Yoga Teacher Translation: What Does It Mean to “Send Positive Thoughts To Someone” and Why You Should Try It
A friend and former yoga student of mine was in town over the break and during lunch we got to chatting about the yoga class she has been attending in her new city. One of the things she brought up was how the teacher says “annoying” things she doesn’t really get. An example she gave was how the teacher always asks the students to “send positive thoughts and energy to someone.” Having initially found all this yoga stuff weird myself, I completely understood where she was coming from. But now that I’m a yoga instructor, I know what that teacher meant. So for all of you out there who thinking “Yup! Sending positive vibes seems stupid and I’m not going to do it,” allow me to translate what that phrase really means and why yoga teachers around the world continue to give this instruction.
There is a famous quote that goes like this:
“Watch your thoughts for they become words, watch your words for they become actions, watch your actions, for they become habits, watch your habits for they become your character, watch your character for it becomes your destiny.”
This quote is attributed to various sources including Mahatma Gandhi, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Buddha, Margret Thatcher and Lao Tzu but regardless of who said it first, some version of this idea can be found in many religions and philosophies. With regards to yoga, Swami Vivekananda (a Hindu monk who was one of the first to bring yoga to the West) explained: “First the thought changes into words and then out of those words the whole universe is produced.”
This idea is still pretty abstract, so let me give you a real life example of how this might work. Take a second to think about one person in your life who kind of irritates you – the annoying co-worker, your nagging mother-in-law, your rude neighbor, etc. You already know what bothers you about this person so instead of focusing on the problem, take a few seconds to think about one redeeming quality that person might have. Maybe they are ultimately a good or nice person even if they are annoying. Or perhaps they often offer to do things for you. Or maybe that person just has a lot to deal with and part of you feels bad for them. Whatever that redeeming quality is, think about that as you picture their face. The idea is, if you focus on that positive quality rather than the negative quality every time you see them or picture them, then perhaps you are likely not to talk so harshly about that person and that ultimately you might be nicer to them (and thereby encourage others to be nicer to them through your example). So in this illustration, your thoughts can actually affect someone’s life for the better. By sending positive thoughts towards someone, we are simply conditioning ourselves to act more positively towards them. And if we can condition ourselves to find people less irritating, then it’s a win-win situation because we are less irritated! Of course, this is easiest to do for people we love, like, or feel neutrally about, and much more difficult to with people we dislike or hate. But that’s why we practice.