How to Turn Habits Around (pratipaksha bhavanam)




In yoga, we are interested in observing accurately, that is withholding judgment, and just trying to be clear on what is actually happening. However, often we get so involved in the minutiae of our daily lives that we may lose perspective. For instance, sometimes an email message at work can generate a lot of reactivity inside of us, including worries, fears, anger, anxiety, etc. This is where yoga can be helpful, as soon as we notice some reactivity, we lengthen our spine and then we focus on our breath making our exhalations softer and longer. Then we may ask ourselves, how important will this message be in 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, 1 decade? By doing this we are offering ourselves a pause to zoom out so that by changing perspective we can notice if the pattern of thought we are engaging in may be helpful and balancing or not.

Dealing with Expectations

One of the obstacles that we may find when implementing this technique is that we may have an expectation that the shift from the previous way of thinking and feeling to the new approach of zooming out, should happen easily and quickly. If we examine this assumption, we can understand that it is not based on reality. Any pattern we have adopted has probably been part of our way of doing things for a while. This means, that we have used the pattern many times and that we may not even be aware of the pattern itself. In that case, the first step is to recognize that the pattern is there. The next step is to have the attitude of a curious observer just trying to find out if the new way of doing has any effects. The key is to try the new approach with gentle persistence. The more consistently we use the new pattern the more aware we become about this new and more helpful option. Gradually, the new pattern is more easily available than the old one, until the old one is not an option any more. It is really helpful to remember that it will take some time and not to give ourselves a hard time about slipping into the well-rehearsed way of doing.

Dealing with Frustration

The other potential obstacle is that we may become frustrated when we notice how deeply entrenched the old way of thinking, feeling and being is. Keep in mind that every time we notice that we are using the old pattern, we are actually becoming aware of the pattern. Since we may not have been aware of the old pattern before, being aware of the pattern is a positive change in itself, it is movement in the right direction! Again, gentle persistence over time will help us turn the pattern around.

When we change our perspective we can see many things that we may have ignored before. We may also notice if we are blowing things out of proportion. Creating this space of awareness in our daily lives provides a door to explore other alternatives. As we implement this simple technique we can try to pay attention to its effects. Consequently, we will be able to determine if this change is an intelligent change or not.

I invite you to try this application of the yoga Sutras (2.33 Pratipaksha Bhavanam) and let me know what you find. I hope this technique is useful to you.




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