Pratipaksha Bhavana: Positivity is Always an Option

Pranayama Breathing

Written by: Sojourner Walker Williams

Pratipaksha Bhavana, the practice of choosing positivity, does not always come easily or naturally. When life gets in the way of our plans, it’s much easier to see the negative side of things.

You walk through the doorway and stumble over the raised strip on the floor – “I hate this house!” you mutter bitterly to yourself as you make your way into the kitchen to brew a cup of coffee.

You’re in the fitting room of your favorite store. You can’t wait to try on the pants you’ve been eyeing for the last few weeks. You swear you’re a size 6 but despite your best efforts, you can’t pull the pants up – “I hate my body!” you hiss at your mirrored reflection.

Over the course of a single day, we put out roughly 70,000 thoughts. These thoughts become the energy that we transmit to the world. These thoughts become our essence. If your thoughts are positive and loving and kind, then that is who you become. But if your thoughts are negative, dark and unhappy, that is also who you become. This is why the yogic practice of Pratipaksha Bhavana is so beneficial.

Prati-whatksha? Bha-what?

According to the practice of Pratipaksha Bhavana, positivity is always a choice.

“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (or positive) ones should be thought of. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana.— Yoga Sutra 2:33

According to the practice of Pratipaksha Bhavana, when negative thoughts come (and they will, we are human) we should acknowledge them – don’t beat yourself up for having them (that defeats the purpose) – and re-frame those thoughts.

To use the examples from earlier, instead of hating your house because you tripped over the door frame, acknowledge the pain in your toe and give thanks that you didn’t hurt yourself more severely – “Thank goodness for my sense of balance! Thanks body for supporting me.” Or, instead of beating yourself up for not being able to fit into whatever size pants you feel you should fit into, acknowledge how amazing your sense of style is, or focus on an area of your body that you love, or even take a moment to be grateful for the holiday feast with family and friends that you were fortunate enough to have been able to partake in, even if it left you with a few extra pounds.

This is obviously easier said than done. To cultivate Pratipaksha Bhavana takes time and intention. Then again, anything worth cultivating takes time and intention. Sometimes the greatest gifts to ourselves come from within.