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Yoga of Courage and Compassion

Conscious Breathing and Guided Meditation

Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

• Shares a series of simple, practical, and profound conscious breathing, movement, and meditation exercises that help you bypass the ego-centered mind, open your heart, and live in the present moment

• Developed through the author’s decades of work with cancer patients

Through decades of teaching yoga and meditation to cancer patients, William Yang witnessed hundreds of breakthroughs into radical presence and openheartedness. In many ways, his patients taught him more than he taught them. From this collaboration with the sick and dying, Yang developed a series of simple, practical, and profound conscious breathing, movement, and meditation exercises that help to bypass the ego-centered mind, open the heart, and live fearlessly in the present moment.

Yang’s exercises begin with an invitation to rediscover a natural and unforced way of breathing, so we can let go of our anxious ego and let life in again. From there, enlarging the sequence step by step, the author focuses on grounding and connecting with Mother Earth, working with the spine to develop a new sense of self-confidence, and opening the heart to love again.

As we shed elements of the stressed, anxious person we once were, we are able to be more attuned to the world around us in a loving and caring way. Through the lessons learned from his cancer patients, Yang shows how, with courage and compassion, we can live and love without reservation at any time in our lives.

From Chapter 9. Being Silent: Healing the World by Being Present

The main characteristic of a Bodhisattva is her quality of “presence,” as she is fully present in the here and now. This presence is tender, modest, and powerful at the same time. It has a quality of nakedness as it is not dressed in impressive or outstanding characteristics.

If she is there you feel yourself surrounded by a loving presence, a kind of energy that you can only feel after you became quiet of wanting it. It is a “healing” energy in the truest sense, as it heals the divisive actions of the mind. It is an energy that fills the fissures and gaps in the heart of mankind. A Bodhisattva brings peace into this world not as a political solution but as a living experience. She is a grassroots peacekeeper, kind yet fearless.

She brings light into this world not out of a crusade against the dark and evil forces, but out of sheer joy of radiating its true essence in all directions and in every situation.

She brings healing into this world not out of fear of sickness and death, but out of bringing people back to their true nature, their original pureness: the inner light of their own soul, heart, and mind.

The yoga of courage and compassion is in fact a pilgrimage to arrive at this inner light and to become a “light unto this world.” It is not a pilgrimage to visit some holy place or meet a holy man. It is all about becoming your own true self: becoming a Bodhisattva. It is about becoming a Buddha, becoming Christ.

As long as we do not have the courage to cross the distance that separates us from a Bodhisattva, a Buddha, and Christ we remain imprisoned in our own dualistic mind. As long as we do not have the courage and the power to break through the walls that separate the Buddha and the Christ, Buddhism and Christianity, East and West or North and South, peace will not have a chance. As long as we need to preserve our cherished identities of being so different from each other--Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist--we shall never be able to identify our deepest and innermost nature. In the depth of our being we are brothers and sisters, we are all one. Only from the depths of our being can we be truly loving and compassionate.

To become “one” is the final goal of our pilgrimage. Only then “peace will have a chance.” Inner peace and world peace will then be fundamentally one and the same, as the one cannot possibly exist without the other. This may still seem a distant ideal, but it is the only option for survival as a human race.

True peacekeeping is training our bodies and minds in such a way that peace becomes a living experience: “the most natural gift of our souls.”

This yoga of courage and compassion may guide your way into and right through your body/mind in order to experience the inner Light of Peace. It may then help you to guide this Light inside out into this world until the last blade of grass is touched by You.

Healing the World by Being Present

Buddha’s Basic Breathing Meditation


You can do this breathing meditation in any position you feel comfortable in.

Observe and follow your breath. Feel how the air flows through your nostrils when you breathe in and how it flows out again when you breathe out.

Do this 10 times.

If your mind wanders off, begin again.

Meditative Breathing Exercise

Sit straight on a chair or a cushion on the floor. Feel yourself well connected with the earth beneath you.

Put your right hand in your left hand. The tips of your thumbs lightly touch each other.

The tip of your tongue lightly touches your palate just behind the front teeth. Generate the bowl.

Generate the center within the space of the bowl. Visualize it radiating white light.

Generate a thread of white light through your spinal column.

Generate the energy field within and around your body.

Open your heart of courage and compassion.

Visualize a beautiful, soft white light in the spot between--and a little above--your eyes.

Feel an inner connection between the light in the center of your bowl and the light in between your eyes.

Breathe in and go with your attention from within the center in your bowl through your spine, over the midline of your head into the space between your eyes.

Stop there for a brief moment.

Breathe out and go with your attention downward--down your nose, tongue, throat, chest, stomach, belly, bowl, and into its center.

Silently you can make the sounds OM-AH-HUM--OM breathing in, AH pausing in the space between the eyes, HUM breathing out.

Repeat 7 times . . .

Relax and let the light between your eyes quietly spread over your face . . . into your head . . . down your shoulders, down your arms, filling your chest, filling your belly and bowl . . . spreading into your legs, feet and toes. Spreading beyond your body, filling the room you are in . . . the house . . . the street.

Let it spread as far as it naturally goes, entering all the dark corners everywhere there is suffering, alleviating, transforming, enlightening.

Meditation in Action

Experiment with this living, transforming light wherever you are whatever you do whoever you are with.

Heal the world by your presence.

William Yang has been teaching relaxation, breathing, meditation, and yoga exercises to cancer patients since the early 1980s. Inspired by the benefits patients reported in the hospital where he worked, he founded a center dedicated to these programs, which in a later phase went on to become the William Yang Foundation, based in the Netherlands. In 1995 he received the Dr. Marco de Vries award in bio-psychosocial medicine and in 2005 he became a knight of the order of Oranje Nassau, an honor bestowed by H.M. Queen Beatrix for his work with cancer patients and disadvantaged children in India. He lives in Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

“William Yang takes you on a profound journey of awakening through a step-by-step program that anyone can understand, explore, and bene t hugely from. Dive into these teachings wholeheartedly, and you will transform your relationship with both life and death.”

– Will Johnson, author of Breathing through the Whole Body

“This is a brave and passionate book that should be in every yoga lover’s backpack. It shows that yoga is far more than the beneficial physical exercise it has often been reduced to in our materialist culture, and it demonstrates with precise verve how doing yoga can provide a foundation of galvanized yet peaceful energy for the courageous work of sacred activism and for rising gracefully to the brutal challenges of our time.”

– Andrew Harvey, coauthor of Heart Yoga

“There is more to yoga than staying limber, youthful, and healthy. The confrontation with the vulnerability of the body and the finite nature of life is an essential moment of spiritual learning. William Yang has collected precious lessons about courage, compassion, and love in the years he has worked with people who have cancer. He has brought these lessons together in this book, opening up a deeper dimension in yoga. His exercises are simple, yet profound and very energetic. They help you embrace the totality of life and enjoy the depth of the moment. William’s work has become a source of inspiration for many yoga teachers and their students. I can heartily recommend this book.”

– Lea Vos, former director of Zweiersdal, center for yoga and continuing education for yoga teachers

“William Yang invites people to take the journey into the depth of their own being. If people are willing to investigate their life in the face of death, all false solutions will be destroyed. This book is not only for the sick but for all those affected by the incurable disease of life. Yoga of Courage and Compassion is remarkable.”

– Drs. Nol Hogema, OP, former director of the Han Fortman Center