Overcome Disturbing Thoughts Using Patanjali’s Sutras

Overcome Disturbing Thoughts Using Patanjali's Yoga Sutras

One of the great things about Patanjali’s yoga sutras is that they provide the reader with some practical guidance. In other words…

… the sutras are not just a bunch of esoteric whackery with no applications in the real world.

One thing to be aware of, however, is that the sutras don’t tell you what to do or what is right and what is wrong (yes, there are guidelines).  Instead they explain what will be the outcome of specific actions or ways of thinking. Interesting….hmmm?

How To Overcome Disturbing Thoughts

Book 2 of the Sutras is called Sadhana Pada (the practical foot or the portion on practice). The Sadahana Pada, more so than the other three parts, explains how to practice yoga. Our focus today is Sadhana Pada 33 (II:33).

It transliterates like this: Vitarka-bādhane pratipakṣa-bhāvanaṃ

And loosely translates as: the way to overcome disturbing thoughts is to constantly ponder over opposite thoughts.

What does this mean?

Before I attempt an explanation let me tell you this… this works very nicely with modern psychology… it works well with the Law of Attraction… it works well with almost any religion…

It’s pretty useful no matter what angle you are coming at it from – based on your life and your experience.

You’ve Used This Method Before

Think about a child – a very unhappy child (not in the broad sense – I mean a child that is crying because a toy has been taken away or they don’t want to do something they’ve been asked to do by a parent). The child is crying and seems inconsolable. Now imagine telling the child to think happy thoughts.

I’ll bet someone has said this to you at some time in your life… during times of stress or loss:

 “Take a deep breath and think happy thoughts…”

Can you hear it being said to you? Yes?

Well that’s an example of what this sutra means. Here’s another example.

Say you are overweight.

Now – I don’t know what you consider to be overweight and I’m not judging you if you feel you are overweightso let’s not go there.

But let’s just imagine that you feel you are overweight and those thoughts disturb the peacefulness of your mind. Worse… the more you focus on the thought “I’m overweight,” the more you engage in the activities that keep you feeling that way (e.g. eating the wrong foods for your constitution, not getting enough exercise, etc). How do you overcome these disturbing thoughts?

Sutra II:33 offers a solution. The solution is to think to yourself “I feel great. My weight is perfect for me. I’m happy with my body and grateful for this vehicle I’ve been given for life. I feed my vehicle only the best food and I keep it tuned up.”

The possibilities there are endless…

Patanjali was specific in his placement of this sutra. He put it right after the sutra describing what the Niyamas are. That is for another post but lets just say – for simplicity’s sake – that the Niyamas are five processes you should engage in daily in order to achieve Yoga. Patanjali puts this sutra about thinking in opposites right after that because he and his teacher, and his teacher’s teacher all knew that it would be a challenge… doing these 5 positive things each day.

He knew that there should be some remedy when you are faced with the desire to do something that takes you off of your path.

Thinking In Opposites

The way to really put this sutra to use in your life is to observe your thoughts and how they affect you and those around you. That’s another lesson altogether…again for another post. But let’s just say that you do this on a regular basis and you are able to identify thoughts that don’t serve your life.

Maybe they come from you and maybe they come from someone close to you or even the nightly news…

… yikes… I don’t recommend watching that rubbish… and since I’m not Patanjali I’m just going to tell you … Don’t Watch The News… 🙂 but in any case these thoughts don’t serve you and they keep going around in your mind and they upset you or disturb your peace of mind.

The answer lies in the sutra…

Find the opposite and think of that. Every time the disturbing thought comes into your mind think of something that is the opposite.


Practice some more.

Keep practicing until it becomes second nature.

Don’t worry…

Peace out –


PS Leave me a comment. I wan’t to know what you think and what you want to know about or understand better. I might not know the answer… I might not even know the question… 🙂 But I am interested.

PPS I keep getting requests to teach privates… ok – I’ll teach some privates but you will have to complete an application, show me you really want to study and work.  More importantly you will need to be willing to learn AND willing to change… (%willingness to learn%willingness to change = how teachable you are…). Drop me a line if you are interested.

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