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In Yoga Journal’s online course, Yoga for Inner Peace, Colleen Saidman Yee—acclaimed yoga teacher, former fashion model, and the wife of yogi Rodney Yee—offers 3 yogic practices a week for 12 weeks to transform your body, mind, and heart and support YOU in your personal journey toward inner peace. Here, she demonstrates a rocking sequence for fighting fear and promoting positive thinking.
Rocking Sequence for Positive Thinking
I recently got on an overcrowded Friday night express train from Penn Station in New York City to the Hamptons (where I opened the original Yoga Shanti almost two decades ago). In the wake of all of the recent shootings and atrocities — Orlando, Nice, Istanbul — not only did everyone feel like their territory was being invaded on the packed train, but there was tangible paranoia in the air. I, too, felt like this would be the perfect opportunity for a cataclysmic attack. This thought, and all the others that grew out of it, created a perfect petri dish for fear and negative thinking.
I obviously couldn’t roll out my yoga mat and find my familiar place of solace. But having practiced for so many years, I knew how to drop into a calm and relaxed space. Maybe it would affect the scowling woman across from me who refused to move her bag so someone else could sit down. It didn’t. But it did let me be less wound up, frustrated, and judgmental. Eventually, I found myself able to drum up some compassion for this person staking territory that wasn’t hers.
Gandhi said, “Non-violence cannot be preached. It has to be practiced.” He also said that the practice of non-violence (ahimsa) only counts when we’re faced with violence. So how can we practice ahimsa when we’re bombarded with hatred and viciousness? How can our yoga practice lead us to be part of the solution rather than the problem?
My husband Rodney Yee and I grapple with this constantly. I’m not going to pretend to have any answers. But I do believe that this is a crucial question that needs to be discussed. How can we find internal peace when we’re seeing, feeling, and fearing such fierce aggression?
I spoke to a psychologist friend who told me that a negative thought creates a gang of bullies in our head. That is, what seems like a single thought never is: One thought begets another thought which begets clusters of thoughts, until our entire being is filled with fear, anger, hatred, insecurity, separation, and paranoia. Think about it: You’re in yoga class and you think something as simple as, “I will never be able to do that pose.” That leads to “I suck. I’ll never look like that. Why am I even here?” So it goes, on and on, until you have created a prison made up of these negative thoughts.
The opposite happens when you think a positive thought. You think, “This pose feels good,” or, “I’m grateful for my body.” These thoughts turn you into a beautiful and receptive being.
We need to refuse to live in a prison cell built by our thoughts. This comes back to what yoga is: a training of the mind. When we train our mind not to get carried away with unproductive thoughts, we open the windows and our breath flows easily, as does compassion and connection.
Mr. Iyengar left us a mood-enhancing prescription for fighting fear and promoting positive thinking: rocking forward and back. We become paralyzed when our minds are convincing us that we are always in danger. The following rocking sequence shakes up this feeling of being stuck, and opens us up to new ways of thinking and being. Let’s rock and roll our way to knowing that we are OK—and have some fun!
8 Rocking Poses to Promote Positive Thinking
YOU WILL NEED a mat or a beach. Feel free to put a blanket on your mat for a little additional cushion and comfort.
Sit in Easy Pose, with your right shin in front. Come into a slight forward bend.
Lift your knees slightly, reach around the outside of your legs and grab your feet. Rock onto your back, and lift your hips up off the floor. Keep a hold of your feet if possible.
Rock Up to Sit
Build up some momentum and keep rocking back and forth from lying down to a cross-legged forward bend. Create a rhythm that is coordinated with your breath. Rock 5 times, then put the other shin in front and rock 5 more times. Let a smile grow with each rock.
Bound Angle Pose
Take the soles of your feet together and spread your knees wide into Bound Angle Pose. Come into a slight forward bend.
Use your arms to roll down onto your back and swing your legs over your head any amount, coming toward Knee-to-Ear Pose.
Rock from Knee-to-Ear to Bound Angle
Gain momentum and rock forward toward Bound Angle Pose with a forward bend and rock back toward Knee-to-Ear Pose. Rock forward and back 10 times. Be sure to have a little giggle as you do this.
Seated Forward Bend
Straighten both legs and fold forward into Seated Forward Bend. Do not force this forward bend. Adopt the mantra “any amount.
Using your arms, your rhythm, your breath, and momentum, roll onto your back and swing your straight legs up and over your head approaching Plow Pose. Rock forward and back 10 times. Please don’t have a serious face! End lying on your back with knees bent and eyes open, taking in the moment that is right here and now.