Y98: Gentle Yoga For Hamstrings And Back: When Negativity Arises, Cultivate The Opposite (Pratipaksha Bhavana)

In today's episode I share one of my favorite threads of the Yoga Sutra. Pratipaksha Bhavana: “When negativity arises, cultivate the opposite” or “mindfulness of opposites.”

Opposites are the core of everything I teach in yoga. Postures are either active or passive. Moving or still. Strengthening or stretching. Sometimes many of these things at once.

Is your low back in pain? Look to the opposite side of the body. A good place to start is the transverse abdominals - the deep core muscles that support the torso are often weak. An issue I didn’t realize I had until years into my practice.

Now I know when I’m tense in an area of my body it’s likely due to some sort of imbalance. The imbalance is always unique to the situation and individual - but it’s a good place to start. Resolving the imbalance requires some experimentation. To explore the polarities of strength & flexibility, movement & stillness, active & passive. In short: stihra & sukha.

This applies to the mind and emotions too. In my early 20s I struggled with depression. It wasn't until I found out about gratitude journaling that things started to shift. Instead of focusing on what wasn't working, I began to seek out what was working. I tended to be more cynical and judgmental back then. This new practice got me to cultivate the opposite polarity. It wasn't fake or forced either. Each day I found 3 things I felt genuine gratitude for. Soon it got me excited for each day. This lead to me trying things outside of my comfort zone, including my first yoga class. I didn't know about pratipaksha bahavana - or any of these concepts - but it is what got me out of my depression.

I can look back now and see I had cultivated a state. Every time I complained, judged, compared and wished I was something I wasn’t. I was cultivating a more depressed state of mind. A more cynical state. The gratitude practice helped me cultivate the opposite. It was slow. It was small. It didn’t happen in a week, or a month. But over a decade later I am a much different person.
I still have cynical and depressed thoughts at times. The difference is now I have a choice. I can choose to cultivate that state, or I can choose its opposite.

My intention is that this practice reminds you that you always have a choice in your thoughts as well. We all have our lows and our negative thoughts at times, that's okay. If you start to feel stuck, though, this yoga sutra "pratipaksha bhavana" can be a reminder of how to get unstuck.

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For my first 5 years of Yoga my hamstrings were tight. I stretched them often, so what was I doing wrong? I'll address this and the biggest mistakes I made in my first 10 years of practice so you can avoid them. With some easy adjustments you can start building strength, flexibility and balance today. Enter your email to begin: