The Power of Perception: A Simple Key to Greater Emotional Freedom

For most of my 20s, I was debilitated by resentment and anger.

Because of my childhood, I lived under the delusion that I deserved to be angry. I also believed that my anger and resentments would protect me from future hurts. Instead, they only served to cut me off from life. 

It wasn’t until I was introduced to yoga practices beyond the yoga mat—and earnestly applied them within a consistent daily practice—that I became equipped with tools that would serve to set me free. 

The yoga tradition points to a fundamental idea of misperception (avidya in Sanskrit)—not our circumstances—as the root cause of our suffering. Not life itself.

In other words:

  •  When we feel stuck, it’s not life that’s creating the stuckness. It’s how we see it that creates the perception of stuckness.

  •  When we experience anger or regret about our past, it’s not the past that’s causing our upset in the moment. It’s how we see it. 

  •  When we feel anxious or afraid of the future, it’s not the unknown that’s causing it. It’s how we see it. 

This was a hard teaching to swallow. My mind was trapped on a channel that viewed life as unfair and preached that other people and circumstances were to blame for my unhappiness. 

What Avidya Looks Like

It’s important to discern that the kind of perception (or misperception) that yoga refers to as the root cause of our suffering isn’t the same seeing that we do with our eyes. Instead, it’s the projections we place on life conjured up by our memories, past experiences, expectations, and beliefs.

According to the foundational text of yoga, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, our suffering happens when we over-identify with our ego (or fear voice) instead of our true inner voice of peace and love. Therefore, the reason we might feel stuck isn’t so much about the event—although that does matter—it’s more about how we take it in, assimilate it and eliminate it from our system.

Like some foods, there are those life experiences that can be difficult to digest. But that doesn’t mean we should push them down and lodge them in our body/mind.

Jack Canfield, the author of Chicken Soup for The Soul, writes that whenever we experience a block it is because we have either created it or allowed it. Blocks alter our perception.

Perception is why two people:

  • Never experience anything in exactly the same way.

  • Can be faced with the same obstacle, and while one person moves through it and the other gives up.

How to Work with Perceptions

In The Heart of Yoga, T.K.V. Desikachar writes that it is our perceptions that keep us in our difficulties. The lasting problems of our life are mind created and therefore can be transformed by perceiving them differently. 

Marianne Williamson, in A Return to Love, writes that a miracle is simply a shift in perception. When we accept the liberating viewpoint that we, not life or other people, are ultimately responsible for our happiness we become faced with a decision: Do we want to be free or imprisoned? 

The Power of Forgiveness

One of the most valuable and life-affirming principles with the potential to set us free is the spiritual tool of forgiveness. Yet, for many of us, forgiveness is one of the most resisted practices of all. We resist because we falsely believe that forgiveness is about the other person

However, once we understand that forgiveness is a blessing for ourselves, not the other person, we realize that we must do it. The cost is just too great if we don’t.

When we forgive:        `

  • We are set free to live and love fully. 

  • We free ourselves from re-experiencing the same pain in the present moment and in our future.

  • We open ourselves up to more love, happiness, peace, and abundance. 

  • We clear our energy and feel alive and whole.

The spiritual tool of forgiveness takes courage and strength. It is about you and your life. Harboring resentment, hate or negative emotions actually binds us more powerfully to that person, place or thing. But when we let go, we can breathe again. It sets our soul free. 

Research from the growing field of positive psychology strongly demonstrates that our happiness and well-being is a daily choice. It’s something we can learn to discipline ourselves to experience.

There are two parts to working with forgiveness:

There are two ways to work with forgiveness:

  • Forgiving others for a hurt they have caused us. We can forgive someone without ever having to see or talk to them. We can still be set free. 

  • Forgiving ourselves for a hurt we have caused to another. Sometimes we find it difficult to forgive ourselves for a mistake or harm. Whether we have received forgiveness from others or not, we need to find a way to forgive ourselves and open our energy to love.

Please be kind to yourself and remember that for most of us forgiveness is a process. Give yourself permission to do your best and continue to practice until you feel released and free. 

Substance use is a growing problem and yoga can help: Study with YogaUOnline and Celeste Mendelsohn – Carrying the Message to the Mat: Teaching Yoga for Substance Use Disorder.

Reprinted with permission from Joy Stone Coaching.

Joy Stone is an experienced and certified Yoga Teacher and Personal Transformation Coach. She is also the founder of Soul Subscription – a holistic online membership designed to help you stay consistent on your spiritual path and true to yourself. With over 13 years of professional experience, she is passionate about helping men and women break free from fear, frustration and overwhelm and breakthrough into a life they truly love. Joy’s special style of coaching uniquely blends the most essential tools & life-empowering practices from eastern and western psychology & philosophy. She received her positive psychology education under Harvard Professor, Tal Ben-Shahar, Wholebeing Institute and her yoga teaching certification under the Anusara style — a therapeutic application of yoga psychology and practice. You can learn more about Joy and her work at

Recent articles


Upcoming courses


Yoga for
every body

How to Avoid the Top 3 Pitfalls of Forward Bends

With Julie Gudmedstad

Recent articles


Sorry, You have reached your
monthly limit of views

To access, join us for a free 7-day membership trial to support expanding the Pose Library resources to the yoga community.

Sign up for a FREE 7-day trial