Pratikpasha bhavana — the practice of cultivating the opposite

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” –Helen Keller

Spring can be likened to hitting the reset button. It is a moment of starting over and turning a new leaf. The renewal of Spring sunshine helps us to find a renaissance of positive outlooks. What once felt dark + lifeless during the Winter season might now appear fresh + stimulating!

Not to be confused with optimism, pratikpasha bhavana is the active practice of cultivating positive thoughts to balance out and set aside negative thoughts. Our minds are constantly buzzing, making it normal to have negative thoughts pass through, and it is up to us to choose how we wish to deal with those emotions. The key word here is “choose.” We have choice in how our thoughts ebb and flow, and it is up to us to choose the thoughts that will bring us to more overall contentment. Constant streams of negative thoughts, emotions, limiting beliefs or narratives can weigh us down and remove our ability to enjoy life, respect ourselves or appreciate ourselves. Pratikpasha bhavana is a revival or renaissance of spirit! When we observe the mind telling us things such as “I am not good enough,” “I messed up this situation,” “my friend is angry with me;” it is important that we don’t allow ourselves to dwell and linger in the murkiness. By considering what’s good in our lives: “I am skilled at writing,” “I am supported by loving friends,” “the sun feels good on my skin;” we choose to set aside the thoughts that drain our energy. This practice is hard and takes time to enact, but don’t let that get you down! Allow the energy of Spring to bring a renaissance of interest in attending to your mental well-being!

Practices to Support this Pratikpasha bhavana:

Passive Pose: Dirga Pranayama (3-Part Breath)

Take a moment to find a comfortable seat. Soften the gaze or close your eyes, and begin to focus on your breath. Place one hand at the heart, and one at the belly. As you inhale, breath 1/3 of the breath into the belly and pause. Inhale, breath 2/3 of the breath into the ribs, pause. Inhale and fill the breath all the way into the chest, pause, and exhale completely and slowly. Pause at the bottom of the exhale, and repeat 2 – 4 times. As you breathe deeply, fill up with all that is good in your life, and release what isn’t worth attending to with your exhale.

Active Pose: Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Handstand)

Flip your perspective on life by getting upside down! Build up to handstand with these drills:

  1. L-sit with Block Press: Have a seat in dandasana with your legs straight out in front of you. Bring the legs as close together as is comfortable. Tone the legs by pointing the toes and squeezing the quads. Grab hold of one block with both hands. Press the block up overhead and let the shoulders lift high. Imagine pushing into a firm surface such as a wall or ceiling. Inhale and squeeze at the top, then lower to block to your head. Repeat 7 – 10 times. If this feels easy, challenge your self by holding one block in each hand.
  2. Down Dog Walks: Find yourself in adho mukha svanasana or downward facing dog. Feel each fingertip lightly grip the mat and the heel of the hand press down. Push your hands strongly into the mat as if you could push the floor away from you. Walk your feet closer to your hands until your shoulders start to shift over the wrists. Bend the knees if you need but focus on stacking shoulders of wrists. Once you walk as far as you can, take a breath in and out, then walk back. Repeat 3 – 5 times.
  3. L-pose: Find a wall. Face the wall and lift one foot to the wall at hip height. Make sure your full foot can press into the wall and the knee may straighten. Note where you are standing, drop the foot, and turn away from the wall. Now, replace your feet with your hands and come into adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog) with your feet at the wall. Begin to walk your feet up the wall until they are at hip height. Push your feet into the wall to straighten the legs and allow your hips to stack over your shoulders. Check-in, if you feel like you are falling forward into a backbend, your hands might be too close to the wall. If you feel like you are still in a down dog position with the spine, your hands may be too far from the wall. Adjust as necessary and hold for 7 – 10 breaths. If you feel strong in this pose, maybe try straightening one leg overhead!