Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam.
“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive]
ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.”
–Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.33

Pratipaksha means opposite and Bhavanam means contemplation or meditation. My friend and amazing yoga teacher Erika Halweil used to chant this sutra often years ago in class. It always resonated with me. How simple, I would think. And yet, 15 years later, I continue to allow myself to be disturbed by the words and actions of others, affecting my own peace of mind. As we enter into a new year, it seems like the perfect time to work on this sutra. Nothing is more precious than a quiet mind, my Sanskrit teacher Manorama used to say (and probably still does :)) It is not the world’s fault that we are annoyed, angry, or irritated. It is not the slow cashier, the Sunday driver, the arrogant ex-spouse, the needy older parent, the willful child, the person with body odor and too-loud breath next to you in Yoga class. It is you, or me, allowing ourselves to be disturbed, allowing our minds to be distracted and pulled out and identified with the small self. ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world,’ said Gandhi. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that,” said Martin Luther King Jr (and the Buddha). A perfect example of Pratipaksha Bhavanam right there. I wonder if Mr. King was familiar with the Yoga Sutras?

It comes down, again and again and again to practice. We can read these quotes, we can agree that the sutra sounds like a good idea, but without putting this idea into practice, we will inevitably find ourselves cursing the yoga student with the too-loud breath for disturbing our peace of mind. The Sanskrit word for Practice is Abhyasa. Patanjali has another sutra which tells us the following:

Sutra 1.12: Abhyasa-vairagyabyam tan-nirodhah
—Consistent practice with nonattachment will stop the mind from fluctuating

So we now have a way to practice. It cannot be just one day, one time, one situation. As with our asana practice, it must be consistent to have some real and lasting affect.

This month, when you come to your mat, sit well, close your eyes, what comes up? What negative or disturbing thought pops up, for you, again and again? Catch it. Notice it. Take a breath in and smile. Now take a breath out as you think the opposite. Try it. Put it into practice. Now try this. Come to the wall and find downward facing dog with your hands about 4-6 inches away from the wall. Step in with one leg about ½ way and pause. Soften your skin and open to the abundance and beauty all around you. Now, spread your fingers well and claw at the floor with your hands, pulling your arms and hands isometrically towards each other and engaging the muscles of the arms. Commit yourself and imagine that your arms are like your legs, your hands like your feet. Soften your upper back ever so slightly so that you feel a connection of your hands to your shoulder blades, plugging your arm bones into their sockets. Lift the leg that you did not step in and pause. Bend the bottom leg as you keep the top leg straight and strong. Now, start hopping. Open to that bigger energy and float up into Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana- downward facing Tree pose!). Find the wall with your feet. Yippee! You are upside down.

Think the opposite. Shift your perspective from small self to higher self. From limiting thoughts that keep us separate to beautiful positive thoughts that connect us to everyone around us and this beautiful world. Pratipaksha Bhavanam in action. Breathe. Feel. Transform.

Come down slowly and rest in child’s pose. Let your forehead make contact with the ground and feel the delicious stimulation of the third eye center (Ajna Chakra).

Maybe that’s all it takes. A handstand a day keeps the doctor away!? 🙂

With love and gratitude,

Everybody Upside Down // JB Yoga

Ask many women what area they dislike most about their bodies and you will likely hear one of two things: the belly area or the backside. In some ways, I dislike creating a  yoga sequence targeting the legs and butt because I personally practice yoga and enjoy other forms of movement such as running, surfing, and stand up paddling not as a means to an end but because yoga and movement have taught me how to love my body regardless of a bit of extra weight around my middle or a few dimples on my butt. I love movement because it makes me feel alive, happy, and empowered. The fact that my butt looks better in a bikini is just an added bonus! So, try the following sequence with an attitude of love and gratitude for your body and its awesome capabilities. Thank your legs and backside for being the workhorses of the body that they are, supporting you throughout your days. I am currently 5 months pregnant with my third child, and embracing my larger frame, while still continuing to move as much as possible for the sheer love of it.

Tabletop Butt Blaster

Come to a hands and knees position with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. On an inhalation extend your right arm forward and your left leg straight back, drawing the navel towards the spine, gazing at the floor and floating the leg up just parallel to the ground.  Maintain the internal rotation of your lifted leg, meaning that the hips are square and the inner thigh of the lifted leg is reaching up to the sky and on an exhalation, release down. Inhale and float the left arm forward and the right leg back, and exhale to release down. Repeat eight times on each side.  This sequence works the hamstrings and gluteal muscles of the lifted leg.

Plank Pose with Bonus

From your tabletop position, extend your legs straight back behind you and come to plank pose. Hold here for a few breaths, drawing the belly in tightly to the spine. On an inhalation lift the right leg just a couple of inches into the air, again internally rotating the leg so that the hips are square and the inner right leg lifts to the sky. To fire the adductors (inner thighs), create your own resistance and hug the leg to the midline, imagining that someone is trying to push your right leg to the right but you resist them by hugging in. Pulse the leg up and down 10 times. Put the right foot down and switch, lifting the left leg. On an exhalation, come down and press back into child’s pose for a short rest. This plank with bonus works the hamstrings and glutes of the lifted leg, as well as the inner thigh muscles.

Lunge Sequence

Press back to a downward facing dog pose. Step the right foot forward into a lunge position and bring your torso to vertical with your hands on your hips. Use your hands to press your buttocks flesh down, creating space in your lower back. On an inhalation, bend the back (left) leg so that the knee hovers right above the ground, and as you exhale, extend and stretch the left leg straight. Again, inhale and bend the back leg; exhale to extend the back leg. Repeat eight times on this side. Now keep the back leg fully extended and stretch the arms up alongside the ears into a high lunge.  Pull the belly in and up and lengthen the tailbone down. Take five breaths.  Inhale place both hands on the floor next to the front foot, and exhale step back to downward facing dog and then switch sides. This one strengthens the entire leg, but specifically the quads, buttocks and abs.

Utkatasana with Abduction

From your downward dog, walk the feet to the hands and release over the legs in an easy forward bend to release the backs of the legs. Soften the knees and roll up to stand. Stand in mountain pose and extend the arms straight up into Urdhva Hastasana (upward reaching hands pose). On an exhalation bend the knees and sit back into utkatasana (fierce or awkward chair pose). Hold for five breaths. Now inhale, and on the exhalation sit a little lower and you raise the right leg straight out to the side. Inhale that leg down, exhale the left leg straight out to the side. Inhale lower down.  Repeat eight times each side. Inhale stand up to mountain, and exhale release the arms.

Following this sequence I suggest a 3-5 minute legs up the wall pose, to restore the legs and truly relax. You deserve it!

4 Yoga Poses for a Great Butt // JB Yoga