It’s going to be a very different Thanksgiving for many of us this year. I’m going to miss seeing my dad before heading down to Roanoke for a raucous afternoon with my husband’s extended family, cheering on the family football game, and meeting the new baby. I will miss my traditional post-Thanksgiving weekend in Blacksburg with friends and a Hokie game. My mom will spend the day alone with her dog. The temptation is strong to bemoan everything we have lost this year…to lament the traditions that mark the season, to miss reconnecting with the people we don’t see often enough. It is natural and normal to feel disappointed and a little cheated. 

I challenge us all to dig a little deeper this year…to recognize that all is not lost, and to shift our attention to the things we are grateful for. Let us be thankful for the simple things, big and small. Let us change our perspective and recognize our countless blessings. I give thanks for the food that will grace my table, my husband and stepchildren and dog, my continued health, the doctors and nurses who are risking their lives to help others, the brilliant scientists who have created vaccines, the angels at the food banks, my warm home, Zoom and Facetime. And Yoga…I am so grateful for Yoga. 

Yoga is the gift that keeps on giving. It is available to us anywhere and anytime. As long as there is a breath in your body, you can rest your attention upon it and reconnect with deeper truths…that we are all connected beyond the plane of time and space. That love transcends geography. That it is a sacred duty and honor to sacrifice our personal desires for the greater good. Yoga gives us so much, and asks only that we keep showing up and doing our best. Let us be thankful for its many gifts: 

Physical Health: Yoga keeps us strong and flexible. It is a full-body practice that strengthens and purifies. A consistent yoga practice can keep us vital and healthy deep into old age. A pliable body helps us avoid injury, and the practices can help us heal many of the things that ail us. It improves balance and organ function, lubricates the joints, increases respiratory and circulatory performance, and prevents diseases caused by stagnation. 

Mental Health: Yoga quiets our minds. It helps us establish intimacy with our self-limiting thought patterns. It gives us the opportunity to question the thoughts we feed ourselves on a daily basis. It shows us where we are blind or stuck, and encourages us to take control of our own mind stuff. It hands us the key to the cage of unnecessary suffering. 

Emotional Health: We do not have to be slaves to our emotions! Emotions rise and fall like waves. As we turn inward and begin to track the lifespan of our emotions, we discover that we can let them come and go without getting hijacked. We become observers instead of victims of our varying emotional states. As we take a small step back and watch the waves roll in and out (Isn’t it fascinating?!), we gain equanimity and perspective, and finally freedom from the rollercoaster.  

Personal Responsibility: Victimhood can be very seductive. “Poor me…this painful thing happened to me and now I am entitled to wallow in misery.” And we certainly can choose to wallow…but what a wasted opportunity! Yoga teaches us to play the cards we have been dealt. To start from where we are…injured, ill, heart-broken, disenfranchised, traumatized, or whatever challenges we might be facing. “It’s not FAIR!!!!”, but so what. Regardless of our circumstances, yoga invites us to pick up the reins of responsibility for our health and our lives. YOU are in control of your own healing. YOU have the ability to take your power back. Get radically honest with yourself to identify what you need to thrive…and then get busy making it happen!! Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking, Nelson Mandela, kids with cancer in their blood and joy in their hearts…and so many countless others who have gotten a “raw deal”, can inspire us to move out of victimhood and into greatness!! 

Community:It’s been said that 99% of spiritual advancement is who we hang out with. The yoga path is a lifelong journey, and I am forever grateful for the fellow pilgrims I have met along the way! Those of us seeker deeper meaning in life, and the most authentic and loving center of ourselves, need each other now more than ever. It seems the world is getting more divided and shallow all the time. Distractions are everywhere as we are encouraged to worship at the altars of busy, successful, attractive, outraged, and relevant. Let us come together on the mat…in the studio, on the internet, in the park or our living rooms, in our hearts and minds. Let us remind each other of our inner beauty and inherent worth. Let us love and support each other on the quest for peace and self- acceptance. Let us stoke one another’s flames so we can shine our collective brilliance out into the darkened corners of the world. It is our life’s work and a priceless gift.

Wishing you all a blessed holiday, whatever it looks like this year. Thank you, Yoga!!! Thank you, Yoga Community! I am so grateful for YOU!!