Did you know there are specific yoga poses that help ease the grieving process? Learn about the emotional and physical health benefits of yoga for the grief process. Grieving causes physical pain in your body; these yoga poses relieve stress and promote healing in your mind, body, and soul.
In Yoga and Grief: A Compassionate Journey Toward Healing, Gloria Drayer and Kathleen Doherty share valuable insights from Gloria’s “Yoga and Grief” workshops. Many participants are able to get in touch with their own inner strength and spiritual resources by practicing yoga while journeying through the grieving process. The practices of yoga can provide a focus on the present moment and a way to restore the balance and energy which we need in times of stress and sadness. This book teaches gentle yoga techniques and suggestions about breathing, meditation and ritual, all designed to promote calm and comfort.
I hadn’t heard of yoga as a tip for surviving the grieving process until I started researching ways to overcome the pain of a broken heart. As soon as I learned there are yoga poses to help with the grief process, I immediately ordered the book. I love yoga for the physical benefits in my body (eg, longer, leaner muscles, more flexibility, improved mind-body connection, etc) – but it hadn’t occurred to me that the benefits of yoga poses include easing the burden of the grieving process. Here’s what I learned…
What do you already know about the benefits of yoga poses for the grieving process? Before you read my tips, take a moment to consider how yoga affects our emotions and spirits. Tell me – I welcome your big and little thoughts in the comments section below.
Signs and Symptoms of Grieving
It’s essential – but difficult – to move through the grieving practice. It seems easier to just bury our heads in the sand and distract ourselves from the pain of grief…but if you avoid the pain, you won’t heal. It can feel awkward and even embarrassing to talk about how you feel, but it’s so important to acknowledge your grief.
Exploring the benefits of different types of yoga poses for the grieving process is one way to express and communicate your feelings.
Here’s a brief list of the physical symptoms of grief:
- Pain in the chest muscles
- Feeling of tightness in the throat
- Disruption of eating and sleeping rhythms
- Dry mouth
- Restlessness, irritability
- Digestive system upset
- Fatigue, exhaustion, low energy
When my grandma died, I was consumed with fatigue. All I wanted to do was sleep and escape the pain of the grieving process. I definitely didn’t have the energy to go for my usual runs or do my workout routines! I wasn’t practicing yoga at that time, but now I’d try various yoga poses to help my grieving process. Why? Because yoga takes less effort than going for a run or doing a kickboxing workout.
The emotional and mental symptoms of grief include:
- Disbelief and confusion
- Absentmindedness and forgetfulness
- Negative thinking
- Difficult focusing and paying attention
- Preoccupation with the lost loved one
- Dreaming of or seeing the lost loved one in the street
- Thinking about past deaths and losses
- Low motivation
Again, that last symptom of grief was the one I struggled with the most. I didn’t want to be with other people and I withdrew from all social activities. All I wanted to do was hide under the covers.
If these symptoms look familiar to you, it may be because you’ve seen them on various lists of symptoms of depression. If you’re dealing with mildly depressed feelings, read 6 Foods Proven to Help Treat Depression. If you’re moderately or severely depressed, talk to your doctor. Get help. Don’t allow the dark passenger to ride along longer than absolutely necessary.
How are you coping with the grieving process? Identifying your specific ways of dealing with grief – whether it’s practicing yoga poses or keeping busy or sleeping the day away – can help you journey through the grieving process.
10 Benefits of Yoga for the Grieving Process
You feel grief in your body. Look at the physical health symptoms of grief above, and notice how many of them directly affect your body! That’s why the benefits of yoga poses can help with the grieving process: yoga releases the physical tightness that grief puts on your body.
The emotional health benefits of yoga poses include:
- Distraction from the pain of the grief process
- Improved mood because of increased blood flow to your joints and ligaments
- Relief of the emotional and physical tightness and constriction caused by grieving
- Feelings of serenity and joy that come from moving your body in deliberate ways
- Relief of the exhaustion and deep fatigue that accompanies grief
- Increase of inner strength and peace, which helps with the grieving process
Practicing yoga won’t offer sudden healing your sorrow and sadness. Rather, the benefits of yoga poses for the grieving process include transforming your relationship to your feelings of loss.
The physical health benefits of yoga poses include:
- Optimization of your body’s ability to heal
- Improvement of joint functionality, which helps fight degenerative diseases
- Tuning up of your autonomic nervous system
- Improvement of your vital organ functions and lymphatic drainage
- Improvement of your ability to focus your mind
Always, always, always be mindful of how the various yoga poses are affecting each of your body parts – whether you’re practicing yoga at home or with an instructor. Don’t push your body into poses it’s not ready for. Stay within your limits when you’re stretching, being aware of how your body is reacting to each yoga pose.
Read Beginners Yoga Tips – How to Practice Yoga Without Getting Hurt if you’re new to yoga.
Yoga Poses for the Grief Process
Different yoga poses focus on different chakras. Since many of us experience grief in our hearts and lungs, these poses support the Heart Chakra (the Fourth Chakra).
When you practice yoga poses for the grieving process, take note of how you feel. Maybe you’re tense, tired, or heavy. Maybe you feel scared, sad, or heartbroken. Noticing your emotions helps you be present, which will help you heal. Remember to exhale fully to release your physical and emotional tension.
In Yoga for Grief Relief, Antonia Sausys says the Windmill yoga pose is the key asana for the grieving process.
The Windmill Pose in Yoga
The Windmill Pose limbers and strengthens lower spine, hip joints, and muscles of upper thigh. It also improves respiration, which is the key benefit of this yoga pose for the grieving process.
Start with your feet apart, toes pointed in, hands supporting lower back with your fingers spread. Breathe in to a count of three as you as you swivel to the right without moving your feet, so that your torso is facing right.
Breathe out to a count of three as you as you bend forward toward your right leg. Bend as far down toward the leg as possible but don’t stop; continue moving down and over to your left leg, continuing to breathe out. At this point your breath should be all the way out. When your head reaches the position of your left leg, start breathing in to a count of three as you straighten up, eventually facing left.
When you reach a standing position, your breath should be all the way in and you will be facing left. Hold the breath in to a count of three as you as you swivel right and repeat the exercise. Repeat this yoga pose three times each direction.
If you’re new to yoga, read Best Yoga DVDs for Weight Loss, Stretching, and Energy. I do yoga at home almost every morning and have experimented with a variety of different types of DVDs for home practice.
The Cobra Pose
The Cobra helps relieve stress and fatigue, increases body heat, and destroys disease. These benefits of this yoga pose can help with the grieving process by promoting sound sleep and keeping you healthy and strong.
Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body, and press the tops of the feet and thighs firmly into the floor.
Inhale, and begin to straighten your arms to lift your chest off the floor. Maintain a connection through to your legs; press your tailbone toward the pubis and lift up toward the navel. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back.
Hold the Cobra Pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor with an exhalation.
A series of yoga poses for the healing process
I find it much easier to practice yoga when I’m guided through each pose with an instructor. I couldn’t find a “yoga poses for the grieving process” DVD, so I decided to feature a yoga DVD that focuses on healing and happiness, not grief and the grieving process.
Kundalini Yoga: Happy Hormones All-In-One Workout (ALL LEVELS) with Ana Brett and Ravi Singh is an uplifting, energetic DVD that includes cardio, ab work, total body toning, yoga, and joyful meditation. The idea is to increase “happy hormones” because they drive our passions and fuel our purpose, energy, and peace of mind. Our hormones elevate our emotions and even keep our bodies toned. This DVD focuses on healing and health, not the grieving process.
The benefits of the more active yoga poses include increased energy and blood flow through your heart and body. The restorative poses give your central nervous system the opportunity to rest, which can relieve the exhaustion that often accompanies grief.
A question for you
How do you think these yoga poses might help you through the grieving process? Tell me below. If you don’t practice this type of exercise regularly, you may not see the how the benefits of yoga can help with the grief process.
How have you coped with the grieving process in the past? I welcome your thoughts. While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of the benefits of yoga poses for the grieving process. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.
To learn more about the grieving process, read Coping With the Loss of a Loved One – 4 Tasks of Mourning.
My next article is about medical intuition, which is a fascinating practice! Make sure you sign up below for my weekly email to receive new articles.