Yoga Hero: All of Yoga Podcast – Episode 10


This podcast episode is all about a huge thing that can be a drain on joy: FORGIVENESS

We start by looking at what forgiveness is. (It seems obvious, but let’s unpick it anyway.) Then we’ll look at some ideas and concepts from yoga philosophy that can help understand how to forgive. The road to forgiving someone can be long and bumpy, but it’s not never ending. So let’s start down that road…

Forgiveness Meditation

Forgiveness is such a drain on joy. Learning to forgive, and putting that in to practice is absolutely huge. It might take you one or two meditations, or it might take years. Be patient, and know that you are really, really taking care of your future self. 

Here’s a guided meditation to help process and practice forgiveness. Get comfy (standing, walking, seating, lying down) and let’s go.

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Forgiveness – Transcript

This podcast episode is all about a huge thing that can be a drain on joy: FORGIVENESS.

Before we do anything at all, before we even start to explore forgiveness, just take a moment to ask yourself – what does forgiveness mean to me? Ask yourself, is there someone I need to forgive (just a side note here, that that might be you. You might need to forgive yourself.)


In this episode, we’ll start by looking at what forgiveness is. It seems obvious, but let’s unpick it anyway. Then we’ll look at some ideas and concepts from yoga philosophy that can help understand how to forgive. The road to forgiving someone can be long and bumpy, but it’s not never ending. So let’s start down that road.

So, what is forgiveness? What is forgiveness? How would you explain it to someone? How would you explain it to a child?

Let’s start with what forgiveness is NOT: It’s NOT condoning the actions. It’s not accepting the actions.  It’s not saying that what happened is right. Or that you’re ok with what happened. Forgiveness is very personal, it’s actually only about YOU, and that’s something I really want to stress; that forgiveness is about YOU. It’s not about the person or people who wronged you, it’s about you. And forgiveness is not acceptance, it’s freedom.

What happened, happened. That’s fact, and – possibly unfortunately – it can’t be changed. What can be changed, affected, influenced, is the future, your future. A future with less pain.

There’s a well-known exchange between two soldiers; soldier 1 – have you ever forgiven your captors, soldier 2 – me, no never! 1 – well they still have you captured then don’t they. Between this and many other thoughts that came up as I was preparing to teach a philosophy session on the topic of forgiveness, I found myself writing the words ‘a prison of pain’ – and it hit me – that really is what pre-forgiveness, is – a prison of pain.

Forgiveness is not acceptance of the act. Forgiveness is freedom. It’s ONLY about YOU.

Here’s a bit of background about why this topic is so important to me. On an intensive training I was on a while back, something kept coming up for me, that had happened with some friends, probably about four or five years beforehand, something I hadn’t thought about in a long time, and if i’m honest, I thought i’d dealt with. But because it kept popping up; while I was practicing, while we were meditating, then in random chats with my friends, I realised – ah this is troubling me and it’s probably something I need to sort out.

That very day I had that realisation, the philosophy teacher, Rishi Sudhir, asked if there was any suggestions for the topic to cover in that evening’s satsang – a yoga discussion – if you will. I didn’t hesitate, I asked if we could cover forgiveness. So, that evening, about 50 of us sat together, and Rishi Sudhir said – Holly you suggested forgiveness, would you be able to explain to the group why. So I launched in to me ‘well she said this then this happened and you’ll never guess what’. There was audible gasps, people couldn’t believe how I’d been wronged and it was so unfair… and then they started to give advice in that very human way that we do ‘Holly this happened years ago, you really need to let it go. Holly, it’s toxic holding on to something like this, just put it behind you, move on!’ Then, eventually, everyone stopped talking and turned back to Rishi Sudhir, who was smiling. Actually he always smiled, but his smile was even slightly bigger than normal. and he just said: ‘How does she let it go?’ No one knew. No one said a single thing. We were all stumped!

The reason that I think it’s important to give this background – not because I just want to talk about myself – but because in that room of about 50 people, everyone had issues with forgiveness. Everyone.  Not one person knew how to forgive! Well apart Rishi Sudhir. That hit me quite hard to be honest, and it’s something I’ve thought about A LOT since; how many people are overly guarded because of being hurt in the past. How many people hold resentment, sadness and frustration that they could, in theory, let go of? How much of our lives is affected by hurt caused by someone else?

From experience I’d say that everyone, or at least most people, have a situation that they haven’t fully dealt with. Something that rears its ugly head. I’d also say most people fully understand what forgiveness is in principle – but how do you go about it? And why bother forgiving someone?

There’s two important things that need to be understood at this point:

  1. Reliving an experience causes stress

To give a very brief overview – if a lion were to walk in to the room that you’re in right now, you would want / need your body to help you survive, which is what happens. The priorities in your body shift to focus on your immediate survival; blood is rerouted to muscles to help you fight, or run away. Your plans in the immediate future take priority to help you plan your exit or your next move, you breathe quicker and the heart rate increases to get the oxygen in to your blood stream and in to muscles, and cortisol – the stress hormone, and adrenalin is released to keep you awake and focused. So if a lion were to walk in to the room you’re in right now, this is perfect! And will give you the best chance of survival.

But the thing is – and this has been mentioned in a recent podcast episode – we have the brains of our paelolithic ancestors – but obviously environment has changed a lot.

What this all means is that our brains don’t know the difference between an actual lion walking in to the room, the thought of a lion walking in to the room, or a memory of a situation that caused you pain… in all of these physical and imagined or remembered circumstances, the body reacts int he same way.

So if someone wrongs you, that’s the same as a lion approaching you! It’s a threat to our wellbeing, our survival, our happiness, so the nervous system deals with it in the same way.

Because all the oxygen, blood and calories are sent to our muscles to fight, or flight off, there’s none sent to things like long-term decision making or considering the consequences of our actions, compassion, long term memory, because of this, we’re not in the right frame of mind to be able to make decisions, and of course, there’s an impact on our physical health too.

The second thing I’d like to explain, which seems so relevant to forgiveness, is the concept of Samskaras.

  1. Samskaras

If you were to pour a jug of water on to pile of sand, the water would flow down the pile of sand and strart to create rivets, which get deeper and deeper with the water that follows. This isn’t dissimilar to how we form habits and pre-conceptions, have you ever heard the phrase ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’?

if you find yourself reacting in the same way, or a similar way, to situations, this could be because of the samskara which is getting used more and more and therefore getting deeper and deeper, and therefore getting used even more!

However, we know that we can ‘rewire’ think patterns and habits, with conscious effort; we have to do the work, and the first bit of the work is to be aware… to ask yourself:

‘What are my patterns, what are my habits? What are my preconceptions? How do i react, and why?’

Maybe there’s something you can think of at this moment, where someone did something or said something, and you reacted, and your reaction was disproportionate to the situation that preceded the reaction, maybe you feel a bit silly now or embarrassed. This is exactly what we’re talking about. Is there something that people can mention that really gets a reaction from you? Maybe something about your appearance, your job, your parenting style; where you become vulnerable and defensive at all once?

What I’m trying to say, is that the situation that is preceding the forgiveness – and of course if it’s preceding forgiveness, there’s some emotion in there – maybe, maybe some of the emotion that’s wrapped up in this situation is actually tied to, or comes from, a different, previous, similar situation…

Now that we understand a little about what yoga has to say about forgiveness, let’s keep looking at forgiveness as a behaviour, an action, a decision.

Remember, it’s not acceptance. It’s not saying that what the other person did is right. Let’s use a random example of a group of buddies not inviting you to a night out. Nobody is saying that that’s right, or moral, or fair, but – is there a lesson for you. Maybe you could ask yourself ‘why do I feel the need to be so involved in every social gathering?’

Maybe it gives you reason to keep your distance from one or two people in the group who just aren’t for you. Maybe there’s completely different learnings there. It’s not all sweetness and light and ‘oh, no, darling, don’t worry. It’s absolutely fine, i’m not bothered at all!’ It’s not pushing feelings down, which is actually putting them in a pressure cooker isn’t it. It’s only a matter of time before they explode. When they explode, they’ve gathered so much momentum by then, that the explosion is disproportionate usually to what happened, right? And then that’s when you start regretting it or you’re embarrassed. Remember the samskaras, if we can be open and honest about our own and work on them, the explosion may not happen, or if it does, it might not be so disproportionate.

There’s something to clarify here, which is by saying that there’s potentially learnings from this situation – that’s not saying that it was your fault. That’s a common misconception. In fact fault – blame – is one of the things that makes forgiveness so hard. The other person is at fault, and they should pay! Well, yeah, maybe. But remember, we’re talking about you. about how if you can put down resentment, sadness, fear, anger and move forwards without those heavy emotions, that affects your life. And to an extent we just have to hope that the other person or people do their own work on self-improvement and learning lessons! So, just to make that point super clear; by going inwards and seeing what you can learn from a situation is not implying that it was your fault.

So yeah, we’re not we’re condoning actions. We’re not saying that we’re accepting actions. What we’re saying is that you – and only you – have an option to decrease the pain that you’re experiencing that’s related to a certain situation? And you, and only you, have an opportunity to look inwards and learn accordingly.

That it’s only in our control, even if the other person comes crawling over on their hands and knees. Begging begging begging for forgiveness. say they’ll never do it again. There’s so so sorry, they never meant to hurt you. They can’t turn back the clock. It happened, you know. So forgiveness is ridding you of the need to carry the hurt around for the rest of your life. It’s much harder if the person isn’t apologetic, granted. But either way, forgiveness sits with us.

We have a simple lead meditation to help you bring forgiveness in to your life, which is completely free, and its linked to from the show notes. This can be done as often as you need, whenever you need. It might from someone nicking your bag of crisps out of your drawer at work, through to someone who completely affected every area of your life. So don’t hang about. Forgiveness is freedom, let’s start today.

So, lovely yogis, I hope that’s been useful and not too hard going. Go dive in to our short, free meditation and we’re here if you have any questions or need any help.

Go and have a fabulous day, remember, you’re your own hero.

See you next time!

All of Yoga Episode List

Episode 1 – Yoga Nidra for Deep Sleep

Episode 2 – Ujjayi breath – the what, the why and the how

Episode 3 – What is Yoga?

Episode 4 – The thing about thoughts

Episode 5 – Self love – the what, why and how

Episode 6 – Yoga teacher training – the what, why and how

Episode 7 – Micro rest, midi rest and maxi rest

Episode 8 – Ways to deepen and advance your yoga practice

Episode 9 – Styles of Yoga – Ashtanga

Episode 10 – Forgiveness

Episode 11 – Styles of Yoga – Yin

Episode 12 – The four types of people and the four ways to treat them

Episode 13 – Align your intentions and actions

Episode 14 – How to prepare for your first yoga class

Episode 15 – Tips for developing a regular yoga practice

Episode 16 –  Start Yoga in September

Episode 17: Styles of yoga – Restorative Yoga

Episode 18: Beautiful guided Savasana

Episode 19: Control the controllables

Episode 20: How to stop overthinking, according to yoga

Episode 21: Morning Yoga Nidra for a great day!