Have you ever gotten stuck in negative or disturbed thinking? Ever had a time when all looks dark and there seems to be no good in the world? Yoga philosophy offers a suggestion for changing perspective, inviting new ways of thinking.
Patanjali’s Yoga Stura 2.33 “VITARKA BADHANE PRATIPASHA BHAVANAM” suggests that when suffering from afflicted thinking, we need to cultivate a different perspective. Patanjali continues to describe how negative thinking is a kind of violence done to ourselves. The practice of yoga is to develop clear thinking and introduce thoughts opposite to the negative.
The Western psychology perspective of this idea is cognitive restructuring. This is where the individual works to adjust their attitude, thoughts, and reactions. “Cognitive restructuring refers to the process of replacing cognitive distortions with thoughts that are more accurate and useful. Cognitive restructuring has two basic steps: (1) Identifying the thoughts or beliefs that are influencing the disturbing emotion; (2) Evaluating them for their accuracy and usefulness using logic and evidence, and if warranted, modifying or replacing the thoughts with ones that are more accurate and useful.” (Benggeli, 2010, para. 15)
The process of pratipakha bahvana must start with understanding/belief that events or situations do not have inherent meaning. We assign meaning in our interpretation of the events. Our brains are story makers. Often, we get so caught up in the story that we increase our suffering. The practice of meditation in yoga creates the space to see clearly our thinking patterns and the stories created in our minds. Once we are able to see more clearly, we can build more functional thinking.
Benggeli, N. (2010). CBT techniques, part 1: Cognitive restructuring. Retrieved from http://www.nelsonbinggeli.net/NB/CBT-CR.html
*see Cognitive Restructuring Worksheet – saved in Dropbox/Research on 3/21/14.