“Let’s say it together. I’m going to choose to forgive myself"
I had the privilege of observing a Yoga 4 Change class offered at the Community Transition Center (CTC). The class was comprised of men. Some had clearly done yoga before and some appeared to have had little or no experience with the practice. They came into the room and chose a mat, which were laid out in a large circle around the instructor.
I knew the instructor. I have known her since she was a child. I knew she had military experience, having served in the US Navy as a helicopter pilot. Her bearing and demeanor was confident and forthright. She was dressed in pants and a loose fitting T shirt, her long hair pulled into a casual ponytail. She is a very attractive woman but intentionally dressed to downplay this fact.
From the first moment, the instructor had command of the class. She was in tune with the emotional energy participants brought into the room and was skilled at managing it. She could tell that the men needed to know they could learn from her and she commanded their respect. At one point she put them through a rigorous routine of deep squats accompanied by deep exhalations. They were visibly exhausted and also invigorated by the exercise. I could see they were impressed by her strength and stamina as well.
Throughout the hour of yoga I intently listened to the instructor’s words. Over and over, she used the word “choice”. For example, “Maybe you are thinking it’s too difficult to stand on one foot. Make a different choice. Choose to stand, fully grounded, on both feet” or “You can choose to persevere right now or you can choose to sit on your mat and rest. The choice is yours. Whatever choice you make will be right for you.”
At the end of the hour, the participants sat on their mats and completed a short form. Then the instructor asked them to consider a few questions.
“I want you to think right now of a choice you’ve made which you regret. Can you think of one? Write it down.”
“I want you to think right now of a choice you’ve made which you’re proud of. Can you think of one? Write it down.”
“I want you to think of a choice you will make differently when you leave this room. Can you think of one? Write it down.”
“I want you to think of a choice you will make differently when you leave this facility. Can you think of one? Write it down.”
The instructor shared with the group her answer to some of the questions, which helped them to be more open and vulnerable with each other. She shared that she regretted betraying a confidence her sister had shared with her. She shared a recent choice she was proud of. She asked if anyone wanted to share a choice they regretted. Participants shared things related to how they got to the CTC with regrets including the role of drugs or alcohol in their lives and unhealthy relationships. Choices they were proud of included things related to their children as well as their own accomplishments. Some of the choices these men intended to make in terms of their future were answers one would expect to hear: “I’m not going back to that old neighborhood” or “I’m not going to hang out with the same folks”.
Then, one man spoke in a quiet voice, he said “I’m going to choose to forgive myself.”
The room went silent and it was apparent his words had struck a nerve. The instructor commented, “Wow, that’s strong. Can you say it again a little louder?” He repeated himself, with more confidence. She said, “Does anyone else want to make that choice?”. Several hands went up. “Let’s say it together. I’m going to choose to forgive myself.”
I wish I had the words to describe the energy in the room as the majority of the men in that room repeated those words. I could feel the healing power those words generate.
This is the reason I support Yoga 4 Change. I am an active member serving on the Board of Directors. Lives are changed by the trauma informed curriculum which accompanies the yoga instruction. Mind, body and spirit are regenerated through this practice. Lives are transformed.