Conserving energy: lessons in forgiveness

A lot of people think meditation is something mysterious. Really, it’s just about getting in touch with yourself, and giving yourself a chance to relax.

Yin yoga provides a perfect opportunity to introduce a bit of meditation into the yoga practice. Yin is focused on the joints and connective tissues, as opposed to the muscular-based yang classes that most people visualize is yoga. Thus, yin conserves energy, and offers respite to practitioners. My students (especially the little 9-year old girl) were ready for relaxing into the poses and holding them for upto 5 minutes at a time.

What better way to also begin the discussion on cultivating characteristics that would help for the future? This is also a huge part of yoga–learning about the world by becoming more loving, compassionate, and forgiving towards ourselves and everyone and everything around us. I used my brand-new Conversation Cards from Fetzer Institute to introduce forgiveness to my students. Check them out, you could get one too!


Each student picked a card and some chose to read it out loud. The little girl was excited to go first, after she practiced reading a few times: “The past is over. Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past” (Fetzer credits Jack Kornfield in The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace).

While forgiveness is not technically one of the yamas or niyamas which make up the core philosophy of yoga, it is a quality found by observing the yamas and niyamas such as ahimsa (non-violence). I asked students to leave the past at the door.

This next one was a great way to begin warming up:

“I heard a wise saying once that has helped me: ‘Negative feelings are like stray cats. The more you feed them, the more they hang around.'” (Joyce Rupp in The Star in my Heart).

I reminded students not to stay in Marjaryasana (cat) with their senses heightened like an angry cat. Once they realized they were in that position, allow the heart to melt into Bitilasana (happy cow) with a big smile.

Another card we read was:

“Never forget that to forgive yourself is to release trapped energy that could be doing good work in the world.” (D Patrick Miller in A Little Book of Forgiveness).

This pose was perfect for the yin class, because yin is about conserving energy. Yin is a great place to begin such conversations on deep topics because you can guide the students into the pose, then remind them to focus their gaze inwards, take deep breaths, and meditate on the quote they just read. Or, you can show how the nature-based poses are lessons in forgiveness themselves. The following are examples:

In Child’s pose– while relaxing into this pose, feel the inner child within you. Remember the children in your life and how innocent they are. You can forgive a child for anything, just as a child can forgive and forget very quickly.

In Rock pose–a rock is steadfast and will be there forever, regardless of what you do to it. It never holds a grudge against you. Similarly, you can be the same way towards others who may have harmed you.

During ending meditation– remember the quote (my favorite) “It is never too late to go quietly to our lakes, rivers, oceans, even our small streams, and say to the sea gulls, the great blue herons, the bald eagles, the salmon, that we are sorry.” (Brenda Peterson in Singing to the Sound). Start the process of forgiveness now, today, in this present moment. Do not think about the PAST when you were not forgiving. Just do it now. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. The one who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.”

I forgive myself for not being able to teach peace overtly in this yoga class. I forgive myself for not being able to teach nature-based yoga. I forgive myself for not having a perfect questionnaire, including leaving out questions such as “What, if anything, would you change?” and “What type of yoga was your favorite and why?”

Though these would have made great research questions for my thesis, I think I as a human being gain a lot more out of forgiving myself, and forgiving others.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nicole
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 12:58:43

    Sowmya, this is a really wonderful post. Thank you.


  2. Jay
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 16:51:47

    Great article.


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