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Yoga for Grief

by Arundhati Baitmangalkar

A few days ago, I lost my mother. She was fighting a medical condition that deteriorated her lungs steadily the past five years in addition to battling cancer three times in the past three years. She was fighting a lot and did it really well with grace and strength that can only inspire. I’m learning to cope with her passing and this new life ahead without her in it everyday. I finally decided to roll out her yoga mat today, four days after her passing. Doing yoga for my grief today was hard and easy at the same time. It felt like I was coming home, but at the same time, every breath felt stuck and effortful.

This led me to think about what a helpful tool yoga is to healing our bodies and our minds. Like anything, it takes time and consistency, but if you can give your practice that, it will truly make a difference in your grieving process. I don’t know that we ever completely heal from losing a loved one but I’ve come up with a few poses that will assist you in this process. I love you Amma, I will miss you eternally.

How do yoga poses help with Grief?

We store stress and emotions in our bodies, especially in our hips, chest, and shoulders. The practice of asanas or yoga poses help us to regulate and release these emotions. This helps us to cope better and allows for more time and space to process what’s going on.
Moving the body is key in times of stress and emotional upheaval. While it may be hard to even think of making time to move the body or of being alone, doing yoga at this time can be very therapeutic and aids in the healing process.

What type of yoga to do for Grief?

Honestly, the type of yoga you practice doesn’t matter. What one needs to do to cope with grief is:

  • Move the body. A vinyasa practice or a strong practice is helpful. This will help get out of the head and into the body which is exactly what one should do
  • Breathe, breathe, & breathe. This will bring a fleeting sense of emotional stability and grounding. Especially if you are looking to be centered.
  • Opt for backward bends and inversions if you are capable of having them in your practice.
  • Chest opening poses will release emotions.
  • It’s common to break down in your yoga practice when you’re experiencing trauma.
  • Skip shavasana or any poses with your eyes closed when the trauma or grief is fresh.

Top 5 Yoga poses for Grief

The best yoga poses for grief are the ones who:

  • Release emotion (Backward bends)
  • Provide perspective (Inversions)
  • Energize (Hip opening & Inversions)

Urdhva Mukha Swanasana (Upward Facing Dog) is a gentle backbend that will help to open the heart and assist in the grieving process.

Adhomukha Swanasana (Down dog) is a mildly inverted pose that helps to rest your heart and return blood flow to it. It also provides a sense of calmness in difficult times.

Ushtrasana (Camel pose) helps to open up the heart chakra which further facilitates the release of emotions during difficult times.

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel pose) is a backward bending pose that helps to open the chest and facilitates the release of emotion. It also helps to bring joy.

Shirshasana (Headstand pose) or any inverted pose will help restore energy and remove fatigue. An inversion is when the head is below the heart.

Do you practice regularly to process grief you may be experiencing? I encourage you to give these poses a try and let us know if you have any other poses you like to practice when you’re not feeling your best.

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