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.