level of experience, from none at all to expert. Check out our full list of classes here.
You might feel drawn to a relaxing, balancing restorative class, or a more physical vinyasa class. Maybe you’ve been curious about yin yoga, or want to try a meditation class. Whatever you feel drawn to, we have something at Inspiring Actions to help you manifest gratitude and surrender in your life and see how much happier you’ll be as a result!
The concept of surrender is an easy one to define, much more difficult in practice. Surrender, in terms of our lives, is about acknowledging, accepting, and embracing challenges or seemingly negative situations. It’ about radical acceptance that suffering is a part of life, and none of us are exempt from it. If it sounds like I’m saying that life is just going to suck sometimes and we just have to learn to deal with it, it’s because it’s true.
We will all have problems both in and out of our control. With some of them, we can see the purpose. With others, not so much. But the beauty about this truth is that we can come to an understanding that suffering is universal and develop compassion from that shared human experience. When we surrender to life, we are taking the good with the bad, understanding that they are both necessary components of a balanced life. With happy times we celebrate, with challenging times we learn. We surrender to the process of life and to our individual journey.
Our resistance to suffering causes us to feel the pain of our predicament much longer, as we replay the scenarios in our heads a million times and make up stories each time to try and appease our ego. We might even make life choices based on this resistance and find ourselves feeling off balance and lost.
Surrendering helps take some of the pressure off us. When we accept that certain things are completely out of our control, we can stop worrying about how we can fix or change a situation. We can feel less responsible for the outcome, and more responsible for how we navigate the experience.
It’s easy to be grateful when good things happen to us. We got a promotion we’d been wanting, had a beautiful baby, started a successful business. It’s much harder to be grateful when you lose that job, become overwhelmed by that baby, or when your business fails. Being grateful for suffering is definitely not second nature to us.
As humans, we instinctually attempt to avoid pain, even if we’re not aware we’re doing it. We see situations as good or bad, desirable or not desirable. When something we perceive as negative comes up, we try to avoid it, fix it, make it go away, anything other than face the unpleasantness.
But true gratitude is about embracing life’s difficulties as opportunities for growth, and the absorption of wisdom. Life is a teacher, gentle at times but often a bit more in-your-face. When we have a lesson to learn, things in our life will start to guide us toward the realization of that lesson.
All too often we’re too busy to listen, or not in touch with our inner selves enough to perceive it. Fortunately, (or….unfortunately?), if we don’t learn the first time, the Universe will continue to present us with that situation until we do. That’s why big things have to happen sometime; the Universe is trying to get our attention.
It’s hard to have gratitude in the midst of a challenging experience. But true gratitude is what we experience when we’re able to look back at a situation that was horrible at the time and see the purpose in it. It’s when we can look back at ourselves during that time and see how strong we were, and how the Universe supported us through the experience.
We realize that we lost our job because it was making us absent in our family, or we were overwhelmed by a new baby because we were experiencing anxiety that needed to be healed. True gratitude appreciates the purpose in both bliss and suffering, and understands that although one might be easier to accept than the other, they are both essential for our spiritual growth and development.
Yoga and Gratitude/Surrender
The concepts of surrender and gratitude are complex, so what can we actually do to experience them? Meditation is a universal healing tool; it will quiet your mind and help you see your life from a big picture perspective. Journaling can help you release the stuff that takes up your head space, leaving more room for clarity and insight. Getting out into nature can help, as can studying our thought patterns.
Yoga helps restore the connection between our bodies and minds and can help bring us to a place where gratitude and surrender are possible. A regular yoga practice can help us become more mindful, self-aware, and compassionate. It can increase our patience and acceptance of others, and increase our confidence. It can also help us develop a connection with our Source. Yoga calls it life energy or prana, and connecting with it can help us feel more grounded and guided.
The benefits of yoga create space in our lives to manifest true gratitude and surrender. By clearing away the clutter of our minds and becoming more mindful of what our bodies are telling us to do, we can start to appreciate the ups and downs of life and be grateful for the experiences we have. Below is a list of yoga poses that represent surrender and gratitude; try them at home or at our Inspiring Actions studios in Hudson and River Falls, Wisconsin. We also offer classes online.
Yoga Poses for Surrender and Gratitude
- Standing forward fold (Hastapadasana)
- Camel pose (Ustrasana)
- Corpse pose (Savasana)
- Extended side angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
- Low lunge (Anjaneyasana)
- Upward dog (Urdhva Mukha Savasana)
- Child’s pose (Balasana)
- Puppy pose (Anahatasana)
Click here for a link to a gratitude yoga session by Yoga with Adriene!