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Yoga for Grief

Yoga for grief is a practice of paying attention to the potential for process that leads to clarity and calm. Whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one, a part of yourself, an opportunity or a relationship… this practice is for you.

It’s time for me to share more. Many of you may know I lost my mom a couple of years ago, and my dog this spring… also in these past few years, my best friend moved away, we experienced infertility, I walked a beloved client through hospice to the end of life and now, sit here in the heart of another Alaskan winter. Grief has become my companion. I have been befriending it. Yoga has been with me along the way.

Yoga is a practice of paying attention. Grief is one of the most complex, confusing and absolutely most human experiences we are likely to have in this life and will demand a fair amount of your attention!

Grief can bring you to the brink. It can sharpen your senses and your resolve. It will change you. 

Yoga will bring you back to your true self. Importantly, these practices will sharpen your senses and, will bring them back home to your heart. 

To practice yoga is to practice paying attention. In this practice we hold our attention steady with love and confidence… as you might hold a loved one’s hand. Hold attention steady and guide it through experience. 

Practice paying attention to what is going on, around us and inside. We gain perspective, tolerance, confidence and wisdom in this way. 

To begin a formal practice:

 1. Find some space.

It doesn’t have to be much. You might just move from the couch to a chair, from one chair to another, into a quiet room or outside. You can sit on cushion on the floor or a yoga mat but it is not necessary. Yoga for grief doesn’t have to look like anything you’ve seen or assumed, this is new.

2. Dedicate some time.

It’s important and will be beneficial even if it is just the length of one breath. Yoga for grief happens in a moment. When we add more of these moments, it becomes more of a habit, more of our norm. If you can spend 10 minutes, that would be great. Set a timer so you are less distracted. Then, silence devices until you are done.

3. Use a gesture to begin.

Here are a few ideas:

  • close your eyes
  • light a candle
  • bring your palms together in front of your heart
  • place one hand on your heart and one on your belly
  • jumping jacks

4. Articulate your intention.

If you’ve gotten this far, your intention is already set. This is where you practice paying attention to it. It might be that your motivation is for someone else or for yourself, it might be related to loss or, focused on the potential for growth. As you practice articulating intention, try saying it three times using the following framework:

  1. May I be __________
  2. May (they) be __________
  3. May WE be __________

5. Check-in with your body.

Do this either passively with a body scan or actively with movement. If you’ve been running around a lot, you might use the time to be still. If you’ve been in one spot for a while, you might need to move. You might feel grief as pain or even numbness in parts of your body. Any of it is ok.

6. Move.

(If you’ve come to the end of your practice time, skip to step 9.) 

If you have more time try some small -> BIG movements with different parts of your body (eyes, lips, throat, hands, arms, etc…) and then with your whole body. (I’ll share a video of a Yoga for Grief practice soon.)

Choose a movement that feels interesting and repeat it up to 10 times, at any pace. 

7. Be still and focus on breathing.

Try loose/horse lips on your exhalation, breathing into side ribs or elongating breath to a count of 6 on inhale, 6 on exhale. Maintain focus on breathing practice, hold attention to task whether it’s counting, breathing into side ribs, relaxing lips or another. 

8. Tune in to your senses.

To practice this step, try to listen for your breath and then for a sound that’s in the room, one outside of the room and then another that’s far away, another that’s closer and then breath again. 

You can stay focused on one sense, like hearing as suggested. Or, you can go through each of the senses and focus on a few impressions.

9. Offer gratitude

… for your body, breath, and loving awareness. And, you can also offer gratitude for anything else that has arisen in your awareness during the practice, even grief. You can either just repeat the phrase “Thank you.” Or, you can use the whole phrase: “Thank you for my body.”

10. Repeat intention

… three times: for yourself, for others, for all.

Gesture the end of the formal practice (bow, blow out candle, open eyes… your choice.) 

In summary, whether it’s the loss of a loved one or an opportunity… grief can be a powerful push towards our own fulfillment. Take the time and make the space to engage with the process and YOU will find yourself, calm and clear in the midst of it all. Yoga for grief offers a path.

Finally, if you’re finding the holiday season to be especially ripe with opportunity (NEED) to practice. Link to our previous post: 5 Tips for a Mindful Holiday. If you want some more individual support, you can schedule time with me, online or in person by clicking here.

Please join me in the process… I’d like to build this network and strengthen our resolve together! I’m starting with a new Yoga for Grief Facebook group. Click here to join the conversation. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 😌

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