Wholehearted Living Gratitude and Joy

In order for us to feel a strong sense of belonging and value, we need to show up authentically, and we need to do it from a place of self-love and self-worth. Our sense of belonging and worth is only as strong as our practice of self-love and self-care. If we have love in practice, we have worth in our sense of value. This is the core of a successful Yoga Teaching Career. 

Gratitude and Joy

As mentoined by Brene Borwn, in our society we are taught to seek external self-worth through titles, salaries, the value of our homes, cars, and personal items. What our yoga teachers tell us we did well and what our boss gives us credit for. “I’ll do whatever it takes to make them happy. This will make me feel accepted.” However, as Brene Brown found out in her research as well as in her personal journey, is that worth is cultivated from within. An exploration of the relationship between our experiences and our choices, such as gratitude and joy. Although Brene commenced her research with the idea that joyful people were grateful people, after countless hours of story collection, the following main patterns appeared in her research:

  1. Without exception, every person that Brene interviewed who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyful experiences to their active choice of practicing gratitude.
  2. Those that experienced joy, described joy and gratitude as a spiritual practice that has to be grounded on the principle that humans are interconnected to something bigger there their physical existence, such as Energy, Consciousness, Source, the Infinite Potential, or Ishvara Pranidhana.
  3. Those that practiced joy, made clear distinctions between the sensation of happiness and the practice of joy. They stated that happiness was attached to external circumstances, while joy was a spiritual practice where one mindfully chooses how to engage with the world, connected to practice of gratitude. In yoga we call this gratitude-fueled joy, Santosha.


When it came to gratitude, the pattern that showed up in Brene Brown's research was PRACTICE.  Coming from a world where knowledge is power, this was a shock. As Brene dived deeper into her work, she noted that an attitude of gratitude was distinct from the practice of gratitude. Wearing a shirt of gratitude is an example of the attitude of gratitude. It is something we wear. Speaking the language of gratitude is also an example of the attitude of gratitude. It is something we say. So cultivating the inner vibration of gratitude is the practice of gratitude. It is something that is generated from within. It is not worn, or spoken about, it is an act of mindfulness and the yoking of the mind-body-soul-Universe connection that we find in Yoga. Therefore the practice of gratitude is cultivated through the action and choice of faith and love.


Joy is a light that fills the soul with hope, faith, and creative expression. It is a choice and a practice. It does not mean we are happy all the time. It means we approach our feelings, emotions and life circumstances in a truthful and mindful way, moving away from labels, and forward from a place of gratitude. When the perspective is shifted, joy creeps in. This is gratitude-fueled joy, the yoga practice of Santosha.  

Happiness and Joy

Neither happiness nor joy are a constant. No one feels happy or joy all the time. Both are experiences that come and go. Actually the only constant in our Universe is change. While happiness is attached to and dependent on external stimuli, joy is the strong spiritual connection to the Creative Potential, which is cultivated through practice. Joy is that deep feeling of One, known in yoga as Samadhi, that vibrates deep within heart-center, Anahata Chakra.

Greek and Yoga Philosophy

As described by the ancient Greeks, Makarios is the word for happiness describing a person with good fortune and removed from daily worry. Chairo is the word for joy and describes the culmination of the Being. Greek Philosophers lectured on Chairo are something found deep within or far beyond, and that comes after years of contemplation and self-reflection. In yoga we called this Svadhyaya. In Greek Philosophy they say the opposite of happiness is sadness, and the opposite of joy is fear. In Yoga Philosophy they say we cannot be in both at the same time, so if we are in fear we are not in joy. Practicing mindfulness helps us shift from fear to gratitude, and from gratitude to joy. When we are in gratitude long enough, joy starts to shine bright from within. Again, gratitude-fueled joy, the yoga practice of Santosha.

Fear of the Dark

Spending time worrying about the terrible things that could happen to us and our loved ones, prevents us from embracing joy and gratitude. This is realted to fear, scarcity, and never enough. When we allow fear to overtake our thoughts, we are ripped away from joy. Why do we do this? On the edge of joy, we become overwhelmed by vulnerability. Not knowing how to cope with vulnerability, we throw ourselves into fear. So the key to easing into gratitude and joy is learning to sit with our own vulnerability, in your own darkness. The darkness simply defines the light. The Divine Feminine, Shakti (yin, darkness), cultivates the forces of action within the Divine Masculine, Shiva (yang, light). When we ease into darkness, we ease into joy and gratitude. The Light is the brightest against the darkest of backdrops, a realization that can be found through the practice of yoga.


I didn’t get enough sleep. There are not enough hours in the day. I don’t have enough time. I’m not thin enough. I don't make enough. I’m not rich enough. I’m not qualified enough.  Whether true or not, the thought of not enough runs through our head almost automatically, without question or reflection, which means as a society we spend more time thinking about what we don’t have, rather than thinking about the things that make our lives full. What begins as a simple expression of a limited life, grows into justifications for an unfulfilled experience. Hence, a nation hungry for more, simply because we are starving for a spiritual practice of gratitude and joy.  


The opposite of scarcity is not abundant or having it all, it is the practice of enough or sufficiency. And sufficiency is not a quantity. Sufficiency is an experience, a practice. A knowing that there is enough and we are enough because we are an aspect of the Infinite. There is always enough. We are always enough. Sufficiency resides in all of us. It is a Consciousness, an intentional choosing of the way we think about our circumstances. It is a perspective.

Self-Worth, Self-Love, Self-Care

Scarcity is food for the "never enough gremlins." The idea that something has to be extraordinary to be of value. The thoughts in our head that keep up from taking risk and putting ourselves out there. In our culture, we are taught to value our worth by public recognition, fortune, and a social presence. We become quick to dismiss the quiet and the ordinary. But Joy is when “fame” is cut off, and gratitude is still strongly present. The irony, is that we are the only ones that value our own worth. Belonging is a cultivation of inner faith that comes from a practice of self-care. Our self-worth is only as strong as our practice of self-love.

A Joyful Life

As Brene Brown puts it, a “Joyful Life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration and faith.” A sacred collection of ordinary moments grounded by love, gratitude and joy. In practice, may we be courageous to stop long enough to ease into gratitude, and embrace joy. “Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” ~Marianne Williamson

The Practice

When flooded with fear and scarcity, call forward sufficiency.

  • First acknowledge the fear. Say out loud, “I am scared right now and fear is making me feel vulnerable, but that’s okay.”
  • Next think about the things in the circumstance that could make you feel gratitude. 
  • Keep your attention on the things that bring you gratitude, until the fear has transformed into gratitude.
  • Repeat your gratitude mantra, until gratitude has transformed into joy. “I am grateful for ______, ______, and ______.”
  • Doing this will increase your capacity for Joy.

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Joy and Gratitude, Healsci Yoga School, Wholehearted Living Series, Yoga Teacher Training, Sarasota, FL

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