Friday, May 3, 2013

Grief Project - Yoga and Grief

“Your body is precious.  It is your vehicle for awakening.  Treat it with care.” - Buddha

As I sunk into my savasana, or corpse, pose on my mat in the yoga studio I began to weep silent tears.  The only sound in the studio were my sniffles that echoed off the bare walls. Grief had been living in my body not only as an emotional entity but it had manifested itself as physical pain.  But, in that moment when I succumbed to the whole mess of grief, the physical pain of my sorrow had lifted and a part of me that words can not describe opened up, released, and unionized within my being.  The practice had eased my suffering without words, without instructions.  It was as if my body knew how to heal itself.  I felt relief.  I felt loss.  I felt great love.

Yoga in Sanskrit means union, oneness of body and soul.  That is what happened for me on my mat that night. Yoga merged my emotional and physical sensations into one.  It aligned my mind, body, and spirit. Yoga has been a powerful healing technique for over three thousand years.  Recently, science has studied the benefits of yoga practice and have found that it holds great physiological and psychological benefits including reducing the symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety, as well as improving physical health. 

Yoga is now being used as a complementary tool in healing grief.  Yoga teachers and practitioners actually recommend specific yoga poses for relief and release of grief.  Karla Helbert, LPC, writes in about this in her article, Yoga for Grief & Loss.  She recommends heart opening poses such as Cat/Cow, Cobra, Camel Pose, and Sun Salutations to name a few.  She states that these poses open the chest and the energy around it allowing grief to be expressed and released.  This is what I experienced during my restorative therapy sessions.

Don’t just take my word on yoga’s healing capabilities, other grieving mothers have found it helpful too. In the book, There Was Supposed to Be a Baby: a Guide to Healing after Pregnancy Loss, Catherine Noblitt Keating, discussed how her daily yoga practice helped her heal her grief after a miscarriage.  She goes on to state that, “To practice yoga is to learn to quiet the mind, to allow the heart to find peace within, and to train the body to work most effectively.” Catherine swears that her yoga practice was one of the fundamental healing blocks in quieting her grief after pregnancy loss.    

Before I entered the studio that day, grief felt as if it was a growing tumor in my body.  It was heavy, tight, and aching. Grief felt as if it was holding me down against my will, submerged in a pool of pain, where I was drowning.   But when I left the mat that night, something shifted, moved, and settled.  My body felt different.  I felt different.  It's as if I became one body, mind, and spirit with all of my messy emotions, with grief, with love, with sorrow.  And all without saying a word.

If you would like to start your own yoga practice but don’t know where to begin I would recommend finding a yoga studio or class in your area.  Most studios offer specific classes on addressing issues of grief and loss. Even if they don’t, look for restorative classes such as Yoga Nidra or Yin Yoga. 

There Was Supposed To Be A Baby, by Catherin Noblitt Keating

De-Griefing, website by founder of De-griefing Lyn Prashant.  A practice of intergrating psychotherapy and complementary healing practices such as yoga to ease grief.

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