Yoga for Grief

Right now, in the midst of this world-wide pandemic, many of us are struggling with grief.  Grief can be experienced anytime there is a loss.  Many of us are grieving our lives, the way they used to be.  We are grieving jobs, not being able to see loved ones, not being able to go to our favorite restaurants and stores, not being able to celebrate birthdays and holidays together, and in general, not being able to come and go as we please.  And in some cases, we are grieving numerous losses at once.  It can feel overwhelming, especially as we are experiencing this during a period of time when we are expected to stay at home, away from many members of our individual support systems.

While it might sound strange to say we are grieving at a time like this, if you stop and examine how you are feeling, you will likely find it’s true.  We all experience grief differently.  There are numerous models of grief out there but one of the common models identifies five stages of grief. 

First we experience denial.  As we try to absorb and understand what has happened, we often act as if the grief causing event has not happened.  During this stage we do a lot of reflecting and recalling how things used to be.  This is our mind and body’s way of trying to grasp the unwanted information and deal with the ensuing emotional pain that comes with it. 

Next is anger.  Anger acts as an emotional outlet for us and is often seen as a socially acceptable way to express grief in times of loss.  At the same time, as we unleash our anger, we often can experience isolation as others perceive as unapproachable right at the time we need comfort, reassurance, and connection with others the most.

The third stage is bargaining.  Here we want so badly for the pain of the loss to be gone that we try to bargain for an alternate option.  Whether we are bargaining with another individual or with whatever we recognize as a higher power, our goal in this stage is to try and influence a different outcome.  This is the stage when we can feel most human and vulnerable, thus recognizing there may well be nothing that we can do to change things.  This feeling of helplessness is what prompts us to bargain for some kind of change.

This leads us squarely into the fourth stage, depression.  Here we become very aware of our new reality.  We recognize bargaining Is not going to work and the loss really starts to settle in.  With this realization we often pull inward and feel the sadness of the loss deeply.  Like the second stage of grief, this stage can also become very isolating as we retreat into ourselves, often becoming less sociable. 

Lastly, there is acceptance.  This is the stage when we may still feel the pain of the loss, but we no longer are hoping or trying for a different outcome.  We recognize and accept our situation as it is and begin to move forward in our new reality.

While this is a somewhat over simplified description of the five stages of grief, hopefully it gives you enough information to understand how you and others in your life might indeed be grieving right now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So how yoga can help during a time of grief?  The word yoga means yoke or union, specifically the union of the mind, body, and spirit.  A yoga practice connects these parts of our selves through movement and breath. 

Grief can store itself in our body, therefore moving the body in the right ways to help remove that stored grief is essential for your overall health and healing.  Yoga, especially restorative yoga and heart chakra opening poses (since much of grief is felt in our hearts), can help the body to release the pain and suffering associated with your grief. 

Here are some yoga poses to help you move through your grief…

  • Camel pose
  • Cobra pose
  • Reclining Bound Angle
  • Legs up the wall
  • Supported Twist
  • Supported Bridge
  • Supported Child’s Pose
  • Savansa

For instructions on how to do these poses, click here.

We all experience grief in a slightly different way and move through the stages of grief at a different cadence, but the practice of yoga can be an essential part of your successful grief journey.

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