In my yoga classes this week, we’ve been working with the concept of forgiveness. The Buddha taught that holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing at someone else. The coal smolders but you're the one who is getting burned. I’ve also heard this teaching phrased as holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Anger is incredibly detrimental to our bodies and our peace of mind. I shared with my students this week how several years ago I was consumed with anger toward an ex who had broken my heart. I’d wake up every morning with a slow simmering resentment that lasted days into months. Negative energy like that permeates every aspect of our experience, making it impossible to be happy. I wallowed in that dark place for a while, refusing to let go of the hot coal.
As I struggled with this emotional smoldering, a yoga teacher suggested that I consider making forgiveness a part of my yoga practice. At first I resisted, pointing out that the ex was not sorry, and had not asked me for forgiveness. The teacher shrugged, and encouraged me to forgive him anyway. For the next several weeks, every time I was on my mat, I dedicated my practice to the man who had broken my heart, and imagined I could send all of the benefits I was cultivating with yoga directly to him, to support his happiness.
Sounds counter-intuitive? Radical? That’s yoga. And that’s the practice of unequivocal, preemptive forgiveness. When we are able to mindfully choose to completely forgive someone who has hurt us, whether we feel they deserve it or not, we move ourselves out of the role of victim instantly. The power shifts back to ourselves and we regain a sense of control over our inner landscape. As you move through the yoga postures you realize how the combination of effort and surrender that the body experiences during the physical practice corresponds to the effort and surrender it takes to forgive.
Don’t get me wrong, this was an incredible challenge and at first I did not think I could do it. But, I stuck with it through the discomfort. Eventually, my anger turned to acceptance. From acceptance, I developed an open enough heart to offer my forgiveness directly to the ex. This cleared the space for us to become friends and we now have a connection that I cherish.
Yoga has nothing to do with how our butts look in our yoga pants and everything to do with how we experience our lives and find peace of mind and lasting happiness. What you experience on the mat can lead to profound shifts in your world view and be supportive of your healing process. Let go of the anger and choose to forgive.