Yoga for Grief 4 (Off the Mat) – Insomnia

Haven’t we all suffered nights of restless sleep? I still do sometimes, but now without the added anxiety and self-judgment. I don’t feel like a victim of my restless thoughts, emotions, and imagination.

Knowing a few relaxation techniques gives us tools to try while lying in bed, eyes wide open, instead of stirring up anxiety with questions like, “Why am I awake? What is wrong with me? If I don’t sleep I’ll be tired tomorrow, ……I can proactively relax. Hmmm, sounds like a contradiction.

You have to find what works for your specific form of insomnia. Try everything. What have you got to lose, except for feeling like a helpless victim of your exhausted and spinning spirit?

Here is what we practiced this week at the hospice sponsored Yoga for Grief session. Join us.

“Yoga nidra is a form of meditative self-inquiry that, while relaxing the body, opens the mind to greater discernment and self-awareness, and the heart to love and acceptance of what is. It is a powerful tool for clearing away our limiting beliefs and emotions and for living from a more balanced state of mind.”

Weintraub, Amy. Yoga Skills for Therapists: Effective Practices for Mood Management (Norton Professional Books (Hardcover)) (p. 160). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Today we’ll practice 7 techniques:

Technique 1: Body scan, Mindful Breathing and Crocodile breath from Yoga as Medicine, What keeps you from resting?

Technique 2: Chest Expansion Breathing from Yoga and Mindfulness Therapy

Technique 3: Turn off electronics, same bedtime, stretches before bed, nutrition, dark room, warm bath, prepare your body to rest.

Technique 4: 3 poses. If you find yourself awake, supported forward bend, or legs up the wall pose may help lull you back to sleep.

Supta Padangusthasana I Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose Benefits and How It Works: By stretching the golgi tendon organs within the hamstrings’ tendons, these muscles are induced to relax. The pose brings a sense of floating to the legs and definitely signals “relax” to the entire central nervous system.

Fishman, Loren. Healing Yoga: Proven Postures to Treat Twenty Common Ailments—from Backache to Bone Loss, Shoulder Pain to Bunions, and More (p. 170). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Technique 5: Lengthening exhale, Left Nostril Breathing, sleep on your right side allowing your left nostril to dominate from Yoga Skills for Therapists

Technique 6: Meditation “good-bye to the day, affirmations and calling back your energy

Technique 7: Yoga Nidra- Body part awareness. Or imagining body as a house, “turn off lights”

Technique 8: Sense awareness essential oils: Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium

Wishing all of you restful sleep and sweet dreams,


Exploded view of my now

Living forces honesty. Answers are seasonal, losing their sense precisely as they become scripture. You will die: this is the first meaning. The world around you seems to bear helpless witness to your wandering. Other people suffer in the same way, and yet this seems to increase loneliness. But you can welcome despair like gravity, for at some point the sheer pressure, tectonic in the soma, compels a violent break in pattern: running through the woods, making love with an utter loss of self. The reality of your condition offers a stark gift you accept through sudden discharges of rage and rage’s joyful shadow: this is the only life you know, and it fills you to overflowing. You live your life, yoga happens to you.

You thought you were alone. You tried to be independent. Then, standing in the market with your hand on an orange, children underfoot, traffic humming, conversations blendingwith the radio by the cash register, shoes you did not make on your feet and clothes you did not sew on your back, sun slanting through rips in the tin awning, you’re almost late for meeting someone, always almost too late. You know this orange will give you life, and that you did not grow it. Someone else gave it to you, it will become your flesh. Its colour adds immeasurably to your language and dreams while its name rhymes with nothing, and you did not conceive of it. The old grocer’s hands have become gnarled through a lifetime of handling boxes of oranges for you to eat. Someone else gives you your flesh. They could not give what they do not have. Someone else holds their flesh forth until it becomes your flesh.

A child triggers an internal laugh. A dog slaps her thick tail against your shin. Every single object that gives you life surrounds you. If you really were alone you would not exist. You did not make the air you breathe. You can’t say where the inside of your flesh begins. You are naturally reaching out as something reaches into you. No one and everyone taught you this. You surrender to the always-already-there, and yoga happens around you, through you.

– Matthew Remski, Threads of Yoga

Beautiful example of philosophical object orientation and mindful awareness, Ian Bogost style, maps, meanwhiles, lists and ontographs, Timothy Morton style thoughts of gravity, weird reality, shredded wheat magical simplicity.

Yoga invites us to the stillness of an exploded view of our present moment. Notice yourself, your body supported by the ground, your arms reaching to the sky, your breath, feelings, thoughts, sensations. All material, all fleeting. In stillness watch yourself move in thought and breath. Yoga offers such quiet power ❤️

Wishing you a weekend of mindful nows,


Yoga for Grief 2 (Off the Mat)

This was week 2 of Yoga for Grief at the IU-Arnett Hospice in Lafayette, IN. Thank you to new and returning yoga friends.

Yoga for grief can accompany each of Dr. William Worden’s four tasks of mourning: acceptance, processing, adjusting and finding a place for loss in new life. I am particularly interested in the role of yoga to help us make room for our loss as we continue to build a new life around and beyond. The loss doesn’t diminish or shrink. In order to endure a loss, we have to actively build around it. It requires constant mindful vigilance. Grief work is tiresome and exhausting. Rebuilding a life can feel overwhelming and daunting.

While mourning does not automatically imply depression, there are certainly days when one can find it difficult to get going, to move, to live this newly reconstructed life with focus and effort.

First, meet your mood. How do you feel? Notice your breath, energy, sensations, emotions, thoughts, the collection of experiences that make up your “now”. Are you feeling energetic, lethargic or at ease?

Grieving people are rarely allowed or encouraged to simply be, to feel what they feeling. Yoga, however, asks 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 in being exactly how and where 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 a new and unwanted reality upon our lives.

Helbert, Karla. Yoga for Grief and Loss: Poses, Meditation, Devotion, Self-Reflection, Selfless Acts, Ritual (p. 21). Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Kindle Edition.

If you are feeling low on energy and finding it difficult to keep moving, maybe you are anxious at night, sluggish during the day, try these techniques to the extent that they work for your body and heart.

The path of grief is not a straight line; it is meandering and full of switchbacks. One moment you are sitting peacefully on your meditation cushion, then suddenly you are transported through time and space back to the worst day of your life. This is normal, but not at all comfortable. Such moments as these, when you feel the most stuck, are the moments where practice is most important.

Stang, Heather. Mindfulness and Grief: With guided meditations to calm the mind and restore the spirit (p. 94). Ryland Peters & Small. Kindle Edition.

Through gentle yoga practices, we can coax our body into a sense of action and energy. Add big movements with arms overhead. Add expansive breath that fills up the lungs. Add meditation that “moves.”

Today we practiced 7 techniques:

Technique 1: Overhead arm stretches

Technique 2: Ujjiya breath/ocean breath (both calming and energizing from Yoga Skills for Therapists)

Technique 3: Pulling Prana (from Yoga Skills for Therapists) Arms outstretched arms move back on an exhale. 6 times.

Technique 4: Breath of Joy (from Yoga Skills for Therapists) Arms move up and out through a three-step inhale and exhale through the mouth by bringing the arms down as you bend your knees. 6-9 times.

Technique 5: Walking meditation (from Yoga Mindfulness Therapy) for homework. 15 minutes.

Technique 6: Backward and forward meditation (from Yoga Mindfulness Therapy) Imagine a time or place that brought you joy in the past. Can you imagine a time and place beyond the grief you feel now in the future?

Technique 7: Sense-awareness essential oils: Bergamot, Peppermint, Jasmine as examples of energizing, mood enhancing oils.


Listen, children: Your father is dead.

From his old coats

I’ll make you little jackets;

I’ll make you little trousers

From his old pants.

There’ll be in his pockets

Things he used to put there,

Keys and pennies

Covered with tobacco;

Dan shall have the pennies

To save in his bank;

Anne shall have the keys

To make a pretty noise with.

Life must go on,

And the dead be forgotten;

Life must go on, Though good men die;

Anne, eat your breakfast;

Dan, take your medicine;

Life must go on;

I forget just why.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 – 1950

Contact me with any questions 🙂

Join me for Gentle Yoga at Morton Community Center, Wednesdays 10 -11:15am and Monthly Meditation at Community Yoga, donation based and usually on the second Sunday of the month, 7:30 -8:30 pm (check for details and to register online).

If you are interested in individual or group grief counseling, let’s talk. As a certified Grief Recovery Specialist, I hope to nurture self-care and hope.


Wobblyogi Wednesday: Raisins and Meditation

Eating meditatively takes us beyond focused sensations of the tongue. Eating becomes an expansive experience of smells, textures, coordinated movements mediated by the body and received by the mind. What would it be like to “taste” everything for the first time?  Here is an excerpt from Full Catastrophe Living that explains the practice of mindful eating:

The first introduction to the meditation practice in MBSR always comes as a surprise to our patients. More often than not, people come with the idea that meditation means doing something unusual, something mystical and out of the ordinary, or, at the very least, something relaxing. To relieve them of these expectations right off the bat, we give everybody three raisins and we eat them one at a time, paying attention to what we are actually doing and experiencing from moment to moment. You might wish to try it yourself after you see how we go about it.

First we bring our attention to seeing one of the raisins, observing it carefully as if we had never seen one before. We feel its texture between our fingers and notice its colors and surfaces. We are also aware of any thoughts we might be having about raisins or food in general. We note any thoughts and feelings of liking or disliking raisins if they come up while we are looking at it. We then smell it for a while, and finally, with awareness, we bring it to our lips, being aware of the arm moving the hand to position it correctly, and of salivating as the mind and body anticipate eating. The process continues as we take it into our mouth and chew it slowly, experiencing the actual taste of one raisin. And when we feel ready to swallow, we watch the impulse to swallow as it comes up, so that even that is experienced consciously. We even imagine, or “sense,” that now our bodies are one raisin heavier. Then we do it again with another raisin, this time without any verbal guidance, in other words, in silence. And then with the third. The response to this exercise is invariably positive, even among the people who don’t like raisins. People report that it is satisfying to eat this way for a change, that they actually experienced what a raisin tasted like for the first time that they could remember, and that even one raisin could be satisfying. Often someone makes the connection that if we ate like that all the time, we would eat less and have more pleasant and satisfying experiences of food. Some people usually comment that they caught themselves automatically moving to eat the other raisins before finishing the one that was in their mouth, and recognized in that moment that this is the way they normally eat.

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness (pp. 15-16). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.



Meditative Monday: Lessons from a Labyrinth


At first glance, this patch of grass looks like a creative mowing project. Like anything, how you approach it makes it either a frustrating walk in circles going nowhere or a transformative inner journey of self-awareness. For most of us, it may be both.

I crossed paths with this labyrinth courtesy of a recent Community Yoga Retreat. This was my first time. If you have never meditatively walked along a labyrinth let me try to describe my first experience.

We, about 16 of us, were asked to walk slowly in silent meditation through the labyrinth. As we walk in we were to consider all the things we are grateful for, after we reach the center indicated by a bowl of floating flowers and as we walk out of the labyrinth, we were to mindfully shed all the things we want to be free of.  This walk, warned the retreat center director could last 45 minutes.  Simple enough. Right?

I was the last to enter the labyrinth. I watched as everyone entered the labyrinth and walk slowly along the curves. My feet were bare. I could feel the cool grass below my feet. As I first entered the walk, I noticed my arms shivering and tingling. Maybe I was just cold, maybe I was feeling something. I don’t know. I felt calm and quiet. I also felt like I was walking with many others, in front and behind me (there was no one behind me). The labyrinth felt full. The first few moments of reverie soon dissolved into…why is it so hard to step slowly? is this ground uneven? Am I making the right turns? am I walking too closely behind? am I going to fast? oh, there’s a branch, gosh I’m cold….you get the point. It was a flood of how long is this going to take and am I lost? I can’t be if I can look up and step out at any time. My mind was playing weird games.

As I felt like I was spinning in circles becoming myself a labyrinth of confusion, I decided to enjoy the experience, to find a way to savor each step, each thought of gratitude, to send love to my friends walking with me. Magically, the craziness eased. I began to notice the journey, my unsteady steps, my worries, my fellow walkers, the sun, the warmth, the shadows, the trees. I began to move in and out of the labyrinth to find my horizon, feeling both lost and located at the same time. By the time I reached the bowl of floating flowers at the center, it felt like a long-delayed accomplishment. Joy and relief. Walking out of the circle as I allowed self-doubt drip down my fingertips I began to feel lighter. When I crossed paths with another, I felt a rise of self-judgment, am I going the right direction? Should we be crossing paths? Again, I reminded myself, it doesn’t matter, just walk, breathe and enjoy this morning.

Like life, there were rough patches, beautiful views, isolation, company, obstructive twigs, comforting sunshine, confusion, and clarity, ground and sky, turns and curves, crazy mind, calm mind, grateful heart, irritated heart. Maybe we are always in a labyrinth, either imprisoned and trapped or liberated and exploring.

There was a sense of relief after completing what felt like a long journey. As I stepped out, following a lady in front of me, also named Lisa, she said “Thanks for keeping me company.” I returned my gratitude for her company as well.

It was a trip, best, shared.

Last to exit, I joined the others, some resumed their conversations, some sat quietly, some shared their confusion about the labyrinth. We all survived and learned something about ourselves. I learned that I can make walking in circles bearable and even enjoyable, if I want. Maybe I can make anything bearable…….almost, with fellow walkers.

Happy Monday, everyone. Happy walking the week.





Wobblyogi Wednesday – Dance Mom Meditation

Here is the meditation that helped me emotionally survive a weekend of dance competition. Almost.

Our late start Saturday morning thankfully gave me time to sit for 20 minutes.

The solidity of the floor is always best for a long straight spine but hotel room carpets always feel threatening to me. So, I sat comfortably on the pillowy bed.  I closed my eyes and felt my breath. Then I started to listen for all the noises around me, loud and quiet. The hum of machines, slamming doors, cars passing on the road, people talking, water running, children running, As my mind noticed all the noises, I quietly said to myself, “There is noise but I am still. There is noise but I am still. There is noise but I am still.” I didn’t have to be moved by the noise and sensory chaos. I tried to memorize the feeling of noticing noise without the need to be moved by it. The feeling of being the calm center of a storm, the feeling of channeling Aristotle’s unmoved mover.

I sat in my pillow nest enjoying the quiet center of a noisy day.

The 20 minutes made a world of a difference sitting in the loud auditorium. There is noise but I am still.

I thought I won the day. I defeated the fatigue of watching dance all day. I was confident of my yogic super powers.

The awards began past 10:00 pm that evening. After 15 minutes I folded and found myself hunched over as if child’s pose. My serenity lost.

I wasn’t ready for the repetitive, auction-like rush of words and numbers. I couldn’t just tune out, after all I was waiting to hear about how our dancers did. What to do? How can I be aware and engaged but not burdened and fatigued?

What helped was commiserating with other moms just as tired and invested as I was. It didn’t take away our fatigue but the jokes, sighs and laughter sure made it bearable. Sometimes meditation works and sometimes we just need to laugh with a friend to get through difficult hours of waiting.

Next competition I’m going in with all the support I can muster: snacks, meditation and friends.

May I focus beyond my achy back, hungry tummy and overloaded eyes and ears to be in the present and enjoy our girls dance through the long days with grace, skill and beauty.

Wishing you all laughter and quiet, as needed,


That’s my dance baby flying strong in the air. Proud mom moment 🙂




Having an Idea – Guy Claxton

The mother does not engineer her child’s intrauterine development, but she influences it enormously through her lifestyle and her sensitivity, her anxieties, appetites and attitudes, her history and her constitution. Who she is, and the physical and emotional environment that she herself inhabits, affects the nature and the quality of the sanctum that she provides for the growing form of life within her. And so it seems to be with intuition: there are conditions which render the mental womb more or less hospitable to the growth and birth of ideas; and differing ways in which, and extents to which, different people are able, wittingly and unwittingly, to provide thsoe conducive conditions. The more clearly we can identify what these conditiona are, the more able we shall be to see how they can be fostered.

From Hare Brain and Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less

Meditation and mindfulness are ways to foster intuitive awareness and intelligence. It allows our brain to synthesize and absorb information and feelings.  The book defends intuitive and creative intelligence, pooh-bear thinking, through an analytical “d-mode” rabbit logic. It shows the value of thinking differently as the need arises, “abiding in uncertainty” for fuzzy problems and seeking clear solutions for defined problems.

Deciding whether a problem is fuzzy or defined may require both.

Related to the complexity about how to think about X, Claxton explains the fallacy of dream interpretation according to James Hillman.

It is the very nature of nature of dreams to hint and allude. ‘An image always seems more profound, more powerful and more beautiful than the comprehension of it.’ To ask of a dream “What does it mean?” is as misguided as to ask the same question of a painting or a poem – or a sunset, come to that. “To give a dream the meaning of a rational mind is … a kind of dreading up and hauling all the material from one side of the bridge to the other. It is an attitude of wanting from the uncounsious, using it to gain information, power, energy, exploiting it for the sake of the ego: make it mine, make it mine.’ The proper attitude towards a dream, according to analytical psychology, is to ‘befriend’ it: ‘to participate in it, to enter into its imagery and mood, to …play with, live with, carry and become familiar with – as one would do with a friend.’ So, ‘the first think in this non-interpretive approach to the dream is that we give time and patience to it, jumping to no conclusions, fixing it in no solutions … This kind of exploration meets the dream on its own imaginative ground and give it a chance to reaveal itself further.’

Thank you, Kathy, my friend, for recommending this book! Looking forward to reading, Intelligence in the Flesh: Why Your Mind Needs Your Body Much More Than It Thinks.

May we all foster  creative conditions, have good  idea babies and befriend our dreams,


Wobblyogi Wednesday: Happy Place Escape


Has yoga helped me find my “happy place”? Will it help you find yours? Confessedly, my definition of happiness has shifted from being associated with joy, laughter, passion to being associated with ease being in my own skin and ease being with others in this often unkind and unpredictable world. Today I ended our morning yoga practice with the words of my grandmothers. I’m sure some of my readers have heard the phrases: Shuke Thako, Bhalo Thako. Stay in ease (or happiness, here is the confusion again), Stay in goodness.  I feel bad now for taking those words so flippantly or sometimes even mockingly.  The simple advice to “stay” is basic yoga. Afterall, we are all trying to stay in our bodies, in our minds, in our hearts, in our world, through moving, breathing, focusing and meditating.

Most of all, I’ve learned that yoga is not about escaping to a “happy place” but about being able to just stay in unhappy, uneasy places without becoming unhappy or uneasy. There is unhappiness and there is happiness but I am not happy or unhappy. I am more than my feelings at a given moment, more than a sum of my feelings, more than my existential condition that gives rise to those emotional responses. Meditation does not help me escape my feelings but rather helps me sit with them without being constrained, defined or imprisoned by them. I watch my feelings and say, there is sadness, there is worry, there is joy, there is love, there is anger and so on and so on. Congratulations, I’m human. I’m alive and aware. By tagging and releasing the feelings I emerge lighter. The nagging emotions that refuse to fly away and keep returning to take up space in my mind and heart need more attention, more meditation and sometimes more action. The amount of emotional energy I release always amazes me. So few things are worth lingering over. If I can’t change it, devoting my mind to it won’t help. If I can change or affect it then my concern shifts to practical struggles of how:  from awareness to thinking.

I’m working through Jon Kabat Zinn’s book, Where you go, there you are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. I found the chapter titled, “Meditation: Not to be confused with positive thinking” particularly helpful in relation to the notion of  a personal “happy place.” First, a food reference:

“Not only is it [our fundamental nature] not limited by the potpourri of our thinking mind, awareness is the pot which cradles all the fragments, just as the soup pot holds all the chopped up carrots, peas, onions, and the like and allows them to cook into one whole, the soup itself. But it is a magical pot, much like a sorcerer’s pot, because it cooks things without having to do anything, even put a fire underneath it. Awareness itself does the cooking, as long as it is sustained.You just let the fragments stir while you hold them in awareness. Whatever comes up in mind and body goes into the pot, becomes part of the soup.”

Kabat-Zinn concludes the section with these words about the limits of positive thinking,

“If we decide to think positively, that may be useful, but it is not meditation. It is just more thinking. We can easily  become a prisoner of so-called positive thinking as of negative thinking. It too can be confining, fragmented, inaccurate, illusory, self-serving, and wrong. Another element altogether is required to induce transformation in our lives and take us beyond the limits of thought.”

Don’t get me wrong. I often retreat to my happy place (usually when threatened by loud places filled with restless children and rushed adults like, amusement parks). But, that is not meditation. That is escape. I want to be able to escape from my life less and less. So I try to meditate more and more. Become more aware of my pot of soup instead of the peas and carrots.

I want to tweak the  Socratic dictate to,  the unaware life is not worth living.  The difference between the examined life and aware life is worth exploring in another post.

For now, I wish you easy awareness of your own unique pot of experiences,

The Wobblyogi

For a look at the Image and a good article about escapism and meditation visit: