Ask the AYP,  Teaching Ashtanga,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Yoga and the Path of Forgiveness

Why do people love Ashtanga? It works. It heals. It has changed their lives. In the science of Yoga, firsthand experience is seen as the highest proof. 99% practice, 1% theory. Every day people are having the firsthand experience of how this practice is a catalyst for positive change in the world.

This practice can work without our commentary.  It can work without being announced on social media. It works in the wee hours of the morning when people silently come together in Shalas. It works in home practice rooms where lone practitioners practice to the sound of their loved ones moving around them.

Yoga gives its gifts to anyone, who with an open heart and mind, steps upon the path.

Yoga is always forgiving. Yoga understands that, on this path, we will stumble. Her children will lose their way. Her love is truly unconditional.

People love to throw the words “unconditional love” around, but most don’t mean it. Most have a condition, they feel is so heinous, that love is no longer on the table. For most of us, love is conditional.  That is not Mother Yoga’s love. It is truly unconditional.  Mother Yoga’s arms stay open to all her children, no matter what. The Yoga Sutras dedicates many verses to falling off the path, what to look for and how to get back on it. We can always get back on it.

It does not say,” everyone can get back on except those people who do these really horrible things.” Nope. This is what I love about Yoga. It is the most forgiving thing I know.  When I went to church, I was taught, there was one sin that even God would not forgive. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Mathew 12: 31-32 ” And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come.”

Not with Yoga. It is a path that guarantees success. Maybe not in this lifetime, but perfection in Yoga is the end result for everyone. There are no unforgivable moments. Not for you. Not for anyone.

I had this thought this morning. Many people believe in an afterlife that is full of bliss. How can that be? Because you best believe there are going to be some people in heaven that you were unwilling to forgive but God has.  What if you already are in heaven, on this Earth right now, and you don’t even know it because you are surrounded by people you are unwilling to forgive?  You don’t know it because your mind is riddled with stories that you are unwilling to heal from.  You don’t know you are already in heaven because you are unwilling to forgive yourself. Why would heaven be different? Maybe God would wipe your heart clean. If he can do it there, he can do it here.

If God or Yoga is not willing to forgive others, there is no hope for you. Because I am sure you have your moments that you need to be forgiven for. Suffering is the gift life gives to those unwilling to forgive.  I have never met someone who said, “I will not forgive them,” while smiling, laughing and having a good time.  It is always followed by some heavy unhappy emotion and a heavy heart.  However, I have met many people who have said, “I forgive you. I forgive myself” with a heart as light as air and a smile from ear to ear.  Yoga is the opposite of suffering.

Without question, Mother Yoga is still there without any grudge or judgement. Everything that originally changed our lives, is still there. Her promise of a mind that is free from negative self-defeating thought, is there. Her promise of a life that is free and full of grace, is there. What originally got you on your mat is still there. Go get it.

The only thing that will block you is an inability to be open to her. An inability to be honest with her. An inability to forgive. An inability to let go of judgement. Giving in to fear. Giving in to doubt. An unwillingness to try.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail