Grief is an entirely natural and healthy response to a loss. We all experience it at some point. Grief is the emotional pain that comes with losing someone and physical symptoms such as fatigue, aches, and difficulty sleeping. Meditation and Yoga are both excellent ways to deal with feelings of grieving. Both techniques cultivate overall balance by allowing the nervous system the conditions to self-regulate. Yoga helps with physical grief and offers a safe place to work through difficult emotions. This can be a great aid for anyone dealing with loss.
There is no one way to deal with grief. It differs from person to person. When feelings of sadness and grief become overwhelming, Yoga and meditation can be helpful. Both new and experienced practitioners of these ancient Eastern techniques can benefit from the many aspects of these practices when in a grieving state.
Impermanence, non-attachment, and impermanence
A study by The University of Memphis showed that an intervention based on Buddhist philosophy, including slow movement and story-telling, helped reduce the pain associated with grief.
Yoga philosophy is similar to Buddhism in that it views death as part of the constant change we must all go through.
Vairagya refers to non-attachment. In the Yoga Sutras, it is referred to as a fundamental principle of Yoga, along with abhyasa, which means “to practice.” However, letting go is easier said than accomplished, whether you are referring to attachments such as fear, aversion, or emotions. It is important to practice accepting the impermanence of life.
It is one thing to look into these philosophies that can support us in difficult times and another to use spiritual concepts to avoid emotions.
Embodiment over emotional by-passing
Non-attachment does not mean that you shut out your emotions. It means accepting all the emotional pain and knowing it will change. Emotions can indeed come and go, then resurface 1000 times, but the important thing to remember is that emotions are constantly changing. Trying to block out emotional pain after experiencing trauma, grief, or heartbreak is understandable. However, the body will remember, and it will return.
Yoga involves embodiment and can help us move through these devastating experiences. Yoga class is a safe place to deal with difficult emotions.
This is a great way to deal with grief, no matter how painful. While grieving, attending a regular class of Yoga can help you feel a part of a supportive group and support you in standing on your two feet.
Yoga poses for processing grief and sadness
While yoga poses can help heal grief, some are more effective than others in processing, integrating, and balancing feelings of sadness, loss, and sorrow. Hold these poses with mindful awareness and deep breathing. To help integrate and process grief and sadness, the following nine yoga postures are recommended:
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Half Camel (Ardha Ustrasana)
Half Circle (Ardha Mandalasana)
Extended Dog Pose (Utthita Svanasana)
Extended One Leg Pigeon (Utthita Eka Pada Kapotasana).
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
Reclined bound angle (Supta Baddha Konasana).
Meditation to heal grief
Regular meditation will help you cultivate the witness consciousness, which allows you to be fully aware of your emotions. Certain types of meditation are more effective in processing, integrating, and balancing feelings of sadness, grief, and loss. You can gradually increase the amount of time you spend practicing these meditations. If possible, practice them every day. Three meditations can help strengthen your heart and mind and heal sorrow and grief:
Heart Chakra Meditation
Inner Peace Meditation
Yoga for community support
Hannah Whitley died in December 2017 at the age of 23. A charity has been set up in her memory in the North of England. Nicki Whitley’s mum found that Yoga and meditation helped her deal with grief. She decided to create the Hannah Whitley Foundation to help others grieve and to keep Hannah’s memory alive by offering free yoga classes.
Nicki stated, “My yoga mat has been a lifeline for me at times in the last few months. I would like to share this with others who cannot afford it.” We want to make sure everyone has the chance to experience Yoga.
The community has helped many people cope with their losses, demonstrating other ways to cope, such as using alcohol or drugs or taking a path of self-destruction.
In Pennsylvania, USA, a pilot program called Yoga for the grieving heart uses Yoga to help people dealing with loss. Sumner, a Yoga instructor in this program, says that “a person in pain may become detached and numb.” We welcome all emotions to come and process, whether good or bad.
Support groups like these address the issue that unspoken grief can cause a person’s mind to get stuck in a protective mode. Being in this situation can be lonely and defensive, so safe spaces are essential for expressing our feelings.
Yoga’s physical benefits, such as increased flexibility and strength, can help a person cope with the emotional turmoil that grief brings. People often find that the balance and strength they gain on the mat and the relaxation aspects can be taken into their everyday lives. Yoga teaches us how to be present, self-soothe, and care for ourselves, which is a great tool when going through a difficult process like grief.