Letting Go of the Old
Updated: Jun 29, 2021
As a philosophy, Yoga teaches us a few basic lessons: That all life is precious. That we live in connection with everything else around us. That what goes around comes around. That as we think so we become... But Yoga also teaches us that, if we are to invest time and effort in pursuing the path of self-growth and self-transformation outlined by it, we must also, at some point, learn to forego the past. Let go of the old. Relinquish our hold on everything that has gone. For no growth or change can ever be possible if we are not willing —indeed, ready— to free ourselves from the kind of emotional toll caused by past ‘baggage.’
If you have attented a few Yoga sessions here and there, we’re sure you’ll probably have come accross at least one Yoga teacher that emphasized the importance of learning to let go in Yoga. In Tantric Hatha Yoga , for example, we often use ‘letting go’ as a theme for many of our sessions. But the reasons why we yogis make such a big thing out of ‘letting go’ are not always self-explanatory. And so, though students join these classes and get the gist about it ‘on the mat,’ for a good number of them letting go of past ‘baggage’ —past possessions, old memories, previous experiences or even ideas about ourselves and others— still remains a most arduous endeavor. An endeavor so great, in fact, that, never mind how many Yoga sessions we join, many of us still choose to postpone for some later time. We do some letting go ‘on the mat’ while the teacher cues us, yet rarely carry on the letting go to everyday life.
Yoga believes that, everything that we don’t properly address and sort through —everything that we don’t properly deal with and confront— lives in us. It becomes us. It stays with us and goes with us everywhere, haunting us in the form of (negative) energy patterns that we will re-live in different facets of our lives as a form of ‘weight’ or ‘currency’ we carry on us. Learning to properly get rid of this invisible yet palpable weight is what true Yoga is about.
Emotional Placemats and the Role of Yoga
Our relationship with our past isn’t always negative. But when we cling on to objects, places, memories or people in our lives even after they’re gone, or after they’ve hurt us, as if we couldn’t live without them—as if forgetting were impossible— we can speak of ‘emotional placemats.’ We insist on keeping them in our lives because of fear —for we are afraid of who we are without them. And so, they continue to exist in our lives in lieu of the experience of the person, object, or memory proper.
Though the reasons for this can be very diverse, sometimes we make an unconscious connection between a certain emotion and a person, a certain emotion and an item, a sensation and a particular way of being, looking, feeling… We invest that ‘something’ with a special emotional connotation and, though the sensation may not even be pleasurable, that particular object or person begins to functions as a vehicle for certain types of meanings: our longing, our (un)happiness, our loneliness, our connectedness, our complexes, our achievements, our youth...
The projection of uncomfortable, troublesome or else forlorn types of emotions into ‘emotional placemats’ happens mainly unconsciously, as our bodymind tries to process complex sensaciones through disguise. The workings of our mind are sometimes mysterious, and the forces motivating us to hold on to our past in material and symbolic ways often hard to notice.
Still, in manners both mundane and transcendental, Yoga teaches us that learning to differentiate between embodiment and projection is essential. And so, by means of different techniques and methods that target body, mind and spirit simultaneously, Yoga tries to bridge the gap that first forced us to anchor our gaze on the past.
By emphasizing the existence only of the here and now through techniques like meditation that push our awareness to come back to the center time and time again, Yoga help us build resilience and make space for who and what we already are. The idea is to help us realize how much energy it actually takes to carry all that redundant past baggage on our backs, to allow our awareness to remain split between two or more different timelines. All this energy is energy that can be better put to use on improving the quality of our lives here and now.
It is by bringing us back, time and again, to the lived reality of our body as it breathes, moves, sits and occupies space here, now, this very moment, that Yoga hopes to anchor us firmly into our present. And by so doing, help us to grow out of the desire for ‘escape’ that first made a part of our awareness take flight.