Vitarke Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam, Sutra 2.33 — When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of. This is Pratipaksha Bhavanam.
Happy New Year to all of you. This is the time when many of us contemplate what changes we might like to make in our lives and we resolve to do better, be better, look better, feel better.
Unfortunately a lot of these resolutions only serve to create more stress in our lives. When we fall short, we wind up feeling like failures, and worse, we often wind up comparing ourselves to others who seem to be able to keep it all together a hell of a lot better than us.
I recently read a popular blog post, urging its readers to “Wake Up Like Yoga Girl” (aka Rachel Brathen—a young and inspiring yoga teacher).
It described her morning routine of waking up in her home in Aruba, snuggling with her dog and her man, then oil pulling for 20 minutes while she journals and contemplates her morning practice, then practicing yoga for about 90 minutes, drinking her green juice (which she also prepares for her man and her assistant), and then, around 10am, starting her work day (and she works at home).
Being a yoga teacher for 22 years myself, I immediately felt “less than”… Oil pulling? 90 minutes of daily home practice? Green juice? Aruba??? Then, I laughed out loud at myself. In my forties now, with a baby and two teens, my weeks tend to feel like chaotic marathons.
My days start at 6am, when, bleary eyed, I nurse my toddler and then full speed ahead prepare three breakfasts, two lunches, make beds, clean up the kitchen, throw in a load of laundry and am in the car by 7am to drive my 14 year old the 5 miles to his school since there is no bus service.
After dropping my 10 year old at school 20 minutes later, I am most certainly on my 2nd (or 3rd) mug of coffee… At that point, I head to KamaDeva to teach a class, or I hop on the computer to answer emails, pay bills, or plan my next workshop or retreat.
When I am feeling like this routine is not serving me, I set my alarm for 5am to wake up and meditate and try to get in a morning practice. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t.
More often than not, the snooze button is hit many times, and before you know it my 2 year old is yodeling her “Mamma Mamma” morning call.
I tell you this because I get it. We can be deeply passionate about our yoga practice (or getting to the gym, or out for a daily run), but life is life and it gets in the way of our best intentions.
The idea of pratipaksha bhavanam is this—You Are Enough. Whether or not you wake up like yoga girl, you are enough. Whether or not you fit your jeans from when you were 18, and whether or not you send homemade cupcakes to school for your kids birthday or buy them at the store.
So the next time you are thinking you are ‘less than,’ try the practice of pratipaksha bhavanam. Simply think the opposite.
I love this quote from a wise teacher—”The key to happiness is simple. Simply want what you have, and don’t want what you don’t have.”
In my classes this past month, I have been talking a lot about the Koshas—the sheaths, or layers, that make up who we are. The outermost layer is called the Annamaya kosha—the gross physical body, and generally speaking the layer that we are most likely to identify with.
But, as we penetrate our awareness deeper, we go through the layer of the vital body (Pranamaya), to the emotional layer (Manomaya), through the wisdom layer (Vijnanamaya) and finally we arrive at the innermost 5th layer, the Anandamaya kosha.
The word ANANDA means BLISS. What a beautiful and amazing idea that we are MADE of bliss. It is who we are at our essence, at our core.
So whether we wake up and oil pull and then practice 90 minutes of yoga or whether we wake up and down a few cups of coffee as we race our kids to school, we are still bliss!
So, this month, as you contemplate your resolutions, how about resolving to step into your bliss, into your birth right and your true nature? And as a daily practice, when anything arises that takes you away from this bliss, think the opposite.
As a physical practice, turn upside down!!! Inversions are an amazing way to shift our perspective and the ways in which we see ourselves and the world.
Join us at KamaDeva Yoga this month to herald in the New Year with abundance and gratitude. Om Shantih Shantih Shantih, Om Peace Peace Peace.