Memory Dredging

Every so often there comes a moment that rips you back in time. The moment can be explosive and shocking or subdued and subtle, but it does its job. Normally the event can take you back to a significant happening through just one of the 5 senses, though many a time it’s more that. A coalition of smell, sight, taste, sound, and touch band together to eerily recreate an atmosphere that (perhaps) changed your life.

It’s amazing what the little things can really do. Everyone tosses that phrase around liberally, but there’s no other way to put it. My time-travels are largely dependent on scent. I end up remembering past crushes, cities, and mental states simply by catching a whiff of something. One of the most important smells to me, at this time, is a soap. Every time I wash my hands it reminds of the summer of 2010, the summer I started yoga. Life finally felt clear, unoppressive, and I long for the rain to leave and the sun to shine to really let things flow.

The scent is called "Sweet Pea" by Live Clean. Yes, "Sweet Pea." Don't be hatin'.

Music does the same in transporting me through time, to places good or ill. This song, by Owl City, is my other recall device for the same summer I just mentioned. Whenever it appears on my playlist everything just feels that much better. There’s an ethereal quality to this track, called “Fireflies,” that properly whisks my brain away. Although it reminds me primarily of yoga in the summer, every new and relived emotion and memory I experienced during my 9 months so far is dredged up. I see it all in some sort of hazy montage, but it doesn’t dominate or scare me. It’s a reminder of what I dragged myself out of and where I am now. But there’s much more to it than that.

Though teachers may always remind us to let go of that which in inhibits us, I think it’s important to give serious consideration to whatever you wish to shed. It’s not always possible to forget the events that have happened to us, and it’s always more pronounced when the practice asks us to be introspective; delving deep into ourselves, taking a good hard look at what we are and where we came from. Yoga helps us refocus and redirect our energies rather than strip our minds clean, and I believe it’s vital to not completely forget our past.

Completely forgetting would be a disservice to personal evolution, though I do understand, however, that there exists terrible things that are better off left in the deep. As much as some events may eat away at us, the release that yoga can offer is a critical element to staying sane, rooted, and in control. From the way we breathe to the way we move, our practices end up expressing for us what we could not during past situations. The pseudo-recreation of what could have happened releases the anxiety and tension that one may be holding as an aftereffect.

I’ve been able to get over quite a few situations that left me insecure, hesitant, and distrustful. I can still vividly remember them, but they’re no longer crippling. Personally, yin yoga is responsible for drawing out a slew of frustrations and joys with its long holds in tough postures. Although we’re supposed to quiet our minds, dealing with what arises requires participation. We may be sitting still, but the only way to get through what ails us is to drop the cranial hammer. We analyze, feel, acknowledge, understand, and move on.

More than a few yogis that I’ve gotten to know have shared that yoga helped heal their emotional scars more than anything; the physical recuperation and strengthening being an additional boon. What makes them continue, they say, is the memory of how they’re triumphing over a what used to an indomitable nemesis. Memories, when properly cast, can propel people across the great beyond that once seemed oh so far away. The next time you’re pulled back in time, take a breath and notice what the memory does to you.

Remember the feeling you get and start from there, from the feeling, instead of the event itself. It’s more than enough occupy us.

About the Author: James Liang

James Liang has written 34 posts on this site.

Born and raised in Metro Vancouver, he’s a swimmer, longboarder, golfer, and runner, with a sprinkling of hockey and martial arts, when away from physical yoga. He's a recent graduate from the University of British Columbia with a major in human geography (urban studies) and a minor in philosophy.

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