The Stepford Yogi

Rachel Mack
The Stepford Yogi

Practicing yoga in the studio or at home is great, but the best yoga practices can happen any place at any time. That may mean breathing through a stressful moment at work or choosing to do no harm by backing down in an argument. In the real world, our days are filled with opportunities to practice yoga.

Do The Opposite

Another all-purpose yoga practice comes from Sutra 2.33,“Viarka Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam,” or “when disturbed by negative thoughts, contrary thoughts should be employed.” Pratipaksha Bhavanam means that you don’t let the negative moments dictate your attitude. It’s being a glass-half-full kind of person. When your negative thoughts arise, pratipaksha bhavanam prompts us to consciously bring positive thoughts to mind before moving forward.

That’s Impossible, Though

Sometimes life throws you a crap situation, and being positive seems impossible. When you’re nursing a family member through a terminal illness, it’s hard to find the good (I’ve been there). But there has to be some little kernel somewhere. Instead of focusing on your own exhaustion and the suffering of your loved one, you can find something to be grateful for. In my case, I was thankful for the opportunity to be there for my mother and show her how much I loved her as she died.

It can work in less dramatic situations. If you have a coworker who’s driving you nuts, don’t think in terms of how much she annoys you. Think in terms of gratitude—she’s helping you learn to be a more patient person. Every struggle is an opportunity to grow in some way. You have to step back from your situation enough to see what the positive is. If you make a good faith effort, you’ll find something.

So I’m A Stepford Yogi Now?

Nope! You don’t have to whitewash the negative from your brain, but it is useful to make yourself acknowledge the good that comes along with the bad. This doesn’t mean you have to become a mindless Pollyanna. We all know that person who does all kinds of mental gymnastics trying to turn a negative into a positive. That’s not what this is. It’s not desperately grasping at the straws of positivity. It’s mindfully examining the negatives and being mature enough to see what good may come of them. When you do that successfully, it becomes easier to move forward.

It Works In Asana Too

There are ways to begin your pratipaksha bhavanam practice on the mat. Instead of favoring your strong side, start on your weak side. If it’s easy for you to kick up to handstand with your right foot first, make a point of using your left foot to kick up. If you’re aching to slump over in some forward folds, try a couple urdva dhanurasanas first. It’s hard at first, but it’s worth it. Surprising yourself by doing the opposite becomes easier with practice, and the habit of pratipaksha bhavanam will become part of daily life.

Title image: Paramount Pictures