Most religious traditions place high value on apology, forgiveness, and making amends. Yoga teaching, too, speaks to the importance of dealing ethically with others. The concept of karma tells us, in part, that our actions will come back to us. Karma yoga is the practice of selflessly putting ourselves in service to others, and part of this is trying to right the wrongs we have done.
But how do we make amends if our apologies are rejected? In the sacred Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita, the god Krishna tells the yogi Arjuna that it is a mistake to focus on the results of our efforts instead of on the efforts themselves: "The man who is devoted and not attached to the fruit of his actions obtains tranquility." Put simply, the crucial point in apology is not that you're successful but that you make the effort.
Kelly McGonigal, who teaches yoga and is a research psychologist at Stanford University, offers a four-step practice rooted in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy that can take us through the process of making amends. "First," she says, "recognize that you've done something that caused suffering or harm. Second, sit with the feeling of remorse and regret. Feel it in your body, and experience the emotions. Don't push them away or wallow in them." The third step, McGonigal says, is moving into a place of compassion for yourself as well as the person you harmed. Fueled by those compassionate feelings, we can move to the final step of setting an intention toward positive action.