In the “More Than Asana” weekend we learned about the eight-limb path of yoga described in the Yoga Sutras in Patañjali’s Treaties on Yoga. I say “learned about”, ultimately we learned the concepts exist; we barely dipped a single toe into the ocean of life-long learning the 196 sutras encompasses. I took some time to read into these a little more and see how others had used them to cope with grief. I came across a beautiful article written by Phil Catalfo for Yoga Journal which was pretty much everything I was looking for. Shockingly (or un-shockingly) enough, the practise and principles of yoga have helped a huge number of people suffering from grief, and some of them have gone on to set up organisations to support people in similar situations; such as the Jenna Druck Foundation and Yoga for Grief Relief by Antonio Sausys. I also took comfort in “How to deal with grief and loss of a loved one?” – an interview with Sadhguru (who I LOVE).
I designed my own mini yoga therapy to start me on my journey to healing by really feeling my grief. I wanted to open my heart, connect my conscious and subconscious mind, and explore a meditative visualisation where I could say goodbye.
Yoga for Grief
- Get centred – let go of the day and the urge to stay busy, stay out of your head, and get centred on your mat. Sit comfortably, feel where your legs and feet and sits bones contact the mat. Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your lower abdomen and breath into your hands.
- Pranayama – Your breath connects your conscious and unconscious, opening up to the unconscious allows you to open up to grief. Do Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) to stimulate prana (life force energy), balance left and right brain hemispheres, and bring clarity and focus.
- Asana – A short flow to stimulate breath, circulate prana and open your heart. I’ve summarised the flow below.
- Meditation – Allow yourself to feel without thought, give in to the feeling of grief. I have a lot of work in my meditation practice so I prefer guided meditation. There are loads out there. I used this one by Lilian Eden as the title and visual nature resonated with me.
Downward facing dog
Sun A X 3
Sun B with cactus arms and humble warrior
Sun B with back bend in crescent lunge and extended side angle
Locust and floor bow
Upward facing dog
Bridge and wheel
Pigeon with king pigeon and mermaid
Scorpion against the wall
My experience of this sequence was very healing. On the surface I had taken time out of my day to rest, and do something for myself; going deeper I had allowed space for my grief to surface, so I could really feel it – without beating myself up or trying to “pull myself together”.
Something else happened during my mediation. I was visualising my Nana, and I felt a huge energy shift in the room. I went hot and cold and got goosebumps. I realised I could choose to observe and feel that energy shift, or dismiss it for any number of reasons (engineer’s mind, I have many), and I could also choose to believe that it was my Nana. I have never been very spiritual, and not at all religious, but realising I could choose to believe that it was her in the room to me, comforted me beyond anything else I had done. Her spirit, her energy, was out there, all I had to do to spend time with her now was notice.
I can’t help but think about the timing of all of this. My Nana passing meant something monumental and special, unique to each person in my family. I’ve been wondering what it means for me. She passed during my last weekend of yoga teacher training, right at the start of my journey, but also at a point where my heart and mind were more open than they have been in years, maybe ever. My Nana will never see me as a yoga teacher, or visit my house in Houston, or be at my wedding, or meet my children, but when she passed she opened my heart and mind just that little bit further, into spirituality.
Here’s to living spiritually.