Nurturing Independence with Yoga: Practicing Forgiveness

Yoga Works for Practicing Forgiveness

Yoga works for practicing forgivenessBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Let’s look at how Yoga works for practicing forgiveness. One of the primary ways that many Yoga students get stymied emotionally is by carrying around the burden of not forgiving themselves for their own shortcomings and transgressions. Many of us are much harder on ourselves than we are on the people that we feel have mistreated us in some fashion. For example, it is often easier to forgive somebody for being rude or insensitive at work, than it is to forgive ourselves for being intentionally mean to a family member or friend. And yes, even though we may be adept at many of the Yoga postures, we may still find ourselves not behaving in the most uplifting fashion, shall we say!


If you are carrying around the burden of not forgiving yourself for a past transgression, releasing that energy through Yoga will help to free your heart to love again. You know that heart opening poses are one of the ways that Yoga works for practicing forgiveness. Heart opening poses are back bending Yoga postures are particularly good for releasing constriction around the Heart Chakra. Hip opening Yoga poses are also great asanas for delving deep into the emotional pain and internal recrimination that many Yoga practitioners carry around, sometimes for years. Additionally, I find that if I am stuck emotionally or am unable to release some painful emotions, I unconsciously hold my breath. So, in those instances, practicing Yogic breathing techniques, such as Skull Shining Breath and Bhastrika Pranayama, helps to dislodge and release these heavier, tamasic emotions.

Kapalabhati Pranayama is also called Skull Shining Breath. It is part of the Yogic system of cleansing, known as Shatkriya. This pranayama exercise is aptly named because it truly invigorates your entire body as it uplifts your mind. This breathing exercise can be practiced in either the beginning of a Yoga class or towards the end of a class, just prior to Corpse Pose or meditation. Kapalabhati Pranayama is a wonderfully effective breathing technique for releasing and clearing away mental strife and agitation, while it energizes your whole body.


This clarity will help to create a feeling of internal freedom and spaciousness that will, in turn, give your more of an ability to release constricting thoughts and emotions. When these denser, heavier thoughts and emotions are released, you will find that it is much easier to forgive yourself for your own shortcomings. This state of internal forgiveness and independence will allow you to open your heart and truly love yourself and others. As Ammachi, the great “hugging saint” from India said, “Forgive. It is the way to peace and love.” Well, there you have it!

* Kapalabhati Pranayama or Skull Shining Breath

When you are ready to practice Skull Shining Breath, come to a comfortable seated position on your Yoga mat. If your hips feel tight, you may wish to place a folded blanket or Yoga bolster underneath you for additional support. Before beginning your practice of Kapalabhati Pranayama, simply take a few deep breaths at your own pace. Notice if you are inhaling and exhaling fully and completely. If you are not inhaling or exhaling fully, slow down the pace of your breathing and mindfully allow the life sustaining fresh oxygen to fill your lungs. When your lungs are fully expanded, release your breath completely with a moderately-paced exhale.


To practice Kapalabhati Pranayama, take one smooth, complete inhale, pause, and then forcefully release the air out of your lungs in a set of ten small exhales, by pulling in your lower abdominal area forcefully like a pump. When you are first learning to practice Skull Shining Breath, it is helpful to place your palms on your lower abdomen so that you can feel your stomach pull in with each partial exhale. One inhale followed by a forceful exhale divided into ten parts is considered to be one round of Skull Shining Breathing. Practice this Yogic breathing technique for ten rounds.

As you become more experienced with Skull Shining Breath, you may want to increase your count to thirty rounds. If you become light headed while practicing this invigorating and cleansing pranayama, simply rest and breath normally for a few minutes, and then continue your practice of Skull Shining Breath when you are ready. When you finish your practice of Skull Shining Breath, pause for a few minutes before moving on to the next Yoga pose, in order to enjoy the vibrant mental clarity and pulsating energy coursing throughout your whole being. That’s how Yoga works for practicing forgiveness.

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division


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