Yoga, Loss, & GriefJun 28, 2023
I’m sure I’m not the only parent who experiences June as a nostalgia-inducing month. The end of the school year, the start of summer vacation, as well as milestones like graduations and weddings, can pull me into wistful memories right about now.
So, while I’m immensely grateful that my 16-year-old daughter has a summer filled with all good things, I also find myself experiencing a sense of loss in living these entirely expected and natural transitions. And I know that so many of us are grieving losses right now, both large and small, individual and collective.
Grief - what we experience when what or whom we love dies or disappears - is as natural as eating, sleeping, or walking.
Cultures throughout the world recognize the grieving process as essential for digesting the pain of loss. Grief is the flip side of love.
At its best, experiencing our grief has the power to transmute our pain back into love. Eventually, as we find healing and wholeness, it can become an affirming force that inspires us to live with greater awareness of life’s preciousness.
In his book, The Small of Rain on Dust, author Martin Prechtel describes grief as a “spiritual enzyme” that is “secreted by our soul, not to soften our losses, but to utterly change them by metabolizing the impossible emptiness and confusion of our losses into the matrix of our ongoing existence.”
Grief is also a complex, unpredictable, and individual journey. We respond to loss differently at different times and mourn in different ways for different losses.
Given the importance - and necessity - of allowing grief the time and space it requires, how can yoga support us?
Since our experience of grief fluctuates, our yoga practices need to be adaptable in supporting our bodies, minds, and hearts during the grieving process.
If you find movement helpful, then mindful, kind, gentle postural practice done in coordination with your breathing can help replenish your energy, uplift your mood, and provide a respite from challenging feelings you might be moving through.
The philosophies of yoga can be a source of solace, particularly those that encourage reflection on impermanence, the ever-changing nature of the temporal world, and the eternal Self that resides within all beings and remains unchanged and enduring.
But perhaps the most vital role our yoga practice can play in supporting the grieving process is how it allows us to hold space for ourselves. Through yoga, we learn to witness our grief and to be present with whatever is arising with acceptance and nonjudgment.
In this way, our practice can be a sanctuary for honoring our loss that supports the metabolizing power of grief to transform into a renewed sense of life.