The Sacred Snake: Epigenetics, Trauma & Ancestral DNA (Part 2)
Updated: May 5, 2022
In part one, I offered several ways to consciously change the genes in your body. I also shared that the coding in our DNA is 99% the same across species including humans. And that only 2% of DNA is coded; the rest is non-coded, “junk” DNA. In epigenetics, that 98% can be influenced by nature and trauma. I also touched upon trauma as related to the Pandemic in May 2020, our sacred DNA in June 2021, brain health in Nov 2021, and in Jan 2022 the trauma of trafficking. In part 2 of this fascinating subject, I will explain more about the influence of trauma on our DNA, and I will offer more techniques on how we can heal.
Consider this…people from all countries have a history of making offerings using human sacrifices. Even today, there are people still being tortured and killed (trafficked, murdered, mafia hits, war, etc.). The USA is a country of war, that’s in our DNA. And epigenetics research says we can inherit the biological residue from traumatic events in our family history.
When trauma happens, it causes a chemical change in our DNA, and this changes how our genes function. Certain genes are shut down and can show up as depression, anxiety, illness, financial challenge & unhappy relationships. That epigenetic response (unhealed trauma) can ripple through the ancestors, and we can inherit this stress response through family trauma.
For example, PTSD can show up in later generations even though they were not directly exposed to the trauma (i.e. holocaust survivors or 70% of babies born to Moms of 9/11 have stress disorders).
There is a condition called transferred PTSD. It happens especially in the family members of people with PTSD. In one study, 68% of veterans had PTSD but surprising was that almost 1/3 of their spouses had it too. Just living with that person produced PTSD.
An ancestral alarm clock gets triggered by an event and causes certain genes to be turned on and off depending on the experience. PTSD is not a disorder; it’s a remarkable way that our body adapts to trauma.
We are an echo of our ancestors. And our DNA is an echo of our ancestors.
You are the living hope of all your ancestors.
Every family has its challenges, its secrets, its failings, its shadows (abuse, addiction, violence, poverty, illness, abandonment, and/or betrayal). These imprints are transferred in the DNA as parents create the embryo upon conception. They are then manifested in the child and can create many different imbalances.
One gene comes from mother and one from father.
· Matrilineal DNA (mother) – how we digest food and how we digest life.
· Patrilineal DNA (father) – how your health manifests and our visible conditions.
Approximately 50% of the population will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives. While reactions to trauma can vary widely, trauma can change the brain in some predictable ways.
Traumatized brains look different from non-traumatized brains:
1. The Thinking Center (pre-frontal cortex) is under-activated.
2. The Emotion Regulation Center (limbic brain) is under-activated.
3. The Fear Center (amygdala) is over-activated or hyper-vigilant.
When trauma occurs, the fight or flight response is not a conscious choice, but a biological reaction initiated in the brain stem. The traumatized person remains frozen in an “unfinished” state of high biological readiness to react to the traumatic event, even long after the event has passed. Because traumatic memories stay “stuck” in the deep brain – the nonverbal, nonconscious, subcortical regions (amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus, hypothalamus & brain stem) – they are not accessible to the frontal lobe – the understanding, thinking, reasoning parts of the brain. These unprocessed emotions end up as unprocessed memory which can then be triggered.
Everyone has a trigger and that can be turned on (upregulated) on the mutated gene. Regulatory genes control the expression of many other genes. One gene at the top of the cascade can turn on as little or as many as thousands of genes. (Cortisol, for example, is a regulatory gene.)
Trauma can create both an emotional and physical imprint on the body. Our emotional states manifest in the body as either withdrawal response, hyper-alertness, or a trauma/protective response. Unresolved emotional trauma creates a hormone soup and “issues in our tissues” (more on emotional anatomy in a future musing). Trauma effects our epigenetics signaling. There is a real biological change. The moment a person experiences trauma, the body automatically makes a decision to protect itself…and our brains change.
A study on male twins in which one was drafted to Vietnam and the other was not, they found that the hippocampus in the brains of those who went to war actually shrunk. (The hippocampus is the part of the brain that memorizes bad stuff and processes fear.) The stress response had been reinforced and their ability to handle ordinary life was reduced to survival.
Trauma literally takes parts of the brain off-line, leaving the “cockroach” in charge. This primitive part of the brain cannot translate language and understanding. Reliving the trauma is useless. This is why talk therapy doesn’t work. You need to complete the trauma! So, how do you bypass trauma without words?
We all have trauma in our lives, some is conscious, some sub-conscious. Trauma is a story; it’s over, it’s already happened. The frontal lobe tells stories…and lies! When we experience a traumatic event, our mind protects us by stepping back (disassociation) in order to survive pain. Dissociation is a separation of the elements of the traumatic experience, which reduces the impact of the experience; it’s a good thing. Dissociation protects us from being overwhelmed by escalating arousal, fear, and pain. Nature’s internal opium, the endorphins, soften the pain, enabling the person to endure what is too much to cope with.
Exposure to trauma during the formative years is called ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience). It is the root cause of many common diseases. There is also a strong correlation between disease and adverse experiences in childhood particularly between age 2 to 7 years. This study found that adverse health outcomes showed up 50 years later as cancer, heart disease, obesity, hypertension, etc. The authors of the ACE study said “modern medicine is completely misguided. Go back and work on your childhood triggering.”
"If you create the conditions for health then disease simply goes away by itself"
– Alberto Villoldo
The brain filters every incoming piece of data through those neural structures created by those early childhood experiences. Learning can be negative or positive. What if you learn early on that the world is not a safe place? That’s the way your brain grows. People who are pessimistic, angry, ashamed, or feel guilty had the neural structures of their brain shaped. For decades, they have been sending signals through those anger neural circuits. Thereby, at every opportunity, they are looking at what might go wrong, looking for the negative in every positive.
Now apply this to love. The vibration of Love or above. Epigenetics is sensitive and responsive to spiritual practices (i.e. meditation, prayer, transfiguration, etc.). You can deliberately experience higher vibration emotions (love or above) and stimulate those neural pathways. By focusing on love, compassion, kindness, appreciation, gratitude, you are remodeling your brain.
Fun Fact: One minute of anger weakens your immune system for 4-5 hours. One minute of laughter boosts the immune system for over 24 hours.
Different parts of the brain come “on-line” at different ages so there are different effects depending on the age at which the trauma(s) took place. Wounding creates blockages which manifest as physical illness. You have to try different things to access different parts of the brain. There are many ways to release these blockages by re-establishing the free flow of energy.
Trauma can be physical, emotional, and/or spiritual. Illness & disease are often the result of unhealthy beliefs as well as the consequences of fear. Decisions & choices made from fear (low vibration) wreck the body. Love heals. Trauma healing happens in your inner environment, at the epigenetic level, ON the genes not IN the genes. Buddha said you are the architect of your own healing.
I love the emotional signature of gratitude (700 vibration). When you are grateful, it presumes it has ALREADY happened! When the body is in alignment with the thought, the brain chemistry is triggered to reflect that feeling. The feeling creates a new reality. That’s how you change illness to wellness.
Instead of feeling stressed, focus on being blessed. Gratitude is a mindset.
– Moodfit app
Stress Related Illness
Most disease is due to stress. 90% of diseases are stress related illness. Chronic stress can lead to the development of disease to which we are genetically vulnerable (ancestral DNA).
Jon Kabat Zinn defines stress as “a holistic transaction between an individual and a potential stressor (something or someone that has the ability to threaten you or something you value, making you feel like you can’t cope) resulting in stress response”.
There are 3 types of stress that create imbalance:
1. Physical – accidents, injuries, falls.
2. Chemical – bacterial viruses, heavy metals, hormones in food, etc.
3. Emotional – tragedy, grief, loss.
Stress creates a fight or flight response for your life. Intense stress or trauma is accompanied by the release of hormones – a chemical hormone soup. Research has identified hormones as the communication link between body & brain and we now know there are 30 hormones linked to the body's emergency response system. Stress hormones inhibit the immune system. Stress also triggers pathogens, viruses in the body.
Moving beyond Trauma: Tools for Healing
There are 2 branches of the Nervous System. There’s the stress branch (sympathetic) and the relax branch (parasympathetic). When you breathe out, you activate the rest, relax and peace response.
A good place to start is paying attention to the breath since the respiratory system is the only major system in the body, which is usually involuntary, but which can also be voluntarily controlled. The breath regulates all the other autonomic systems, including brain function. To restore balance in the Nervous System, we need to change the chronic habit of shallow, chest breathing to deep diaphragmatic breathing. My teacher says, “shallow breath, shallow Consciousness.”
I am a huge fan of simple yogic breathing such as Ujjayi, 4-Square breath, and Alternating Nostril Breathing. I ask that you use caution with breath retention/holding. Breathwork beyond the simple techniques I just mentioned should only be used with trauma survivors if the teacher has further training in breathwork, a solid understanding of the neurophysiology of trauma, and knows the individual’s trauma history.
Mindfulness, Meditation & Visualization
Mindfulness can tame the amygdala and shut down the fight or flight response. Meditation is excellent for creating a rest & digest response thereby deactivating the fear center. The peaceful parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated and the heart rate, respiration rate & metabolism return to baseline and muscle tension releases. This is a vital first step to healing. Once we quiet the fear center, we are better able to work on strengthening and activating the thinking center & emotion regulation center.
Visualization is a powerful tool that effects physiology. Dr. Joe Dispenza was doing a marathon when he was hit by a truck in 1986. He envisioned a “blueprint” and gave it to Source (God/Goddess) to rebuild his vertebrae. It took 6 weeks to do with full attention. By 10 weeks, he was on his feet. By 12 weeks he was training again. Mind over matter.
Guided imagery stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain (creativity and connection). My absolute favorite is the practice of yoga nidra. It’s deep healing is through direct experience of surrendering (vairagya) effort (abhyasa). In allowing this, you gain access to the subconscious mind that stores your autopilot programs including limiting and negative beliefs.
There is a deep relationship between collective Consciousness and the real world. Over the last couple of decades, there have been Peace Projects and Global Meditation Groups focused on the reduction of violence. When a group of meditators equivalent to 1% of the population go into a community and go into deep meditation, there was a positive outcome. They found emergency room visits declined, there was a 28.4% reduction in murders, and robberies & other negative behaviors declined because of this resonant effect through the force, or this entangled, interwoven Consciousness field. Even though the people didn’t know the meditators were there, they became calmer and more orderly. This is quantum physics – super fluidity. There is transformation at that 1% point. When 1% of a critical mass of people becomes coherent, magic happens by transforming the other 99%. That’s the power of deep Consciousness.
The acronym for P.E.A.C.E. =
Positive Energy Activates Constant Elevation
There are many types of mindfulness techniques (many of which you can find on my website) so find what works for you. Practice makes progress. By the way, these techniques also increase IgA which is the primary defense against bacteria & viruses. It’s greater than any flu shot…and it costs NOTHING!
Somatics & Energy Healing
Earlier I asked, how do you bypass trauma without words? Using rhythm, movement and action. Adding body-based movement such as Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi also connects the body, breath and brain. It’s founded on the principle of the body and mind working in functional unity and focusing on the energy and emotions stored within the body.
Trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk says, “Preventing people from moving and taking effective action is what makes trauma trauma.”
There is a whole science of Somatic Memories. Somatics is movement that releases deep neurobehavioral patterns held in the body. The magic is not in the poses but in combining somatic (body centered) and yogic elements (union of opposites). If you’ve been to my yoga classes, you know that I integrate somatic movement into all my classes (the Joint Freeing Series class falls under Somatics).
Somatic Experiencing was developed by Dr. Peter Levine following his observation that animals in the wild do not get traumatized even though they are faced with life threatening situations daily. He began to ask why humans are so susceptible to the devastating effects of trauma.
In animals when they come out of freeze, the energy is drained off by running to escape or by the rhythmic waves of muscle contractions (trauma tremors). This doesn’t happen in humans every time, or we override the trembling that would help accomplish this. So, we are left highly activated with an incomplete motor plan still going round and round in our brain which can run long after the original event. Thus, we tend to accumulate more and more traumas which are similar to the original imprint. It’s like when your computer slows to a crawl when some error causes a program to get stuck in a continuous loop. You sit there waiting and waiting while the circle spins.
Somatic Experiencing works to resolve the incomplete motor plans. Just like rebooting your computer to get it back up to speed.
Unravel your dis-ease
Energy Medicine is based on the premise that we hold onto emotions, and they create density in our bodies (western medicine labels this dis-ease). Symptoms are internal wake-up calls. Be grateful that your body is sending you these messages that healing needs to happen. The appearance of physical illness is rooted in energetic imbalances. Thus, we work with that part of ourselves that was damaged or traumatized to bring balance back to our energy system.
Energy clearing is a powerful method of reducing heavy, dense energy (hoocha) in our bodies and lives. A chakra clearing helps balance imbalances in any of the energy centers (chakras); we want just the right amount of spin to feel balanced. Just like with our bodies, over time we become who we are to become, helped along by positive events. But the negative also has an impact, dimming the true light of our greatest expression.
Susto is a shamanic term used to describe what happens in trauma. It translates to fight paralysis and soul loss. That’s why we do soul retrievals, to put the pieces of ourselves back together – to re-member. Dr. Peter Levin talks about this in his book In an Unspoken Voice.
As a Yoga Therapist and Shamanic Practitioner, I have been fortunate to have excellent teachers that have helped me learn how to navigate a world where so many people are living with remnants and shadows of past experiences but may not realize it or know how to ask for help.
There are several shamanic methods to clear emotional and life trauma, resolve past life problems, clear ancestral issues, and recover lost soul parts. Clearing our ancestral lineage uncovers the past to heal the future. It changes the family patterns (and DNA) that has been passed down for generations. We can cut cords with the ancestors’ blueprints and karmic shadows. When we clear ourselves, we clear across the familial DNA (it’s a process). That’s why I am sharing this information with you. I can help you transform trauma, heal what’s wounded, move what’s stuck, balance what is imbalanced, and improve health & immunity.
When you make a spiritual connection, the Pituitary releases everything good (oxytocin, dopamine, relaxin, serotonin, endorphins, etc.)
There’s an interesting study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that looked at men with AIDS. They looked at 2 outcomes – increase or decrease of AIDS virus in their body. When healthy white blood cells increase, the viral load decreases. People who are dying have an increase in viral load and a decrease in the number of white blood cells - the fighters of your immune system that protect against infection.
The single most important factor was whether they believed in a benevolent universe (God/Goddess) or a judgmental hellfire & brimstone kind of universal being. At the end of the study, those believing in a benevolent being had no detectable AIDS viruses in their bloodstream.
Your beliefs affect your body, aging, inflammation levels, and immune system. Dr. Larry Dossey cites over 1,200 studies showing that prayer is good medicine. (This is called transfiguration in shamanism.) Altruistic behavior also increased antibodies, circulating stem cells, and feelings of unity.
Faith healing, prayer & loving thoughts affect others through entanglement (even at a distance) because we were all connected before the “big bang” separated us.
All suffering is caused by the illusion of separateness, which generates fear and self-hatred, which eventually causes illness.
– Barbara Brennan
Trauma shrinks the pre-frontal cortex of the brain (your sense of self), taking it off-line. The good news is that neuroplasticity can increase the size again. The neurons in our brain are malleable (neuroplasticity). It is possible to rewire our brain for recovery. Because the brain is “plastic,” we have the ability to upgrade our setting. The long-term benefit is you create new neural pathways in your brain, and you alter your whole neural network. Now we’re talking about bioplasticity – our biology & DNA can be changed.
Just as your brain changed in response to your past experiences with the world, it can also change in response to your future experiences. Choose & focus on the possibility you WANT. Don’t get sucked into the fear of what you don’t want.
Perception CAN change the chemistry & DNA in the body. Dr. Robert Schneider describes that your choices change your genes. The body believes what the mind thinks. However, changing the brain takes effort, repetition and time. Be patient.
It’s important to have Faith (shraddha in Sanskrit). Faith in God/Goddess (that Spirit of a thousand names but is ultimately nameless). Faith in medicine. Faith in our body’s ability to heal. Or a combination of all 3.
The body wants to be healthy. It’s the mind (ego) that’s the problem. Focus on the vibrations of love (500), peace (600), and gratitude (700). When you do that, your vibration raises upwards to 1,000, the frequency of Self-Realization. This awareness accrues over time with intention, attention, and an open mind. As our Consciousness ascends, we get closer and closer to the state of yoga called Samadhi. This is when you realize you are Buddha/Christ Consciousness, sometimes known as “enlightenment.” All paths of love lead to the same divine Source of all that exists. We are all moving toward unification with our Source.