I am always open to receiving feedback from students who participate in my yoga for grief classes, as to what they found beneficial, and what things they “took home” from yoga class that have helped them live with grief.
One of the most obvious, yet most surprising, was when people told me that what they found most beneficial about the class was that it provided them with a tool they could do for themselves.
I’ve always known yoga’s power to be empowering, but to state is as “something I can do for myself,” seems somehow different….more simple, more profound, and more accessible.
Early on in my personal journey through grief, I would seek a lot of answers to my questions from sources outside myself. I wondered what everyone else believe happened after someone died before I decided on my own belief. I went to a couple of different counselors looking for answers and solutions to my grief, hoping to be told – “you just need to do ______,” as if I was doing something wrong and needed someone to tell me how to “do” it differently. Ironically, these counselors told me that what I was experiencing was normal as far as grief goes. It took a long time for me to realize that if I just listened deeply to myself, and trusted myself, I could find the answers in myself and for myself.
Henri Nouwen says, “Do not run, but be quiet and silent. Listen attentively to your own struggle. The answer to your question is hidden in your own heart.”
Even though I didn’t describe it as verbally eloquently as some of my students have, yoga gave me tools that I could use myself, for myself, whenever I needed it. I didn’t have to wait two weeks for an appointment, I could just meet myself exactly where I was in each moment and practice taking care of ME in a yogic way: I could take a deep breaths whenever I needed to. I could focus my mind on the subtle sound of ujjayi breathing during stressful situations when I thought I would “lose it.” I could rest in child’s pose when I was feeling vulnerable and fatigued. I could watch my mind react to my experiences and see myself from a non-judgmental and compassionate viewpoint.
Yoga gave me the space to be quiet and silent…to listen attentively to my own struggle…what a gift.
I suppose yoga changed my relationship with my grief. From something that needed to be conquered and something that I thought others would have the answers for, to something that was the deepest and truest part of me, that held the answers in it’s own silent, painful way. And, what yoga taught me was to surrender to my grief and my experience as my most sincere, authentic, honorable teacher on my journey.
In Yoga as Medicine by Timothy McCall, he writes: Yoga “encourages involvement in your own healing. In much of conventional medicine patients are passive recipients of care. In yoga, the essential element is not what is done to you but what you do for yourself. Yoga gives people something tangible they can do and most people start to feel better the very first time they try it. They also observe that the more they commit to the practice, the greater the benefits tend to be. This not only involves them in their own care, it gives them the message that there is hope, and hope itself can be healing – and self-perpetuating. If you believe that yoga really can help you, you are much more likely to practice everyday. And if you do that, it is much more likely to work (and not just because of the placebo effect).”