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Giving Thanks Through Yoga

blog yogahandsNAVIGATING YOGA > Thanksgiving: a time we celebrate with turkey and cranberry sauce, national viewing of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and football games, and by spending time with family. With a holiday that has so many traditions "stuffed" into just one Thursday, it can sometimes seem tedious to take time to be, well, thankful. This year, try keeping your gratitude in check through yoga.

Whether you are a newbie to the practice or a seasoned yogi, yoga can be a wonderful way to give thanks, simply through the asana practice alone. When I teach, I have my students set a dedication for their practice, usually dedicating their practice to someone or something in their life that is important to them. By setting that dedication, your practice is no longer just about the physical exercise, or doing it simply for the enjoyment. It transforms into something bigger than yourself.

As you flow through your next yoga class, keep in mind who or what you dedicated your practice to; doing so will also allow your mind the freedom to stay present, to keep from wandering, as well as to continue to send those positive vibes out there, thereby staying along the path of karma yoga.

Karma yoga, often defined as the Hindu path to service others, is really the yoga for action. When you think about dedicating your practice to someone or perhaps to a cause, think about awakening your yoga practice through activating your intention to serve others. Consider that although we talk about karma yoga as the act of selfless service, it cannot be practiced with the expectation of relief or to feel enlightened by any means. The intention must come from the desire to serve—the desire to practice kindness to others without expecting it return.

Yoga teaches us that when we can open up our awareness of ourselves, we can ultimately open up our awareness to others and other entities around us, therefore further developing our compassion toward all living beings. I believe that yoga gives us the quiet to practice gratitude, to give thanks for everything wonderful that is already present within our lives.

Several yoga studios in town are offering events on Thanksgiving Day to help us rejoice, give back and reflect on appreciation and gratitude. Here are two local events worth looking into:

Thanksgiving Day Donation-Only Class with Abbey at Yoga Center Santa Cruz
Every year, Yoga Center Santa Cruz’s Abbey Asher offers a donation-only class on Thanksgiving Day. All proceeds of this Iyengar style class will benefit the nonprofit Gemma, whose purpose is to support, provide for, and assist Santa Cruz County women who are assimilating back into life after incarceration. Learn more at cabine.org/gmma. Find the yoga studio online at yogacentersantacruz.com.
INFO: Thursday, Nov. 22, 9-10:30 a.m. Yoga Center Santa Cruz, 428 Front St., Santa Cruz. Donation requested.

Thanksgiving Day Flow with Janet Stone featuring the live music of Girish at Pleasure Point Yoga
Join Pleasure Point Yoga for this once in a great while opportunity to practice with San Francisco master teacher Janet Stone and groove to the lively, soulful tunes of Girish. While some yoga experience is recommended for this event, and it is currently sold out, don’t let that deter you from dropping by and seeing if they have a cozy magic carpet in the form of a yoga mat waiting to transform your world into instantaneous yogi bliss. It’s Thanksgiving, a time to consider what you are most thankful for, so why not give gratitude for the healthy mind and body you possess? Learn more at janetstoneyoga.com, girishmusic.com, and pleasurepointyoga.com. INFO: Thursday, Nov. 22, 9-11 a.m. Pleasure Point Yoga, 3707 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz. $45. Sold out, but a wait list is available.

With these events in mind, give the gift of looking within and beyond to share compassion with others, save the pie for family, get off your asana and go practice yoga this Thanksgiving.

Shandara Gill, or Shanie, is a yoga teacher in the greater Santa Cruz area. She teaches more than 10 classes a week at the Westside, downtown, and Cabrillo Toadal Fitness locations. For more information about Shanie and her classes, you can visit toadalfitness.com or email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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