PYS II.33 Vitarka-bādhane pratipaksha bhāvanam
When disturbed by disturbing thoughts, think of the opposite.
Yeah right. As if it were that easy. This sutra is good advice, but challenging to put into practice. Patanjali merely gives us the prescription. It is up to us to take the medicine.
It's not usually a matter of thinking one thought, and we weed out the root of all negativity. Most likely, this single negative thought is just a symptom of an established structure or pattern or set of beliefs. For example, when we are stuck in Manila traffic and start to get irritated, this irritation comes from a set of deeply-ingrained beliefs. We somehow believe we are the star of the show which is our life, and we think everyone else are just extras, filling the gaps here and there. It is because we believe this to be so that we have a sense of entitlement. And when things do not go our way- even something as trivial as traffic- in our minds this is not the natural order and so negativity arises. But we are not the star of the show. That is a very misguided and egocentric way to think. The truth is we are one amongst many, and we co-exist with others, and when things do not go our way it is really not that personal. The universe is not mocking us. It is just unfolding the way that it is.
Therefore, if we want to apply the yoga sutra in a way that results to long-lasting change, we reverse not only the immediate thought but also our recurring deep-seated beliefs and patterns and habits and structures. We dig deep and examine our biases and predispositions. Is it possible that this negative thought is a culmination of many other factors? Then we reverse the deep-seated thoughts, not just the immediate and apparent ones. We break down the old structure so we can build a new one.
The focus of the month for April is inversions. When we practice our sirsasana II (tripod headstand) and pincha mayurasana (forearm stand), some of us may struggle. We may immediately think that the struggle comes from fear or inexperience or lack of physical strength. We may forget that the struggle could possibly be due to clinging to an old way of doing things. Perhaps we have been repeating the same habit to our detriment. If that is the case, then we need to unlearn old habits to create new ones.
In this week's class, we used the belt to practice keeping our elbows to the sides of our body in chaturanga (low push-up). Once we form a habit out of this, we see that this understanding applies to our inversions as well. Even in sirsasana and pincha mayurasana, we clip our elbows in. We build a new structure based on a new understanding. It is the same with anything that we need to build from scratch- starting over from a breakup or separation, changing careers, going vegan, etc. We need to break down old habits, old patterns, and old ways of thinking if we want to rebuild with a solid foundation.
The yoga sutra holds a lot of wisdom and requires strong commitment to practice. If we are disturbed by disturbing thoughts, and we want to be able to shift our perspective, then we go deeper than we have before, examine our recurring patterns, and see how we can turn things around- not just as a superficial band-aid solution but as a new way of thinking and living and thriving.
Inversions are physically challenging. We spend our entire day standing on our feet, and we go to a yoga class and we are asked to do the exact opposite. It is challenging to turn our bodies upside down, but even more challenging is to turn our thoughts upside down. But if we want yoga, if we want freedom, if we want liberation, then we must be open enough to at least try.