• The Connection Between Handstand and Forgiveness

    When I began practicing Yoga, the absence of a left hand compounded the weakness in my left arm during asana practice and I couldn’t complete a handstand or any other arm balance exercises for that matter. That’s when it struck me – I need a tool.

    Looking retrospectively at my life’s journey over the last 46 years, I see more and more the connection between forgiveness and living the ‘beautiful life’. We all have our moments where we ‘fly off the handle’ so to speak and react impulsively, and then sometimes devolve into anger or hate. We may even allow negative emotions to fester and then we unconsciously develop a negative personality. We don’t notice it because we don’t realize how much we distract our attention with adverse situations.

    A unified spiritual field, if we could call it that, reflects our inner being. Why is this so? If one follows the progressive scientific realizations of quantum mechanics, it shows up more and more that space and time don’t apparently exist. This leads to the realization that everything happens simultaneously and not spatially separated, which in turn only allows the conclusion that we are all connected and can’t actually live as entirely separate entities in a ‘vacuum’.

    Almost simultaneously, on the path I began with Ashtanga Yoga in 2013, I started to intensively study the teachings of Jesus, who channeled his wisdom in a masterpiece called A Course In Miracles. This book was published the year I was born, and I take this to be a wonderful synchronicity.

    Many miracles, which I actually wondered about without understanding them at first, happened. As I continued to study the wisdom of Yoga, which can be beautifully harmonized with the teachings of Jesus, as Paramahamsa Yogananda impressively demonstrates, I realized more and more why the situations, circumstances, events, and people that crossed my path were analogous to my own emotions, beliefs, and self-image in the context of existence.

    Nothing happens by chance. We often just can’t make the connection and don’t recognize the connection or the lesson. And the central lesson of life is actually quite straightforward: recognize yourself. Realize that you are a reciprocal image of God and that He does not dwell outside of you. When we cultivate anger, bitterness or discontent, the universe shows us as a 3D canvas of what we have become mentally and how far we have moved away from the awareness of what we actually are. At the moment of forgiveness, we give up judging and open ourselves to the truth. Judging is the basis for suffering of any form.

    Suffering arises from the mental separation from God. Yoga is one of the ways to remove this misinterpretation of oneself, but it is not the only one. Everyone has their own approach to this subject. For me, as a pragmatist, reduction to the essentials and a close observation of effects that must be reproducible is the guide through the labyrinth.

    Also, even more important than the monotonous parroting of mantras, whose content I may not even understand, or the pure practice of asana, is the internalization of the pure and simple truth through extended walks in the forest in which I reflect intensely and re-evaluate the things that have happened in the hours, days or even years past through the filter of the great insights espoused by great masters in harmony with my own spiritual insights and views. Through this approach, I have successively established a completely new self-image and understanding of my role in the context of the wider world over the last few years.

    What was amazing to me was the analogous change of my body. At the same time that I developed my new insights, inflammations, colds, herpes, and also disharmonious people disappeared from my life. In moments of emotional relapses into negative areas, they appeared again. More and more I controlled the impact of these outside influences on myself, as an active observer. More and more gifts came into my life and nurtured me.

    One event that I believe best sums up the consequences of ignoring the truth as a co-creator in God, was when I ignored my intuition, which is a divine guide to me and all people, and had a terrifying accident that cost me my left hand. Everything was suddenly different. However, today I forgive myself. I do not regret anything, because I continue to learn and marvel. We all have the ability to do the same; it’s in our hands.

    Let’s talk about Karma. The law of ‘you reap what you sow’. Divine punishment is a myth believed by the fearful. The God-fearing who do not know that they themselves are God. Forgiveness and karma are closely connected. Through forgiveness and the realignment of thoughts and feelings, all karmic entanglements can be resolved. Because only the belief in a karmic “punishment” allows such a punishment. For the principle of fear has taken hold and this is the opposite of the Greek term agape – unconditional love.

    ‘According to your faith be it done unto you’, is a statement from the Bible. We have the power within ourselves. If we believe in a punishing God, a punishing environment will envelop us. No asana, pranayama, or mantra chanting will alleviate this negativity. Belief, emotion, one’s paradigm, and self-image can either punish or reward.

    Too many people seek salvation on the mat or by performing Pranayama. They feel comfortable and secure in a class. Inside, however, conflicting thoughts distract and their path remains sorrowful. Forgiveness and self-image adjustment – result of the true Yoga path are the tools that lead to final realization and eventually redemption.

    Powerful guides help us. Synchronicities, miracles, and things literally laid at our feet are clues that show us where we stand. This is how I was guided in November 2019 when having a conversation with a dear friend with whom there was a temporary disharmony. I decided to forgive the matter and just see things relaxed without resentment and acknowledge him as part of myself. In your own environment, you must live the word, not just read it. There are too many theorists who never implement because of this-or-that legitimizes their anger.

    A Course In Miracles asks the question: ‘Do you prefer that you be right or happy?’ This is an incredibly simple yet profound question. Personally, I chose happiness. Not only in difficult situations but also in general.

    God wants to rejoice in each of us. He helps us to make this possible and only we can retain the ignorance that blocks the flow of happiness through our lives. I for one have experienced the strange serendipity of Karma as well; a small idea, followed by an act of forgiveness that ultimately led to life-changing ‘vision’.

    When I began practicing Yoga, the absence of a left hand compounded the weakness in my left arm during asana practice and I couldn’t complete a handstand or any other arm balance exercises for that matter. That’s when it struck me – I need a tool. And so I had an idea for a new yoga block. I had this idea for several weeks before I talked to my friend. A yoga block that supported my left forearm so that I could lean against it. I designed and built the block and could finally achieve poses that weren’t accessible to me for years. Soon after, my friend and I had an argument. I chose to let it go and forgive for the sake of our friendship. Not long after that, I had a ‘vision’.

    I now believe that this vision was in fact divine ‘karmic’ intervention as it led to the development of something I called ProHandstand. The device proved essential to practicing handstands or other exercises. I truly believe that an act of forgiveness between true friends led to a karmic reward that evolved into the development of a groundbreaking invention which I am presenting to the world this year. Just as my yoga block helped me to master the most challenging forms of asanas, so too does this invention now help every yogi do the same.

    I have actually managed, as a yogi with one hand, to achieve what I never thought possible: The handstand. Receiving and giving are the same as we are all the one son of God and not separate beings. This invention is my gift to all yogis. Namasté

    By Heddies Andresen

    Heddies is a natural creative. He was 22 years old when he made his first invention and he loves to expresses himself through design. Heddies is a human movement specialist and contracts to private clients for custom body movement plans that improve both Asana routines and everyday life movement patterns. Heddies found Ashtanga Yoga in 2013 and has practised on a daily basis since. Yoga not only improved his flexibility and balance, but also taught him techniques that allowed him to centre his thoughts and effectively manage the stresses of daily life. Since early childhood Heddies has maintained an inquisitive attitude that allows him to explore life with an open mind. To this end, he is a keen student of Ashtanga Yoga and A Course In Miracles. Heddies founded a healing circle in 2018 following the principles of healing he has been studying over the years. By nurturing his boundless curiosity Heddies gained a deep understanding of how to convey helpful insights to those in need of spiritual guidance. Follow Heddies on Instagram @heddiesyoga and see his handstand-invention on his website, Prohandstand.com.

  • Resentment, Healing and the Yoga of Action

    Each of us has a unique set of programming, samskaras collected over a long time that guide us towards certain behaviors. Your story particulars may be different from mine, but the model of raga and dvesha discussed by Patanjali holds true. He describes these as attachment and aversion, built respectively on pleasure (sukha) and suffering (dukha).

    Resentments are a terrible poison, easy to form and hard to let go of. Often our addict egos are easily injured, making us prone to recycling feelings of anger and blame over and over again. It’s a bitterness that breaks down our relationships and holds the power to destroy us from the inside–unless we take purposeful action.

    Some amount of addiction response is common in most human beings. Some get over-attached to everything from exercise to caffeine, and sometimes even caffeine to get through our exercise. Others battle with far more serious dependency issues.

    It can be a lifelong process of ups and downs to liberate oneself from these addictions. In recovery, we use an analogy, “…if you sober up a horse thief, what do you get? A sober horse thief.” What we are, the set of core beliefs and behaviors that define us, hold tight to us, as if magnetized.

    While some respond to the pain of being stuck in that destructive cycle with self-medication, others live a life wrapped up in anger and self-pity. One can end up drunk on these destructive feelings as well. Substance abuse is just one possible symptom of a deeper imbalance.

    Ancient yogis called the impressions left by repetitive actions Samskaras. Sometimes these impressions stem from innocuous behaviors. If you follow the same path to work each day, you may eventually find yourself driving there on autopilot, lost in thought on matters other than the road in front of you.

    Similarly, unhealthy behavior patterns and unresolved trauma can make us act unconsciously or leave us with a feeling of being unable to make a different choice though we know something is wrong. Our thoughts and actions create grooves in the fabric of our reality, and oftentimes feelings of being wronged or that we are owed something can be among the most compelling to return to. Until we find the wherewithal to change course, some of us are always looking for the next horse to steal.

    I found myself relapsing into pathological resentment many years into my sobriety. While living in Guatemala I had the privilege of working with a wonderful therapist who listened to me as I cautiously opened up on the workings of my mind.

    One week I described to her the conflict between my sister and I. I told her how we often butted heads and how she had recently placed unrealistic demands on me to come back to the states for a visit. Later I spoke of my relationship with my husband and some challenges we faced. At the time I felt he didn’t see my sincere attempts to connect with him and his desire for more effort on my part felt to me like an off-putting neediness. He sought more intimacy and somehow I twisted that into an attack on what I was already offering.

    A couple of sessions later she offered to connect some dots she had seen as I told my stories. In different words, she described how the samskaras of my childhood left me with out-of-balance ideas about opportunity and expectation. Simple requests often feel like demands to me and the demands lead to feelings of being stressed and stuck in a cycle of blind blame. Having a mother who didn’t seem to need me left me habitually uncomfortable with being needed, and in some cases even left me resentful, confused, and doubtful about love.

    Each of us has a unique set of programming, samskaras collected over a long time that guide us towards certain behaviors. Your story particulars may be different from mine, but the model of raga and dvesha discussed by Patanjali holds true. He describes these as attachment and aversion, built respectively on pleasure (sukha) and suffering (dukha).

    While not all samskaras have to do with resentment, many of these patterns do bring us what feels like comfort and a sense of relief, so naturally, we become defensive and resentful when they are challenged.

    Early in my sobriety, I had a patient sponsor, a mentor who taught me to take a moment before bed and review the day’s events. If I had caught any resentments, she taught, it’d be best to make amends and find forgiveness right away. This is in some ways a very yogic ideal of trying to skillfully control the mind, moving away from operating unconsciously and towards presence and intentionality.

    Taking this daily inventory of resentments is challenging because the party that injured you may not always be as willing to let go, but a thorough investigation of the situation often reveals that they may not have awareness of the harm they are causing. It can be empowering to see the limited perspective of others. We addicts must accept that often the behavior of others, even when it causes us pain, is the other doing the very best they can.

    Very few people want to cause pain, but quite a few lack the self-awareness to know when it’s just this that is happening. This source of our resentment, rooted in the dukha of others, is very often the greatest opportunity to practice compassion and love.

    A key to sobriety is looking for your role in each situation, taking responsibility for your part and opening up to forgiveness of others. This is a formula that works for most everyone:

    1. Put it on paper, write out what you’re feeling. Get it out of your head and see the shape of your resentment in writing. Inquire: Does it look different now, is it as bad as it seemed? Vidya is the yogic term for seeing clearly and this technique may grant you some insight.

    2. Ask yourself what your role is. Inquire: Did I do anything to make this worse? Rarely do we find that we have not contributed to the difficulty in any way. Getting honest about your part will help bridge the divide.

    3. Let go. There is a satisfaction inherent in resentment. Even one who has never had a drink can get addicted to the feeling. Seek help from your higher power or spiritual counsel in letting go of the fear that draws you into holding tight to your resentment.

    4. Pray for the person you resent, or meditate. Offer them loving kindness, open up to their suffering. If you can really feel how they hurt too, then forgiveness will be more accessible. Do this daily and you can retrain the tendency to hold a grudge.

    5. Making amends is like an apology on steroids. Find tapas, the white-hot effort required to burn up samskaras of addictive behavior, by facing the person. Have no expectation for an apology in return, only a willingness to show how you are changing your own behavior.

    Transforming samskaras into tools for insight is possible. The sutras say that future suffering is to be avoided and the digging deep into the roots of our resentment can help.

    These right efforts towards compassion and forgiveness can play a valuable role in your yoga journey. The eightfold path which Patanjali lays out assumes a certain amount of emotional stability in the practitioner. The first Yoga Sutra even says ‘Now yoga begins’ and it is a purposeful arrangement of words.

    That ‘now’ is full of meaning. It’s full of stolen horses, needy boyfriends and hearts broken by our mothers. It’s full of a raw sincerity that allows you to open up to your own sensitivity, your longing and fear and to take responsibility. It’s full of all those pivotal actions that will redefine your place in the world.

    From the Big Book of AA:

    “AA has taught me that I will have peace of mind in exact proportion to the peace of mind I bring into the lives of other people.”

    By Joseph Armstrong


    Joseph Armstrong teaches yoga rooted firmly in tradition but with an eye to the future. His search for a more present and peaceful life first led him to the practice in 2008. A few years later he was in India studying intensively. After finally overcoming a long struggle with addiction, Joseph began experimenting with Ashtanga Yoga. He understood quickly that the lineage was calling to him to deepen his practice. He underwent a 2 year apprenticeship program at the world renowned Miami Life Center, continuing his education under his dear teachers Tim Fieldmann and Kino MacGregor. More recently he has completed 2 months of study in Mysore under Sharath Jois. Joseph teaches yoga because attempts to do any and everything else ended disastrously. But when he finally devoted himself to his passion, he became an asset to himself and others. He hopes his practice allows him to be ever more loving and to exist gently.

    Photo by Fabian Burghardt on Unsplash

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