Last week, I was riding the commuter train from my home to NYC. I was reading emails and my mind began to wander to what my inspiration for the week was going to be. It hadn’t come to me yet and I was teaching the next three days. Just as I began to go over my week in my mind, looking for a glimmer of inspiration, I lifted my head from looking at my phone to instead gaze out the window.
I am fortunate to live right near the Hudson River and the train runs along it so I usually sit on the River side of the train to enjoy the view. But this day, for no clear reason, as the train was pretty empty; I sat on the other side of the train car. At the exact moment I looked up and out the window, in my direct view was a billboard that just said 1 word, GRATITUDE. Sometimes, I have to look deeply for my message but not this week. It was right there in front of me.
On my way home, I sat on that same side of the train so I could snap a picture of this inspirational billboard. I kept wondering why it was there. There was no logo, it didn’t appear to be selling a thing…just the word GRATITUDE. So, I did what any Yogi would do, I googled “GRATITUDE billboard Bronx NY” and I got my answer. This billboard was the work of a New York Artist named Peter Tunney. He had noticed many unused billboards around NY and decided that he wanted to create inspirational messages to help balance out all of the negative messages we are receiving every day through various media channels. So, he approached owners of unsold billboards and asked if he could display his messages. On that train ride, that day, that message was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you Peter Tunney
So, on our mats we practiced the simple inspirational message of gratitude last week. Very basic, very focused and very positive. As we began our practice in Savasana as we often do, I asked my students to connect with the Gratitude of just being on their mats that day and as we wrapped the arms and legs into Eagle pose on our backs to begin the abdominal warm up I asked them to be grateful that their elbows bend, regardless of how much.
From there we moved into our Sun Salutes. Suynamaskara A and B are always times for me to connect to Gratitude; Gratitude for what is already available but also Gratitude for what will become available as the body warms and loosens. We used Eagle arms quite a bit in our practice, first reclined then later in Warrior and then the full Eagle Pose in our balancing series. Whenever I am teaching a Gratitude message, I like to come back to a pose several times throughout the practice because it allows us to cultivate Gratitude for a little more space or a little more focus or a little more breath/movement connection…there is so much to be grateful for.
As we again went deeper using bound Parsvokonasana with a transition to bound lizard, I asked my students to notice the difference from one side to the next. See, we can always find fault with one side…this is my tight side etc., but I asked them instead to find Gratitude for the more open side. It’s a simple change in perspective..focusing on what is available, instead of what is not.
The key to all of this off the mat is finding Gratitude not just in the big things but in the small gifts as well; like sitting on the other side of the train that day so as to see Peter Tunney’s beautiful message, or the little things our bodies offer us each day.
In the last two weeks, I have learned of two different women who had fallen in ways that could happen to any of us. In each of these cases, tragically, they had broken their necks and are paralyzed. One moment all was normal and the next everything changed…forever. As I tied this back to our simple message of Gratitude to my students, I asked them to be grateful for whatever their bodies could do. Be grateful for the bind on one side even if it wasn’t available on the other, be grateful to be able to stand tall in Tadasana (mountain pose) and to lengthen in Downward Dog. And to also be grateful for the everyday inspiration that is sometimes subtle and sometimes calling to you on a Billboard.
Moving into Savasana, slowly and mindfully I asked them to begin to move that Gratitude off the mat. Be grateful for the little things and the big things, the everyday things and the AHA moments. just BE GRATEFUL. Namaste.