In this excerpt from the newly released edition of The Art of Attention, Elena Brower and her coauthor Erica Jagoembody MC Yogi‘s wise words on the practice of forgiveness in a tender asana sequence.
Forgiveness doesn’t always happen right away, but the process can begin immediately. Actively engaging in the forgiveness process begins our journey toward deeper understanding, and the remembrance that everything happens for a reason. When we’re able to extract wisdom from our past dramas and traumas, we’re able to gain direct knowledge. Looking back, we can become grateful for the things that happened to us in the past, for helping us to grow and become more aware.
The art of attention and the cultivation of compassion can often take a great deal of work, but it’s important to remember that this work is extremely rewarding. When we forgive, we feel ten times lighter. We’re able to think and see more clearly, and we can gain greater access to the storehouse of energy that’s inside us (and all around us). Energy that was once being consumed by the past can now become an open resource (re-Source) for living more fully in the present.
When we forgive ourselves and others, the entire orchestrated universe conspires to help support our healing process. The forgiveness process can also be very humbling; we know that there’s most likely someone out there who needs to forgive us as well.
When we start to gather wisdom from our experiences, the yogis suggest that this process is similar to a bee that gathers pollen to make nectar. The bee is said to take a little poison along with the pollen, and when it’s brought to the hive, it’s carefully transformed into nectar. Learning to turn a negative situation into pure wisdom is an indication that we are progressing in our yoga and meditation practices. As we become more skillful agents of love and compassion, the heavy load that we’ve lugged around in the back of our mind begins to soften and gradually dissolves. When we’re able to reach the place of gratitude in our forgiveness process, we’ll know we’ve made it through to the other side.
Watch Elena Brower’s Introduction to the Sequence
13 Yoga Poses for Forgiveness
Close your eyes, rest your hands on your thighs, and bring your chin to your chest. This is a sequence of flowing, delicious, increasing speed. We are practicing how to increase speed while decreasing tension in the body. There are definitive turning points in our days, in our poses, in our thoughts, when we can choose to turn the tension level down, even amidst an increase in velocity.
Practice this: Feel sharp, more awake, more porous, more lit up; be spacious enough to stay forgiving, no matter the context.
Begin at the top of your mat. Inhale, reach your arms overhead, palms facing forward.
Close your eyes and feel where there is tension in your body.
Soften your toes; breathe into the back of your belly.
See also Learn How to Forgive Yourself
Sun Salutation A
Surya Namaskara A
Become more sensitive to your own breathing. Send your breath to the spaces in your body that need your attention the most; this will have the effect of slowing down time. Our aim is to slow ourselves down enough to truly listen to what is going on—to the people around us, and to ourselves at the deepest level.
Learn Surya Namaskar A
Soften your eyeballs, the sockets of your eyes, and the spaces behind your eyes. Soften your thighbones down into your groins; soften the back of your belly and lift it gently up toward your lungs. Spread your collarbones wide to the sides.
Warrior II Pose
Practice reverence here. Even as you expand through every limb in every direction, close your eyes, soften your skin, and let there be reverence. Reverence is a form of respectful listening, a sensitivity to all that is. Your listening is what stops contractions of any kind in your body, in any way—cellularly, muscularly, in your nervous system—allowing you to stay in the flow of the present moment.
Your legs are, at all times, sturdy, steady, concentrated, and earthy. The rest of your body is open, sweet, soft, listening, and reverent.
Bend your front knee more deeply by bringing the middle of your front seat all the way beneath you. On your front leg, lift the inner thigh up and around to your outer thigh. Bend your front knee a little more deeply. Feel for any place in your body where there is tension. Soften; keep your legs strong.
Extended Side Angle Pose
Place your fingertips on the little-toe side of your front foot. Press your front knee into your upper arm; this stabilizing point of contact helps you wrap your front seat underneath you more deeply.
Cultivate pure strength and stability in the lower half of your body. Practice complete listening, space, and patience in the upper half.
When you’re ready, jump to switch your feet.
Hug your feet in energetically toward one another. As though drawing a line upward, lift up from your inner heels to your inner groins, and move your inner, uppermost groins back and wide. Lengthen your tailbone down. Curl your upper body softly and respectfully back. Lift your lower belly away from the floor and receive your breathing for a few breaths.
Then bend your front knee deeply and jump to switch the feet. See the beauty in this transition.
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Long trajectory forward; stay strong through your legs and get softer in your upper body.
We can change the way we see everybody in our lives and the way they see us.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Strong legs; send your upper inner and outer thighs back. Notice how this increases your sensitivity keeping you soft.
See also A Meditation on Giving and Nurturing
High Lunge Twist with Hands to Heart
Parivritta Anjaneyasana with Anjali Mudra
From Downward-Facing Dog, step one foot forward and come up to High Lunge. Inhale arms up, exhale hands to prayer. Take a deep breath to make space inside and twist to your front-leg side, opposite elbow outside your front knee. Hug your back foot and front foot together; lift your back leg’s inner thigh. Get softer in your upper body so you can receive another full breath in your top lung, then twist from your bottom lung as you expand from your hips out through your feet, decreasing tension. Notice the pace and the ease in your body for two more breaths.
Release hands to floor, move into Downward-Facing Dog, and do your second side.
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High Lunge Twist
From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot outside your right hand and raise your right arm high to the sky. Keeping your legs strong, fill both lungs; stay soft interiorly. Lift your top lung to twist your bottom lung forward and up for five breaths, expanding from your hips out through your feet, with no tension in your body.
Return to Downward-Facing Dog; switch to step your left foot forward, left arm high.
Keep your lungs open and receptive in Downward-Facing Dog. Walk your feet forward to place your knees onto your upper arms, then walk your feet together behind you on the floor until your big toes touch. Breathe into the backs of your lungs and squeeze your knees into your upper arms; exhale your heart and gaze forward. Inhale again, hug your knees in, lift your feet as you round your back slightly. Exhale to lift your feet and seat higher, send your gaze and heart forward, take two more spacious breaths.
Keep this empty sweet void between your thoughts. Keep your organs and your upper body open and listening.
Return to Downward-Facing Dog.
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From Downward-Facing Dog, place one foot between your hands. Notice the anticipation, the speed in your mind. Slow everything down in your brain; put a space between this thought and the next. As you hug your feet toward each other, do so patiently; contract and release—feet in, feet out to lengthen your legs—but notice the patience possible in that process. Widen your back seat out, wrap your front seat beneath you—lift that side from lower belly to lung—and exhale from your hips to lengthen your legs longer. Feel patience in your entire body.
Return to Downward-Facing Dog; switch sides.
See also Elena Brower’s Inner-Power Practice
Adapted from Art of Attention: A Yoga Practice Workbook for Movement as Meditation by Elena Brower and Erica Jago. Copyright © 2016 by Elena Brower and Erica Jago. To be published in February 2016 by Sounds True.
Elena Brower is the author of Art of Attention, a renowned yoga workbook, now translated into five languages. Studying and teaching since 1998, she’s respected globally for her distinct blend of alignment and attention in her teaching of yoga and meditation. Her audio meditation coursework, Cultivating Spiritual Intelligence, is beloved for its accessibility and relevance, and her yoga teaching is influenced by several traditions including Katonah Yoga, Kundalini and ParaYoga. Elena is also the founder of Teach.yoga, a global website for teachers, and her second book, Practice You, will be published in 2018 by Sounds True. Practices with Elena can be found on YogaGlo.com.