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6 reasons why Yoga can help your grief recovery

From personal experience and in supporting others, yoga can provide a fundamental way to unlock emotions in a healthy and empowering way, while also supporting the stress and feelings of overwhelm that so many people feel as they experience grief.

With Yoga being an ancient method of connecting mind (mental and emotional), body (physical) and spirit (your inner self), it can provide therapeutic benefits in ways that many other activities cannot.

I am not a Yoga teacher, but do practice regularly, at home, post COVID-19, with a fabulous app called Down Dog (yep, not a paid endorsement!) Many, many years ago, I was keen to try Yoga, but as there were no classes where I lived in rural Australia, I found it difficult to find a way. It was through my grief journey when I attended McCulloch House and their centre for bereavement that I became introduced to breathwork and Yoga.

Here are the six ways that I believe Yoga can help you in your grief journey:

Emotional release

Grief often involves a wide range of emotions such as sadness, anger, and frustration. Yoga offers a safe and non-judgmental space to release these emotions. Through various poses, breathwork, and meditation, you can create a sense of release and let go of emotional tension, allowing emotions to flow naturally. Remember to approach these poses with kindness and listen to your body's needs. Additionally, incorporating deep, conscious breathing and mindful meditation into your practice can further support the healing process associated with grief.

Some of the key beginner poses that can assist you are:

  • Child's Pose (Balasana): This is a restful and comforting pose that helps to release tension in the body, particularly in the back, shoulders, and hips. It promotes a sense of surrender, nurturing, and introspection.

  • Forward Fold (Uttanasana): This pose helps to release tension in the spine, shoulders, and hamstrings. It can provide a gentle stretch while encouraging introspection and grounding.

  • Supine Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana): This reclined pose opens the chest and hips while promoting relaxation. It can help release stored emotions and create a sense of surrender and acceptance.

  • Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani): This restorative pose is deeply relaxing and grounding. It helps to calm the nervous system, reduce anxiety, and promote a sense of ease and restoration.

  • Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana): This gentle flowing sequence helps to release tension in the spine and promotes emotional release. It encourages the connection between breath and movement while fostering a sense of grounding and flow.

  • Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana): This pose helps to release tension in the back, shoulders, and hamstrings. It promotes introspection and relaxation while encouraging a sense of surrender and letting go.

"My personal favourite yoga pose for grief recovery is Tree Pose (Vrksasana). I find it grounding and uplifting at the same time. I feel strong, but flexible and even inside, I feel nature with me in a deep, supportive way."

Mind-Body connection

Grief can often leave you feeling disconnected from your body, as if you are merely going through the motions of daily life. Yoga helps to re-establish the mind-body connection by bringing attention and awareness to physical sensations. This awareness can be grounding and help you reconnect with you body, bringing forward a sense of presence and acceptance.

Stress and anxiety reduction

The grieving process can be accompanied by significant levels of stress and anxiety. Engaging in a regular yoga practice can help reduce these symptoms by activating the relaxation response in the body. Yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation techniques promote a state of calmness, balance the nervous system, and reduce the physiological effects of stress. Certain poses can assist in managing a range of emotions.

Self-compassion and acceptance

Yoga encourages self-compassion and self-care, which are crucial elements of the healing process. Through yoga, you can cultivate self-compassion by practicing non-judgmental awareness and acceptance of your present experience, including your grief. This practice can ensure a sense of kindness and understanding towards yourself during the challenging times of grief.

Increased resilience

Grief recovery is a journey that requires resilience and the ability to adapt to life changes. Yoga promotes resilience by improving mental and emotional strength. Regular yoga practice can help you build resilience by teaching you to stay present in the face of difficulty, to cultivate a positive mindset, and to find balance amidst the ups and downs of the grieving process. 'Regular' can mean several times a week or daily, and it doesn't need to be an hour, or even half an hour. Just turning up on the mat for 10 minutes can set you up for what you need.

Community and support

Participating in yoga classes or joining specialised yoga groups for grief can provide a supportive community. Being in a group setting with others who have experienced loss can create a sense of belonging and understanding. Sharing experiences, practicing together, and providing mutual support can be immensely helpful in the grief recovery process. The Down Dog App has an online supportive community through Facebook. People share a range of topics, including loss and how 'getting back on the mat' is helping them.

Yoga won't replace working with a specialist, but it will help you on your way, where ever you are in your journey.

Yoga can help your grief recovery process
Even a Yoga sitting pose can help you grieve

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