Increase your Positivity: Pratipaksha Bhavanam

Increase your Positivity: Pratipaksha Bhavanam

Patipaksha Bhavanam is a technique I've used when I'm feeling down, and something I've encouraged my yoga students to use when tackling a particularly difficult class or pose. It's discussed in the Yoga Sutras, an ancient text that details the different aspects of yoga (and the 8-limbed path if you're familiar with it) through a series of roughly 400 short phrases.

Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam.
“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive]
ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.”
––Sutra 2.33

In essence, this technique entails replacing negative thoughts with their opposite. Instead of "I can't do this pose" it's "I can do this pose." Instead of "I'll never finish on time", we have "I will finish on time." We replace anger with compassion, sadness with hope, and fear with courage. Through this cognitive reframing, we open up a pathway to healing, rather than hurting. Does this mean that we will automatically feel better? Not necessarily, but it's certainly a start. Just like any technique, we have to practice it over and over before it becomes easier.

We often want to hold on to our negative feelings. They are powerful and feel productive in the moment. One of my favorite phrases to think of during this time is by Buddha, paraphrased: Staying angry at someone is like holding on to a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else. You will get burned. The sooner we are able to let go of past hurts, we are able to seek current joy. It's often said that our thoughts lead to our actions -- so positive thoughts will lead to positive actions. Our thoughts create our world, the lens by which we see (rose-colored glasses anyone?), so if we can tint the world into a more positive light, we might not only improve our own contentment, but that of others as well.

Bhavanas are sometimes used as mantras to bring us peace and calm in our day-to-day, or in moments of struggle. Below are some bhavanas that you can add to your yoga practice (or afternoon in general) today.

I am worthy.
I am strong.
I am content.
I deserve joy in my life.
I am loved.
I am accepted.

So hum. (I am that.)

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