Yoga for Grief

Talk about timing…

I signed up for a Yoga for Grief Relief workshop over a year ago as part of my 300hr program with The Soul of Yoga. I never could have planned that this workshop would align so closely with a time period where I experienced many losses. The training began about 1 month after I was laid off from 3 studios I worked for, lost my main sources of income and lost physical contact with my friends and family because of quarantine. It was also just 5 days after the passing of my 95-year-old great Aunt Hazel, who was like a grandmother to me, and 3 days after the passing of a high school friend.

Understandably, I was a bit nervous to start this training. I knew it would trigger the grief I had been experiencing.

A part of me wanted to cancel the whole thing and just not show up, but I knew that I couldn’t just avoid my grief. I would eventually need to face it and there was no time like the present! So, I decided to see this divine timing as a gift. Thankfully, the training ended up being a beautiful cocoon that facilitated my grief journey.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t heal overnight. I know that my grief will still resurface from time to time, maybe even for years, but I now feel better equipped to work through it.

We all experience grief, so I’m here to share what I learned with you in hopes that it will help you in some way too.

The training I took was led by Psychosomatic therapist, Antonio Sausys, the author of the book Yoga for Grief Relief – which I highly recommend!

Here is an overview of what I learned:

THERE ARE MANY FORMS OF GRIEF.

The loss of a person is the most well-known cause of grief, but, the loss of a home, job, relationship, etc… are all events that can create a grief response too. It is also completely NORMAL to experience the signs and symptoms of grief after the loss of a dream, goal or routine that didn’t play out the way you had expected. It is important to expand our perspectives and validate all forms of grief. Whether it’s a pet, a beloved photograph or a way of living that was lost, YOUR GRIEF IS VALID!

THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF LOSSES: Primary & Secondary.

A primary loss is the first one that occurs. For example, losing a job would be a primary loss. But the job isn’t usually the only thing a person loses.

Secondary losses are losses that occur as a result of the primary loss. For example, with the loss of a job also comes the loss of income, the loss of connection with your coworkers on the job and maybe even the loss of a lifestyle you were able to have because of the way the job supported you, perhaps you lose your car or home. If you define yourself by your occupation (which many of us do!), no longer being an employee of “x” company, could leave you feeling like you lost a part of your identity.

See how things can add up? Often the secondary loses are even harder to accept than the primary loss. If you’ve ever felt this way, you are not alone, this is normal!

THE SYMPTOMS OF GRIEF ARE BROAD.

Grief manifests in many ways.

It is important to remember that grief is not a condition or a sickness even though it can manifest as symptoms that can be confused with illnesses.

All of these following are normal to experience. After a loss you could experience physical symptoms like digestive issues or insomnia. Emotional symptoms like anger, fear, sadness or loneliness are common. Mental symptoms may include poor concentration or disbelief. Social or behavioral symptoms can show up in the form of isolation, hiding your own grief by taking care of others, staying busy, or looking at photos or audio recordings of the deceased. Even spiritual symptoms like questioning your belief systems or reflecting on the mysteries and wonders of life and death are all normal.

MOVING THROUGH GRIEF IS NOT A LINEAR PROCESS

Antonio taught us about the “tasks of mourning” and stressed the importance that we don’t need to move through these tasks in any particular order. The tasks are as follows; to accept the reality of the loss, to process the pain of grief, to adjust to your new environment and to embark in a new life while honoring what you lost.

You can read more details about these tasks in his book! Just remember you may not experience these four tasks in order. It’s much more likely that you will jump around and have to revisit past tasks a few times before you feel that the process is complete for you and all of that is normal too.

GRIEF IS NORMAL

You might have noticed that I used the word normal quite a few times in this article. This is very important to note. Grief can feel isolating, but remember you are not alone. Every human has experience of grief in various forms throughout their lifetime. It’s important to remember that we are all in this together. No matter that the loss, grief is a normal response. When we lose something, not matter how seemingly “big” or “small”, it’s important to let ourselves grieve the loss.

Allow yourself fully feel and face your grief. Never ignore your grief. If it’s pushed down for too long it can become more complex and challenging. I know from personal experience, everything resurfaces eventually, so procrastination does more harm than good in the long run.

Asking for help can be hard but there are people out there ready to support your grief journey. Talk to a friend, contact a professional like Antonio, or reach out to me if you aren’t sure where to start, I can help refer you to someone.

YOGA FOR GRIEF RELIEF

Yoga has an incredible way of strengthening one’s mind-body connection. Yoga gives us tools to remember how to be rooted in the present.

In the present, we can face our grief head on. Imagining the potential outcomes of your grief in the future is known to cause anxiety. Replaying the past causes of grief in your mind may lead to depression; but facing it, sitting with it and remembering what is real and true in each present moment will help you move through the grief and create a new life.

Yoga teaches us to take life one day at a time, without any judgements or projections.

Antonio’s book outlines a very specific sequence (or sadhana) that he has created. I recommend reading the book for that detailed process, he has a very specific approach that has helped many people.

In the meantime, practices such as alternate nostril breathing, meditation and gentle yoga are all excellent tools to calm and balance your system.

Check out my YouTube Channel for some simple yoga and meditation videos that may help you cultivate a deeper awareness of your senses and connect with your body.

I recommend starting with this 8-Minute Meditation video, it’s a great way to check in with yourself. Or if you’re craving some movement, this 12-minute sequence to practice to start your day, It is simple, easy to follow and will help you tune into your body, even if you’ve never tried yoga before!

Again, if you need any guidance or have questions on this topic, please feel free to reach out to me. Remember, you are not alone. We are all on this journey together.