Forgiveness is the act of consciously deciding to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward someone who has harmed you in some way--regardless of whether or not they are deserving of your forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting the incidence or condoning/excusing the wrong. The act of absolution may help repair relationships, but don't worry; it does not necessitate that you welcome the person back into your life.
Just as it physically and mentally benefits us to forgive others, the boons of self-forgiveness are just as compelling.
1. Unconditional forgiveness may increase your lifespan.
Individuals who are unable to forgive without conditions--for example, without hearing an apology or witnessing improved behavior--may be likely to die sooner, according to a study in The Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
If hearing “sorry” is a condition for forgiveness, then this simply lowers the instances of forgiveness for all of us. In other words, not everyone is capable of apologizing, so if we cannot forgive without a “sorry,” then we will be holding onto more anger than those who can unconditionally offer clemency.
Yoga teaches us to forgive unconditionally. Ahimsa, one of the yoga tenets, encourages non-violence in thought, word, and action, and anger is a form of violence to ourselves and others. While typically we only hear of five yamas, the Śāṇḍilya Upanishad lists a total of 10 Yamas, including Ksama (forgiveness).
2. Forgiveness removes you from fight-or-flight mode.
When we are angry, our bodies revert to fight-or-flight mode, which in turn can tax our blood pressure and heart rate, explains Johns Hopkins Medicine.
It’s only logical that when we let go--or practice aparigraha--we decrease stress and tension, both in our body and mind. Physically, our blood pressure improves and our heart is strengthened. Mentally, we can breathe again.
3. Forgiving could strengthen your immune system.
Medscape reported that individuals with HIV who practiced genuine forgiveness had higher CD4 percentages (a good thing for their compromised immune systems).
This is yet another finding to support the mind-body connection. Stress in our minds manifests as stress in our bodies, and forgiveness addresses the mental tension while yoga releases the physical tension. Many (maybe all?) yoga practitioners recount an the occasional emotional release after yoga--tears, joy, grief--and that is a physical manifestation of the body letting go of past traumas.
4. Forgiveness helps you sleep.
For those of us who immediately begin thinking the moment our head hits the pillow, it will come as no surprise that forgiveness helps you sleep. Instead of replaying the incident over and over in your mind’s eye, you are able to sleep peacefully and restfully.
True forgiveness allows us to relinquish feelings of anger, revenge, and hostility, and letting go of such negativity in turn improves our sleep and overall health.
5. Asking for forgiveness helps you forgive yourself.
When you are the wrongdoer, making amends can in turn help you forgive yourself and move past the incidence, research finds.
Making amends gives us permission to let go (aparigraha) and allows us to forgive ourselves, and since we spend every moment of every day with our thoughts and actions, it is absolutely imperative to a healthy body and mind.