We’ve all had experiences that are not so pleasant and we want to leave behind. Other times, we need to leave them behind in order to move forward.

Your yoga practice can help you let go of the past and get back into a fresh space in the present.

Experiences stay with us

Each experience is a building block of who we are. These experiences help us grow. Every night, our brains process what happened during day. It gets rid of unimportant experiences and transfers others to long-term memory.

Pleasant experiences are quite nice to replay, but unpleasant experiences can feel as stinging and intense as when they happened originally. Repressing these to avoid the pain from happening again prevents us from processing and healing.

Memories are also stored in the body, like muscles and organs. Yoga can help us let go of these experiences so that we can truly move forward.

Experience the past in the present

As we breathe slowly and deeply through the nose, our mind stays connected to the body in the present moment. When you think about past experiences, you may find yourself transported back in time. It feels real even though you’re not actually there.

Slow yogic breathing can help us stay grounded, so that we are not pulled back into the past. Notice how you feel in your body. Are your palms getting sweaty, your abdomen tensing, breath quickening?

Come back to slow deep breathing and mentally repeat grounding phrases. Try your favourite mantra or remind yourself that you are safe, or you’re not in the past anymore.

Release the past from the body

Holding stretches and twists can release experiences and emotions stored in the body. You may have experienced this before, feeling an emotional release or memories flooding back to you while you were practicing yoga.

Unfortunately, you can’t force these releases to happen and there’s no real way to know when it will happen. They usually come unexpectedly, so when it does, don’t get scared and repress them. Allow your emotions to come fully.

If you’re in a yoga class, know that this is a beautiful and special moment. Most yogis appreciate emotional releases and will be supportive of you.

Continue with your asana practice if you can. If it feels overwhelming, breathe slow and deep. Take a break lying in savasana or on your side.

After the release, take it easy for the rest of the day and nurture yourself with a nap, a warm herbal tea, or a soothing bath. Processing and releasing experiences requires energy and compassion.

Holding on or repressing emotions can be heavy emotional baggage we bring everywhere we go. Yoga can help you work through it with more ease and calm. Letting go can be scary but, once you do, you’ll feel lighter and freer to be who you were meant to be.

Deborah Lim is an internationally certified yoga instructor currently based in Toronto and loves that wearing comfortable clothes is required in her profession. She unleashes her creativity through cooking, crafts and DIY - take a peek into her tasty recipes and uplifting messages in her blog.