How Yoga Can Get You Through Grief and Sadness

From DoYouYoga, by Kathy Kruger

 

Have you ever cried in a yoga class and felt that rush of relief? I bawled like a baby during Yin yoga training last year in a two and a half hour class that went deep — which it turns out was exactly where I needed to go.

Maybe you’ve shed a few silent tears in the midst of a dynamic flow class, the trickle seeming to flow with the Vinyasa and the breath.

Perhaps you’ve choked back tears in a Child’s Pose or deep into a Forward Bend — afraid of the waterworks releasing, swallowing hard.

Crying During Yoga
Crying during a yoga practice may be all very well at home, but many of us don’t like to allow ourselves to be so vulnerable surrounded by strangers (or friends) in a class situation, even though it may be exactly what we need to do.

We may know that vulnerability is the Yin to the Yang of a strong yoga practice, but it can be kind of embarrassing — that’s if we don’t leave our egos at the classroom door.

If you can suspend your ego, yoga can be a safe place to sit with sadness or move with and through grief, anchored in breath and bringing awareness to the body and away from whatever loss you are experiencing, whatever is causing pain.

You have the choice of “truly, madly, deeply” feeling the sadness and grief in your body, or of transmuting it through breath and awareness into a sense of peace.

Either way, if you can use yoga to help you feel pain more, or to feel it less, you will be on the way to healing.

Here are a few tips on practicing to help you heal.

1. Accept Your Emotional State
It can be easy to talk yourself out of a yoga or meditation practice because you are feeling down, and especially if you are grieving. But yoga doesn’t ask us to be in one mood or another in order to practice.

We can come to yoga sad, stressed, frustrated, even angry and we have the opportunity to re-set. Sure sadness and loss can’t be fixed as easily as a bad mood (and depression is a variable condition often requiring different treatments), but then yoga doesn’t promise a quick fix but a lifelong friendship.

2. Use Breath
Well of course — it is everything in yoga, but especially when we are sad and likely to be feeling sluggish.

Maybe a strong Power yoga class is going to require more energy than you can muster in your depressed state, or maybe it’s exactly what you need (forgetting about things for a while isn’t so bad). Generally a slower sequence of asana with plenty of opportunity for breath focus is going to help you direct your breath towards healing and channel emotional release.

3. Open Your Heart Chakra
Deep back bending postures like Camel open and expose your heart chakra — which can be hard, but also very healing.

While you might feel anger in your gut, or get a hot head, you are most likely to feel sadness around your heart. Metaphorically, I envisage sadness sitting on my shoulders, hunching them, weighing me down. Grief can settle in between the shoulder blades at the back of your heart, stuck there so you literally can’t straighten your shoulders. You may also lock loss and heartache within your rib cage, as though it can protect you from getting hurt again.

A heart-opening Yin yoga class may be perfect (or it may be overwhelming). Try Anahata asana and allow yourself to expose the back of your heart — to be vulnerable. We can’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable if we haven’t accepted that sadness can be the result — and acceptance is always the path to letting go.

4. Dwell in the Present
Yoga always provides this opportunity without being a negative distraction (such as too much shopping to cheer you up, or too much alcohol to numb you).

Grief and sadness are always rooted in the past (and sometimes stuck there through regret, or a lack of forgiveness). If things happened in the past to make you sad, if you have suffered a loss, then reliving these events is never going to allow you to get beyond them. At the same time, if you are depressed about the future, then dwelling there is never going to give you hope.

Time may be the ultimate healer, but yoga enables you to surrender a little more of the past to dwell in the present.

5. Allow Yourself to Cry
If tears come, don’t be afraid. You don’t have to be a Warrior all the time!

If we allow it, yoga can remind us that we are not the events that happen to us, the losses we suffer, the emotions we feel, or the thoughts that swim in our heads.

Sadness sits on the surface. Grief and loss, even when they run deep, still can’t hurt us at the level of our eternal and universal souls.

The tears you shed cannot disturb the stillness deep inside you. Pass the Kleenex.