Yoga is for everybody, including runners! Part 6 – Positive Thinking

I hope you managed to find a restorative yoga class online and take some time to slowdown and unwind this past week. We all need this more than ever right now.

So, we now know that as a runner, yoga can help us:

1. shift from imbalance to balance (see part 2)

2. breath with more ease (see part 2)

3. focus our minds (see part 3)

4. gain control of our thoughts (see part 4)

5. rest! (see part 5)

Today we will explore how we can better achieve our goals on and off the road through irradiating limiting beliefs and establishing a more positive mind state through yoga.

Now, when we talk about positivity, it’s not about trying to turn you into that (somewhat irritating) person who is ALWAYS happy (which is just not real). It is okay to process or express feelings that we consider negative, this is part of our being. We need to accept that for what it is and for what makes us whole. The positivity we talking about here is all in your self-talk. How you treat your mind when you are alone.

So, when we talk positivity in yoga we are looking at the strengths and virtues that enable you to thrive. And we do this by clearly and carefully directing thought energy. What we choose to focus on will grow. It’s like water to a plant (the weeds and the roses).

This is hard, as most of us are limited by our beliefs (the weeds) i.e. “I am not good enough”, “This is too hard”, “I never make the right decisions”, “I always cramp in the last 1km”, “I am not built to run further”.

When these deep seated beliefs arise, they steal our thought energy and direct it in an unhelpful manner. It is true that what you think, you become, and become more of the same. It is our beliefs rooted in our subconscious that direct our actions.

“Cognitive psychologists will tell you that what you say to yourself in your head directs the way you act”

What is great news is that we can CHOOSE to focus on the good; but this takes focus, discipline and effort. We need to purposefully and effortfully focus our positive thought energy on the good in our life (the roses; and maybe even plant new seeds).

To do this, we need to use our intellect or conscious mind to override our subconscious mind (where most of our limiting beliefs sit). We need to create and manifest our thoughts (our self-talk). “This is the opportunity you've been waiting for”, “Maybe it is hard, but focus on your form and staying in the present” or just give yourself a mental ‘pat on the back’. 

Although positive psychology is a relatively new science, Master Patanjali included a sutra (thread of knowledge) in Book 2 (Sadhana pada: how to gain a yogic state) on positive thinking. Yoga Sutra II.33 vitarka badhane pratipaksha-bhavanam. This translates into “when negative thoughts present themselves cultivate and think the opposite thoughts”.

Now, I understand this is not as easy as one may think. It’s like crossing a really wide and rough river. You need to build the bridge or lay the stepping stones to get from one side to the other. It does not just happen.

You can start implementing this sutra by beginning to shift your energy from negative to positive thought by:

1. catching yourself in/ being aware of negative thoughts and,

2. realising that your thoughts determine how you feel

We all need to realise that circumstance does not influence how you feel; “I will only be happy when I have done 10 comrades marathons”, “I will only be happy when I can run 10km in 40 minutes”. It’s your thoughts that influence how you feel, not circumstance. So, if you don’t change your thoughts to be more positive and or uplifting, you will not change how you feel.

To make it clear; maintaining (or creating) positive thoughts or a positive attitude is something even the “happiest” among us struggle with sometimes.

However, the more time you spend on the positive, the more habitual it will become to focus on the positive in your life. There is a great line from the book The Neuroscience of the Buddhas brain “your brain is like Velcro for negativity and Teflon for positivity”.

This is because of how our brain is wired, we look for the negative for survival.

Luckily, we can shift this. When you feel good about yourself, and your confidence is thriving, then you will hold onto the positive thoughts with greater ease. You will also give less time, attention, and energy to the negative thoughts that do enter your mind.

There is no one single way to stay positive, but it is something that we must work towards each and every day.

It its discipline, practice, time and patience. Just like training for Marathon.

Week 6 task: the three good things practice

Think of three positive events or moments in any of your relationships/health/work or all three over the past week? Write a few lines around what happened, where it happened, who was involved and when it happened. Write down how you felt when this happened. It is important to really tune into those feelings, and also write down how recalling this is making you feel now. See if you can connect these events or moments to something good about you or your life. Why did this happen? What positive meaning can you see behind this?

The light in me sees the light in you.

Dale Guthrie

MSc Occupational Therapist: neurosciences

Adaptive yoga specialist

Founder of Holism Health

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