September 11, 2001 “We will not forget” but will we forgive?  I didn’t lose anyone close to me in that horrible day and weeks, months afterward, so maybe it is easier for me to pose that question of forgiveness. The visit to Ground Zero was one of the most intense moments that I’ve had, as I grappled with the immense feelings of loss on such a global scale.

How can I use the tenets or virtues of yoga to deal with forgiveness?  The Yamas and Niyamas shape my life on the everyday mundane but when applied to some larger life difficulties, it is not an easy thing to do.  As I present the ten virtues and a bit of background on each, can you decide which may apply to forgiveness?  Note that these virtues are very reminiscent of the world’s faiths. All have these moral or ethical codes in them.

The Yamas and Niyamas are only two limbs of the eight limb path of yoga.  Listed here are all 8 Limbs:

  1. Yamas (abstinence)
  2. Niyamas (observance)
  3. Asana (posture)
  4. Pranayama (breath control)
  5. Pratyhara (sense withdrawal)
  6. Dharana (concentration)
  7. Dhyana (meditation)
  8. Samadhi (contemplation, absorption or super conscious state)

(The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda)

Yama entails: non-violence (ahimsa), truthfulness (sataya), non-stealing (asteya), abstinence (brahmacharya), and non-greed (aparigraha).  These Yamas are without a doubt how we act in the world.

How we act with our self or own observances is the realm of Niyama. The five points are: purity (saucha), contentment (santosha), accepting but not causing pain (tapah), study of spiritual books (svadhyaya) and worship of God (ishvara pranidhanani)

Think of both of these limbs as the foundation stones to a life fully lived.

These concepts are worth the study, reflection and application in our lives.  I still do not have them down pat, especially as it applies to some of these bigger life difficulties. I highly recommend the above book as your guide to this deeper study and practice.  We are bigger than the asana, the pranayama and the meditation and when we live according to these virtues, we are closer to our true selves.

After studying the Yamas and Niyamas, what is your pick for dealing with forgiveness?  I have my own ideas which may not be yours. Go ahead give it a stab.


Mountain Breath

Begin in any comfortable seated position, imagine that as you breathe in that you are going up a mountain but in three stages. As you inhale sip in some air to fill the lower lungs, then more air to fill the mid lungs and then fully inhale to completely fill the lungs.  Visualize that you are traveling up the side of the mountain in three stages.  When you get to the top of your mountain you can either come back down the other side of the mountain or stop at the top, retaining the breath, and taking in the view, whatever that it. When you exhale, imagine yourself going down the other side of the mountain in one long smooth movement.

This is great for bringing more air and circulation into the body as well as calming down the nervous system.  Also a great way to retain the breath and really absorb the space between breaths.  Practice for as long as is comfortable for you.


Revolved Twist

Props: bolster, 2-4 blocks, 4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow

Extras: blanket for warmth
Benefits: Allows breath to come in to the rib cage and belly more freely. Detoxifying. Can reduce high blood pressure. Relieves fatigue and insomnia.  Safe for a Prenatal twist.
This can be a very prop intensive pose but once you are in it, it is worth it.  Begin with right side of body, place the bottom of your right foot against the wall with leg extended. Left leg is bent at a 90 deg. angle and propped up with two blocks and a bolster with maybe a blanket on top. at least two blankets, S-fold blankets, and/or pillows placed along spine for support, lengthwise.  Extend your left arm out to the left side and lay it on a smaller stack of blankets either s-fold or triple-fold out to your side.  Right arm extends out to the right.  This means the left arm is at a higher elevation than right. Head can remain neutral to ceiling or turn to one side.   Extra blankets can be placed in spaces that need more support.  Neck roll for cervical spine and eye pillow.
*we are digging placing the arms in Goddess pose (not pictured) so try that one out as well. Place blanket support under arms.

Nesting Pose

Props: blankets, bolster

Benefits; Nurturing, sense of security, well-supported pose to regulate the nervous system, good for when you are feeling anxious, keeps body in alignment, supportive for the spine, hips, shoulders, head.  Allows for optimal healing and sleeping position. nurturing, sense of security, optimal for sleeping
Create a big enough folded blanket to place between the knees to align the legs in Tadasana. Add a folded blanket to rest your top arm on. Recline on a side that is comfortable, resting your head on a blanket. A neck roll can go under the ankles for support.  Bolster can rest along spine for further support and grounding. Finally, cover yourself with a blanket from head to toes.  Sink down with each long exhalation.  Mantra to accompany pose “I am safe, I am supported”.