by Karla Helbert
The seventh coping strategy is “yoga.”
Just as grief is not one way, or one thing, neither is yoga. There are multiple yogic paths but all paths of yoga lead to the same place. The word itself means “union” and the goal of yoga is to help us see all the various pieces and parts of ourselves as unified, recognizing that we were never really separate in the first place. It helps us to remember (and to re-member) those parts of us that we forgot were One. This includes our beloved dead.
Grief impacts every aspect of our being—physically, mentally, cognitively, emotionally, spiritually, and philosophically—every aspect of body, mind, and spirit. The practice of yoga addresses self-care, helps to integrate the experience of loss, and supports feelings of connection and relationship with our loved ones who have died.
Just as grief is an experience that affects us in myriad ways, yoga sustains and strengthens us in all of those same areas. Where grief can separate and destroy, yoga unifies and creates.
Grieving people are rarely allowed or encouraged to simply be, to feel what they feeling. The practice and teachings of yoga, however, ask us again and again to simply be with what is, with compassion toward ourselves and others, being exactly where and how we are in the present moment.
It encourages, allows and supports us as we are, while at the same time giving us tools, support and space in which to adapt, adjust and accommodate who and where we are now that grief has visited this new and unwanted reality upon our lives.
The essential teaching of yoga is that we are whole and perfect as we are, including in grief and in pain, even in what we perceive as deprivation and heartbreak. Yoga points us toward a knowing that we are more than a grieving person while allowing and supporting our experience in grief.
It helps us see ourselves, our world, the universe, our beloved dead differently, in ways that can lead to peace, even within pain.
Yoga allows us to be exactly where we are, when we are and supports us in accepting where we are physically, cognitively, emotionally, mentally, spiritually in this moment—and then in this one, and again in this one, and when it changes, now, in this moment.
Yoga teaches that we are whole and perfect just as we are, even when we do not believe it for ourselves. This is an ongoing practice. Just like grief. Famed yoga teacher BKS Iyengar once said, “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured, and to endure what cannot be cured.”
I’ve made a short practice for you here that you can modify any way you like. If you are uncomfortable on the floor, you can do it in a chair.
Special for Emotionally Naked Tribe
This is for those who live in Richmond, VA. I teach Yoga for Grief & Loss every other Friday night from 5:30 to 7:00 at True North Yoga and Wellness on MacArthur Avenue in Richmond’s Bellevue neighborhood every other Friday night. For this 12 Days of Coping Series, I am offering through December and January, two classes for the price of one in hopes that you might join me to practice. You don’t have to have any experience or you can be an accomplished yogi. Everyone’s grief is welcome. I hope this short practice brings you some peace.
For those of you who are not in town, Karla did this yoga practice just for you explaining what calms your brain and connects you with your heart.
Karla Helbert is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), internationally certified yoga therapist, (C-IAYT), registered yoga teacher (RYT), award winning author, and a Compassionate Bereavement Care Provider certified through the MISS Foundation, the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Family Trust. and the Center for Loss & Trauma. Counseling and supporting those living with traumatic grief and bereavement is her main focus of work. Her book, Yoga for Grief and Loss is below.