How the healing benefits of yoga can help unite the mind, body and spirit and help express the emotions that come with loss, leading to better health, growth and transformation.
We experience grief when there is a significant loss in our lives. It may be from the loss of health, identity, finances, pregnancy, a loved one or a way of life. The more significant the loss, the more intense it’s likely to be.
Grief can bring up a tidal wave of emotions. Feelings of sadness, anger, regret, relief…there really is no right or wrong way to feel, everyone processes grief in their own individual way. When we experience pain and suffering it can cause a disconnect between the mind and body, at times leaving us with an overwhelming feeling of helplessness or tempting us to dive deep into a protective numbness. Whether there is awareness of the void or not, the tide will always find a way to resurface one way or another. So it helps to be mindful of having a healthy outlet for self expression, to fully feel what you feel, then let it go so you can live a full and conscious life.
Yoga is a practice that unites the mind, body and spirit. It’s a compassionate practice that lights the way out of the thinking mind and into the feeling body. At times a way of building energy, other times a way of complete surrender. It can help ease the trauma that follows grief and allow space for healing, acceptance and personal transformation.
My yoga practice looked very different before my Mum’s passing. I had been devoted to Bikram Yoga for 4 years and thrived through the challenge of heat and structured asanas. After her passing though I felt like the last thing that I needed was a challenge. It was hard enough to do little day to day things like grocery shopping or reply to messages.
When you lose someone time has a way of moving in slow motion and too quickly all at the same time. Everything I did felt like I was doing it for the first time. Thankfully I was surrounded by loving patience when I responded to messages as soon as I could, which was often a week later, or even not at all. I was surrounded by loving support that kept me fed during the six weeks it took to do my first grocery shop.
When it came to my practice, I craved the union yoga provided yet my body also really needed a break. It had been completely exhausted and it needed some love and care. I found solace in the long, luxurious holds in restorative Yin yoga (something I never thought I’d say). I will never forget the release from practicing Parsva Balasana, or Thread the Needle Pose, a powerful pose for healing the heart. It completely cracked me open.
It was also during this time that a friend inspired me to commit to a 30 day yoga challenge. In a cheeky act of rebellion I skipped the handstand trend and opted for Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall Pose) instead, a luxuriously restorative Yin inversion. I looked forward to those 5 or so minutes each day where I could lie with my legs up the wall, melt into my body and completely surrender. Taking a photo each day and sharing it on Instagram (#30daysofviparitakarani) kept me accountable to my commitment. Messing up the days taught me to accept, even love the imperfections. Looking back over the 30 posts provided a sense of achievement and a visual insight into how I was feeling along the way.
A gradual return to Bikram Yoga felt like coming home, a feeling of comfort in the familiar. I expected the heart opening Camel Pose to bring on a few tears, what I didn’t expect was just how tight my shoulders and chest had become as it attempted to protect what lay beneath it. With every pose that cracked my heart open, a feeling of release and a chance to heal.
As hard as it’s been, I can’t imagine how this journey would be without yoga. It continues to keep me grounded and mindful, as I’m sure it will for what’s to come.
It takes time to work through grief and there is no set timeframe or rules when it comes to mourning. Grief can’t be compartmentalised to suit work or set plans. When it comes up it comes up. While everyone will have their own way of dealing with loss it’s so important to have support and a holistic approach to moving on in order to find acceptance and a sense of freedom.
Those who know grief know the burden of having a heavy heart. Those who practice yoga know that the seemingly encompassing darkness is nothing compared to the light within. That really feeling and exploring through yoga will lead to healing and growth.
3 poses to help lift a heavy heart
1. Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall Pose)
2. Parsva Balasana (Thread the Needle/Revolved Child’s Pose
3. Savasana (Corpse Pose)
May your practice be a source of strength and comfort that opens your mind and heart and helps you through your journey to live a life filled with more love and light than you’ve ever felt before.