How to Turn A Pessimist into An Optimist Through Asana

by Tracey Rich

If I really see myself
I laugh out loud at the humor of it
If I really see myself
I fall silent in awe
If I really see myself
I burst into a thousand pieces from inspiration
And if I fail to really see myself
I am sealed in the cement and stone of my own prison

--Anonymous (shared as a Rumi poem but found no verification)

Most likely, you can't turn a pessimist into an optimist, but you can try to observe pessimistic behavior in yourself and not surrender to it wholly as your habitual outlook. Challenging times call for greater awareness. They call for support that boosts and nurtures your soul. If you think about everything as energy, then pessimism can be experienced as weighty, resistant, or even constrictive. In contrast, optimism can feel expansive and buoyant. How do we find optimism within a churning external landscape that can throw your world off-center regularly, and make you turn to pessimism on a daily basis? Observing energy could be the key.

A yoga practice teaches the art of cultivating energy. The ideal is when a practice leaves you balanced.  The alchemical dance of the physics of upward and downward moving energy are always at play in your asanas. Your breath is key in observing and responding to these natural flows or energetic rhythms.

In your practice you are learning to move with the expansive, uplifting qualities available in the inhalation. Remember, the word inspire is defined as to inhale, enliven, or animate. You are also learning to use the exhalation as a downward movement to release,  relax, get rooted, and ground, but the exhalation also allows you to create extensional, upward energy in your practice.

The balance of opposites is at play in your yoga. Upward and downward moving energy, each necessary to create a whole. You are learning how to anchor your asana through the earth's dominant energy, tuning in to the way gravity effects aspects of your poses. You are learning to balance the expansive and contractive polarities of breath, muscle engagement, the pull that gravity exerts and resisting the pull simultaneously to create extension. These aspects are all part of the subtleties of cultivating energy available in your yoga. This cultivation can teach us about the energy available in optimism too. Maybe realism rather than pessimism can be represented by the downward flow required for rooting and grounding while optimism can be experienced as an upward energy flow.

Yoga practice brings the opportunity for awareness through the yoking of body, mind (emotions), and life force (spirit). Well-being inspired by your practice can influence your outlook on life. When you see yourself, really see yourself, it can change how you see the world.