Tending to Grief with Yoga
When grief lands in our lives, our bodies feel it all. Everything we have lost, our bodies have lost. Our nervous system often regulates our emotions into waves – reaching our capacity of how much we can feel and helping us, over time, to process and integrate the new reality of our lives without.
We often speak of the heart in grief, but mostly in the metaphorical sense, as our emotional heart. Yet our physical heart has been involved in every wound as well, thrumming life blood through or system without faltering.
When we practice yoga in the midst of our grief, we acknowledge that our physical selves are inextricable from our emotional selves. To care for our bodies by turning towards our physical sensations is to care for the wound left by loss. We can soothe the little aches in our joints, show tenderness to the sore places, give breath to the stagnant parts – and each of these actions can be a small gift. Yoga can be a way to reminder ourselves that we are, in fact, still alive.
We also acknowledge that our minds can be friend and foe as we process grief, and that some spaciousness in our minds can help to avoid thought patterns that increase our suffering. Yoga helps us to find that space, and to cultivate the habit of pausing, noticing, and considering what is really going to serve us in each season of our lives.
Finally, while yoga can certanly help us process grief, it can also give us tools for when we need space from that grief. Sometimes we choose to slow down, to let the tears roll out in a deep hip opener – and sometimes we turn the music up, move into big sensations and give ourselves the opportunity to feel something different. This, too, is part of nervous system regulation. This, too, is part of riding the waves of grief.
The invitation with therapeutic yoga is not to “fix” anything, nor to prescribe a particular way of approaching your relationship with your body. The invitation is simply to have a relationship with your body, while grieving. To acknowledge its role, its experience, and maybe, its wisdom.
Written by: Alexi Neal