Yoga Therapy for Grief

Dear yoga community,

Grief is commonly thought of when we lose someone to death, but death is just one way we can experience it.

Grief can come in any form of loss. We can grieve the loss of a relationship, the loss of an identity, the loss of a home or loss of a dream. Any change can bring loss and grief with it.

I remember when I was training for a marathon several years ago, and I became very attached to the identity of “runner.” I did not realize how attached I became to that identity until I injured my Achilles tendons. When my physical therapist told me I should not run, I fell into despair. At least temporarily my identity of runner and my dream of completing a marathon shifted. I felt depressed, sad and angry. I judged myself for training too much. I judged my body for not being strong enough. I continued to train, but I walked instead of ran. When I saw another person running I felt jealousy.

I had to grieve the experience I thought I was going to have, and that allowed me to create space to have the marathon experience that I was going to have. That year it meant that I was not going to finish a marathon.

Yoga was one of the things that helped me through this. With grief, I believe one of the hardest things to do and one of the most powerful things to do is allow it to be there and unfold in whatever way it needs to happen. When I walked past a runner I allowed myself to feel the sensations of jealousy. Under the jealousy was anger. Under the anger was sadness.

I also know through my yoga and meditation practice that no sensation or feeling will last forever. As I was feeling my grief I was also aware that this was an impermanent state of being, just like the injury to my Achilles. And yet some grief can last for the rest of our lives. The marathon example I shared is one of the smaller griefs I experienced in my life so far. The death of my grandmother happened 24 years ago, and there are still moments of loss I feel, and I believe there always will be. There are times that I am sad that she could not be present for an experience (like crossing the finish line of the marathon a year later), but even that grief has shifted immensely in 24 years. I will always miss my grandmother, and my grief now feels more like a tenderness than a piercing heartache.

bell hooks says, “Accepting death with love means we embrace the reality of the unexpected, of experiences over which we have no control. Love empowers us to surrender.”

My yoga practice teaches me over and over to surrender, and love, compassion and empathy are the tools of yoga that give me the courage and strength to allow myself to surrender.

On February 19 I am looking forward to offering the next monthly 2-hour workshop on yoga therapy for a particular challenge. This month’s focus will be grief.

If you feel the heaviness of grief in your chest and the weight of it is pulling you down consider coming to this workshop utilizing the tools of yoga to work with the body, mind and heart experience of grief. Go here to learn more and register for the Friday, February 19 workshop (or look ahead at other topics we will cover in the next few months). If the workshop does not work for you or you want support for your individual and unique experience contact me for a complimentary 20-minute phone consultation to see if yoga therapy may be a good fit for you.

With love and compassion,