When one carries years of regret, shame, guilt, resentment, pain within, it leaves a watermark, an imprint, on the mind and soul, resulting in a variety of behaviors and karmic experiences. It requires a burning off of all the embedded pain in order to heal. One must remember, if possible, and feel the painful experiences in order to let them go. Writing or talking isn’t enough, that’s intellectual. It takes a burning off physically and emotionally. In Sanskrit this is called Sanskara ( संस्कार). In Hindu and Jain communities Samskara (or Sanskara as most in the West know it) is described in ancient Sanskrit texts as a rite of passage. This is our journey in every lifetime. We must learn to burn off layers of pain lodged deep within the body through movement, through breath, through meditation. And then we become love again. We are stripped down to our original pure state when we were born. We strive to become the embodiment of Universal love, as nothing more is left but that. All the veils are lifted. No more self doubt, self criticism, negative programming from childhood, scars. It’s all gone. So we are now free to let go and live love. Forgiveness, joy flow through us and ripple outward lifting others and attracting others on this journey. And of course, we are human, so to live in love can sometimes be difficult. So Sanskara may never completely end. We burn off ancient wounds (from this lifetime and others) and as we experience more loss, we continue with this burning off process. But once we learn how to do this and have burned off the oldest, deepest wounds, it becomes easier each time to accept, surrender and let go with love.
Letting go of pain and feeling love again for yourself (the Divine within you) and everyone around you—including your ‘teachers’ whom must be forgiven and thanked for the lessons learned—is transformative.
Yogis know this.
We flow. We sweat. We find a position that stretches us to our limits, like pigeon pose that opens the hips, and then we sit in the stillness accepting what is, allowing the Universe to flow through our hearts and minds to help us get through the powerful ‘sensations’ now burning within our hips. And sometimes the fascia (connective tissue that surrounds or binds or separates muscles, organs and other soft structures of the body) releases and opens. And then a powerful emotional memory may appear in our mind and heart. We don’t just remember something. We are, for a moment, there again, feeling it all. While we lay on our mats, tears may roll down our cheeks and love fills our hearts as we comfort ourselves—our younger selves who need to let go of the loss of a loved one, or pain that someone once caused us, yet we refused to deal with. I know I stuffed many experiences, frightening memories and abuse deeply—or pretended that I had intellectually mastered a loss or a painful experience that I was too afraid, or too young, to know how to heal from.
It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced this. But once you do, you will not question that our bodies hold our pain, our regret, our shame, our guilt. It lodges into our connective tissues and we age faster, we spiral into injury, we form bad posture and we are more susceptible to a host of dis-eases that seems to mirror our embedded beliefs and pain and negative thinking. Yoga helps us heal and let go and find love, truth and worth for ourselves, while attracting and receiving love from others. And as we physically begin to heal, we also physically appear younger, feel more youthful, joyful, energetic, vibrant.
I’ve felt this for a few years as a yoga teacher, yet was thrilled to hear Dartmouth Medical School graduate, Christiane Northrup MD, a well-respected board-certified obstetrician and best-selling author of books such as Goddesses Never Age, confirm this.
In a recent interview with Oprah on her SuperSoul Sunday TV show, Dr. Northrup explained how scientists now measure and quantify the toil shame takes on our physical health via a hormone produced by shame that releases a toxic inflammatory chemical into our body. Aha! As Oprah would say. I knew it! Since a video of this entire interview isn’t available online, I transcribed part of it here for you:
On #SuperSoulSunday Oprah says: “Ok, this is a biggie: You say, shame can take a toil on physical well being, and that’s why SO many people age rather than just getting older because they are carrying all of this toxic stuff into-”
Dr. Northrup interjects: “OK, let me tell you what that is. Shame produces hormones of an inflammatory chemical called iL6.”
“What? They measured shame?” Oprah says, leaning forward in her chair. She continues excitedly, waving her finger in the air: “That is why when you carry all that stuff around, I’ve said this for years on all the shows I’ve ever done—that it lodges in your body and actually, physically does.”
Dr. Northrup interrupts: “This is interesting. Yes. And it (iL6) lives in the fascia of our body. The connective tissue. The fascia holds our belief system into place. So when you do yoga or when you do resistance flexibility, you are literally releasing that and getting a new life in the connective tissue of your body, which is where all the acupuncture meridians run.”
Oprah then tells a story about crying as a masseuse hits a spot that triggers a memory about an old boyfriend, She said she could feel herself re-living and letting go of the experience.
Dr. Northrup: “That’s why we have to use our bodies to be with our bodies.”
Oprah: “So that shame for not forgiving people or holding onto past grudges all of that’s in there.”
Dr. Northrup: “Oh yes. But what people need to know about forgiveness is releasing yourself from self entrapment. You gave them your self worth. You didn’t know, you were too young often. The little four-year-old girl who has been sexually abused, like hello, that’s not your problem. But the little kid thinks it’s her problem and she takes on the shame that the perpetrator should have been feeling, but didn’t. And then we hold it for them!”
Oprah: “I think little children do it for sure, but I’ve seen so many women who go through divorce and then just HOLD ON to what their marriage shoulda, coulda been. They are HOLDING ON and they are STILL mad at him. And their ex has gone on, has another wife, another family and they are holding on and they ARE STILL MAD!”
Both ladies laugh.
Oprah: “And it’s interesting because some of them actually look like they are shriveling in it. They gotta let it go.”
Dr. Northrup nods and adds: “Goddesses grieve and rage and move on. … What will keep you ageless is how you deal with loss. If you are carrying that on your back … It’s painful. But if you feel the pain, it’s the old adage, if you feel it, you can heal it. It’s not easy stuff.”
Nope it’s not easy. But you know what is more difficult? Living within a hard, bitter, cynical shell that won’t allow light in, won’t allow love in. So feel the burn people. Let that shit GO.
Until we meet again.
With Love & Light ~