Yoga for Grief
This past week my family suffered a personal loss. And, in turn, as I was at a loss as to how I could help. I couldn’t be there for my family physically. I couldn’t help other than lend my support, honor my own emotions, and revel in the happy memories we all share.
But then I realized. I could do something.
Am I a yoga teacher or not?
I don’t have any therapy degrees. I don’t have a lot of experience, other than my own emotions, with grief.
Yet I can pass what little insights I have had along. Maybe this post won’t be read. Or maybe it will. I can only hope that it reaches the right people at the right time and, perhaps, can ease a difficult situation. Can ease loss, sorrow, and grief.
I can offer yoga.
Best Yoga Poses and Practices for Grief
Standing Warrior Poses
Warrior One, Warrior Two, Peaceful Warrior, Devotional Warrior. All warrior poses help us to get grounded. Physically, they help to open your hips. Emotionally, the connect you to a sense of power, a sense of control, a sense of strength.
Warrior poses plant you in the present moment, while providing a place to feel confident and tap into a sense of control…something that can feel releasing when you are faced with situations where you feel especially helpless or out of control.
When we feel a lot of emotions, especially unpleasant ones, we tend to close off our heart center. We hunch. We close our heart physically to the world in order to subconsciously prevent us from feeling what is happening in our hearts. Because we think that if we close our hearts we won’t have to process our emotions.
Unfortunately, the reverse is true. When we are sad, when we are heartbroken, when we are filled with sorrow…we need to breathe into that sorrow. We need to open our hearts, open our shoulders, and open ourselves up to feeling what is truly happening.
A supported fish pose helps to gently open the heart. We don’t want to shock ourselves and immediately try going into a full backbend or camel pose. But we need to gently, slowly, and mindfully allow our heart center to open.
The important thing is to recline, allow the heart to open, and breathe. Emotions often come up when we allow ourselves to breathe in times of sorrow. The important thing is to keep breathing. Allow the heart to shine out. And breathe fully. Tears may come. Anger may come. All sorts of feelings may come. Just keep breathing. Stay for 5-10 minutes. And breathe into the heart.
Place a block under your head and another underneath the rib-cage where the bra line would fall if you wear a bra. Extend the legs long, flexing the toes towards your face. You could also bring your feet into a reclined variation of butterfly pose/baddha konasana.
It can also be helpful to slow down, to go within, and to breathe into the back body. They call it child’s pose for a reason. Because it allows us to rest, allows us to fully feel grief, and to feel safe. Like with supported fish, the important part of the posture is the breath. Feeling whatever sensations come up. Crying if you need to cry. Just being present with whatever is going on and focusing on the breath. Inhale. Exhale.
I find my personal meditation practice to be one of my biggest saving graces in times of sorrow. Even if I only have five minutes. I do not go for anything grand. It’s not the time for esoteric meditations. It’s just a time to sit with what is happening. To sit with your breath. To soften the space between eyebrows. And focus on the breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. I often like to take deep breaths through the nose and let it all go AHHHH out the mouth. Again and again. Focusing on the breath can help us to reconnect to the present.
I also try open-eyed meditations when I am experiencing intense feelings. If I find I am retreating too-far into myself, that my mind is going into hyper-drive, that I am worrying too much or overcome. I connect to the world around me. I try to focus my eyes on what I can see in front of me–maybe a table, maybe an ant crawling on the ground, maybe the color of the leggings I’m wearing. And I keep trying to take in my surroundings. I keep trying to breathe more deeply. And I keep trying to connect to the present moment. Because, ultimately, the only way to heal, to process, and to grieve is to connect to the now.
And just keep connecting.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
How have you coped with grief? Do you maintain a daily yoga practice? What poses, tactics, or fitness regimes do you seek out during times of emotional upheaval?
Let me know in the comments below.
All photos by Ashlee Hamon Photography.