THIS is why we yoga: The crippling shame released

It’s been two years of urging myself to stay in this pose. Telling myself to take ten deep breaths and maybe the feeling will dissolve. Every time I went into a frog pose (a deep groin stretch) my body tensed and I was consumed in a feeling of having a ten pound brick in the base of my stomach. As I would ask my body to relax, shoulders, hips, muscles, bones, try body, try to relax, it would not. I had an unbearable, powerful feeling rise from my gut and spread to every cell. Anxiety. I would say breathe, relax, breathe, let go, yet the feeling remained.

I never allowed myself to relive and feel the magnitude of the first time I had sex. As I drove home from class one day nearly a decade later, I reflected on what we had discussed; the Stanford swimmer who had brutally raped a drunk woman at a party and left her behind a dumpster. We talked about how having sex with someone blackout drunk and unresponsive is rape. We talked about how even if they agreed at first, if they become unresponsive, it is no longer consensual. As I am driving home, it suddenly it hit me with a cold sweat, tingling numbness and shock. I was that girl, too. Blackout drunk one night who remembers nothing except waking up and he was there inside of me. I was raped.

The shame I felt worked in a weird way, having nothing to do with the perpetrator. It was also not about how I could allow myself to be so intoxicated, so stupidly vulnerable. My intellectual mind knew this was not my fault, I was not the predator. I was not the one so disconnected from myself and morals unable to identify having sex with a girl, who is blackout drunk, is wrong and in fact criminal. All the evidence my memory presented me, led to the logical conclusion I was not to blame.

Yet still shame lingers.

Somehow throughout the years, I had mangled the story so greatly in my head, it didn’t seem like rape anymore. Wasn’t that how everyone had sex? Wasn’t it less awkward to be a little buzzed during your first time anyway? Wasn’t it more important I could tell myself I was no longer a virgin, so now that was out of the way? I twisted it in my mind to make myself believe I had agreed to the encounter. That I was probably so drunk I hadsaid yes. But most tragically, i convinced myself the story did not matter, it was not important.

The crippling shame grows out of the part of me able to twist the truth, making reality unrecognizable. How can I ever speak my truth, if I can’t find my truth underneath all the lies and manipulations I have told myself? The shame comes from not having the ability to tell my story for eight years because there was always a little, yet fierce doubt leaving me voiceless. A doubt saying no one will believe you, that youdon’t even believe you. The shame comes from allowing fear to rule my mind, clouding the truth of my story.

But yet even though I could not trust myself enough to see past the fear-based doubt, I could feel it in my body, in frog pose. My body told me it was real and the truth remains, deep in my cells. The words came in the form of feeling anxious and uncomfortable. They were the same words my heart had said so many years ago before being buried with fear.

Yoga brings you back into your body, out of the chaos and the noise in your mind. Physiologically, it presents new neurological pathways in your brain. The parasympathetic nervous system, the half of the nervous system that relaxes the body, will strengthen, moving you out of the “fight or flight” mode we tend to live in. When our nervous system is calmed, we start to come back into our center, detaching from the fiction, often contradicting stories, our fear based or ego minds will take and run with. The ego mind will keep you out of clarity and truth forever, if allowed. It will tell you how you are not important, not loved and small. But we know better. The more you return to your center, your peace and clarity, the quieter and less controlling the ego mind becomes. You will release the trauma your cells held on to, healing your body and mind. Your voice will return. You will be able to practice your version of frog pose, whether on the mat or in life, without fear, as I now can. Finally, the truth will shine brighter than everything else, leaving you radiant, empowered and connected. You will be free.

This is why we yoga.

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