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We all know what it’s like to feel knotted up in our hearts because we are holding blame and resentment toward others, shaming ourselves for past actions, or armoring ourselves against the inevitable pain of heartbreak. Humans will go to great extremes to avoid pain, but uncomfortable feelings can be fertile ground for transformation and real growth. This practice invokes the power of Tara, the Hindu goddess of compassion, to help you face the discomfort and reap the rewards. It gently opens the hips, hamstrings, and heart; in so doing, it helps us tap into the elixir of forgiveness and self-compassion that begins to flow unrestricted within as we start to dissolve the walls of hardness and separation caused by our resentment, guilt, and fear. This work can be difficult, but it is worth every bit of our effort. After all, it’s not until we can forgive ourselves and others that we are able to experience true liberation.
Indudalasana Seated, with Chin Mudra
Sit in a comfortable position, bring your hands to Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal: hands to prayer at the heart), and offer an intention for your practice to help you with forgiveness. Inhale to lengthen your spine. Exhale and lean to the left, placing your left hand to your mat, beside your left hip. Extend your right arm overhead in a graceful way with Chin Mudra (index finger and thumb connected to make the energy seal of consciousness). Inhale back to center, exhale, and repeat on the right side. Follow the rhythm of your breath as you sway side to side for several breaths. Visualize yourself as the flow of forgiveness in the tidal rhythm of Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath or Ocean Breath).
Feminine Energy Waves in Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Shakti Waves in Adho Mukha Svanasana
Step back to Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Create a clear intention to release resentment, blame, and shame. Lift your heels, bend your knees, and move like water through your entire spine, hips, and legs. Visualize Tara as the Ocean of Compassion undulating through your spine. Move the waves in the opposite direction, too. Breathe with Ujjayi. After 1–2 minutes, rest in the stillness of Down Dog while bathing in the inner flow. The wavelike movements help to release stagnant energy that blocks the flow of forgiveness.
Child’s Pose and Cobra Pose Waves
Balasana and Bhujangasana Waves
From Down Dog, shift your hips back to Child’s Pose, with your knees together. Stretch your arms gently in front of you. Inhale as you slide forward low to the ground and curl up into Cobra Pose. Anchor your shoulders back and sweep the base of your shoulder blades into the back of your heart. Exhale as you push down into the ground, round your back, and roll through your spine back to Child’s Pose. Continue in this circular way: Inhale forward with spinal extension into Cobra and exhale back with spinal flexion into Child’s Pose. Repeat several times, or for as long as you like. This vinyasa releases places of resistance in the front and back of the heart.
Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana
Begin in Down Dog. Consider any rigid places in your life and ask to live with greater generosity. Lift your right leg up behind you, squeeze to the midline, and turn the inner thigh up to the sky. Bend your right knee and open up the hip and thigh with external rotation. Imagine you are sending massive amounts of compassion from your heart out into the world as you stretch open. After 5 breaths, step your right leg forward into a Low Lunge.
Revolved Monkey Lunge Pose, prep
Parivrtta Eka Pada Rajakapotasana 2, prep
With your right foot forward in a Low Lunge, lower your left knee to the ground, curl your back toes under, and bring both hands inside the front foot. Turn your right foot out with the knee pointing toward the toes. Bend your left knee and catch your left foot with your right hand, pressing your foot into your hand. To go deeper, lower to your left forearm. Breathe deeply for 5–8 Ujjayi breaths. Step back into Down Dog. Repeat poses 4 and 5 on the second side.
Wild Thing Pose
From Down Dog, shift your weight onto your right hand, lift your hips high, step your left foot behind your right leg, lift your left heel, press down through the mound of the foot, and bring your left hand over the base of your heart. Tiger-paw your right hand into the ground (claw your hand into the earth for a steady foundation), anchor the right shoulder back, and lift your shoulder blades into the back of your heart; breathe deeply for 5–8 Ujjayi breaths. As you press your left hand into your chest, rise up from inside your heart and expand your power to love.
Goddess Pose, with Yoni Mudra
Stand with your feet wide. Turn your feet out and bend your knees over your ankles. Bring your thumbs together at the navel, and your index fingers to your pubic bone. Spread your fingers open with the palms of your hands on your low belly. This mudra represents the loving power of feminine energy for compassion, forgiveness, and creative possibility. Be soft in your belly and breathe for 5–8 Ujjayi breaths.
Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend
Stay in a wide stance and turn your feet forward. Bring your hands to your hips. Engage your leg muscles evenly, anchor your inner thighs back, and tone your low belly. Hinge your hips back and fold forward. Hold your big toes with your middle and index fingers and your thumbs. Inhale to lengthen your spine and gaze up. Exhale as you fold in, bend your elbows wide to the sides, and press your shoulder blades into your heart. Breathe deeply for several rounds of breath. Inhale and root down through your leg bones to rise up tall through your spine.
Come into a squat with your feet together, knees apart, and hands in Anjali Mudra. To modify, separate your feet wider and turn them out. Keep your knees pointing in the same direction as your toes. If your heels do not reach the ground, place a blanket under them. Rest your forehead into the thumbs of your hands, your third eye into the prayer of your heart. Ask for clarity, discernment, and forgiveness to flow through you.
Head-of-the-Knee Pose, flow
Janu Sirsasana, flow
Come to seated. Stretch your left leg forward, bring your right foot to your upper inner left thigh, and bend your right knee back, slightly wider than 90 degrees. Engage your leg muscles, spin your inner thighs to the earth, and tone your belly. Hold your left foot with your right hand (or strap), and lengthen forward to fold in. You can hold your left wrist with your right hand. Relax, taking several breaths, and listen for what is asking to be healed through forgiveness. Inhale to rise up, and tiger-paw your right hand into the earth behind your hips. Sweep your left arm gracefully overhead as you lift your hips into the sky and open through your heart. Stretch your left leg straight, ground the heel, and flex the foot. Stay grounded through your right shin as you breathe in with forgiveness for yourself, and breathe out with forgiveness for others.
Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
Come into a wide seated position with your legs 90–120 degrees apart. Engage your leg muscles and sit tall through your spine. Spiral your inner thighs to the earth and draw your low back in. If your low back is rounded, sit up on a blanket. Walk your hands out in front of you and extend forward with a long spine. Ground your heels and root your thighbones into the earth. Upon reaching all the way forward, bring your hands together into a prayer above your head. You can modify by supporting your elbows on a block or bolster with as much height as needed. With every inhale, lengthen your spine; with every exhale, soften and deepen into the pose.
From a seated position, draw your left leg up to cradle it, and bend your right leg in front of you. Spread the toes of your left foot and equally engage both sides of your left ankle to prevent the foot from sickling. Place your left knee in your left-elbow crease and your left foot in your right-elbow crease. Rest into your breath and gently rock from side to side. The hips and pelvic area often hold tension, fear, and anxiety. Be gentle with yourself as you breathe into the areas of tension. Exhale and release the tension; inhale and nourish yourself.
See also What Is the Goddess Yoga Project?
Place a block about 20 inches in front of you. Bring both heels to each side of the block and flex your feet. Manually adjust your inner thighs and create an inner spiral of the thighs toward the earth. Place your fingertips behind your hips, elongate your spine, and breathe deeply. Draw your low back in and tone your low belly. Inhale to lengthen your spine; exhale, and with a long spine, extend forward and walk out to your fingertips. Rest your forehead on the block. Breathe here for several breaths. Then place your elbows on the block, bring your hands together, and return to your forgiveness prayer.
Seated Tara, with Bhumi Sparsha Mudra
“Touching the Earth” and “Earth Witness” Mudra
Tara is the goddess of compassion, and she is typically pictured with one foot ready to spring into action. Sit with your left knee bent and your foot on the floor. Bend your right knee in a comfortable seated position and relax into your inner wisdom. Touch your right hand to your heart to call upon true forgiveness, and lightly touch the earth with your left hand. Relax in your body and stay as long as you like. Repeat on the other side.
Staff Offering Pose, with Salutation Seal
Full Danda Pranam, with Anjali Mudra
Lie on your belly and extend your arms straight alongside your ears, with hands together in prayer. Rest with your third eye, heart, belly, and entire front body down into the earth. Offer up the fruits of your practice and release attachments to any particular outcome in your life. Bring your hands to Anjali Mudra, keeping your elbows down and lifting your prayer hands up to the sky. Allow the elixir of forgiveness to flow through every part of you and give thanks to Tara, the goddess of compassion, for springing into action for all beings.
About Our Pro
Teacher and model Sianna Sherman is an internationally celebrated yoga teacher. She teaches a multifaceted approach that combines hatha yoga, vinyasa, Tantra, therapeutics, mythology, mantra, meditation, and more. Sianna’s background includes a dual degree in biology and nutrition, training as a bodyworker, apprenticeships as a wild-crafter of plant medicines, initiation as a priestess in the Celtic tradition, and many years as a storyteller. She is the founder of Rasa Yoga, Mythic Yoga Flow, and the co-founder of Urban Priestess, a modern-day mystery school for women.