One of the loveliest lessons we have learned as we reach our 60s and beyond is that life is full of surprising twists and turns. What may have been a passing fancy becomes a life-long passion and major fork in the road.
I once had a yoga instructor who spoke of having a helicopter view of our lives. If we thought we were in a ‘traffic jam’ of life, our helicopter view would show us an unencumbered road ahead. And so the journey continues.
In my 20s, 30s, and 40s, I was active as a dancer, an athlete, and busy meeting the demands of a working mother, wife, and social being. In my 50s, the leaping and twirls of the dance seemed to be a bit harsh on my body.
A friend suggested a yoga class and I was interested in anything that wasn’t as boring as the step machine. She offered me movement, challenge, music, community, and more. I was instantly and deeply devoted to developing a yoga practice which continues to this day.
Then, just as I was beginning my yoga journey, my dearly beloved father passed away. In my grieving, I found a tiny piece of solace in my yoga practice where my wonderful teachers offered Buddhist and Yogic teachings along with breath and movement.
When my mother passed away five years later, I was able to find a source of comfort in my yoga study. As I practiced the asanas, the physical practice, I immersed also in the teachings and the meditation. I could spend time with my parents’ spirits in a new way that was certainly very sad, but also comforting.
I was introduced to the concept that in death the relationship doesn’t end, it just changes. Wow, that was an epiphany for me.
Then in 2015, I experienced my most devastating losses. My husband had to undergo a scary and difficult second open heart surgery. He has since had a heart transplant and is doing really great now, whew.
My very best, soulful and magnificent friend of 40 years, Kaiya, passed on after a 17-month journey with glioblastoma. I was crushed by her death. Three years earlier, my fabulous, and wonderful big sister, Susie, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Susie succumbed a short four months after Kaiya.
My two best, intimate, confidants, mentors, and personal cheerleaders were gone from my physical life. The two strong, amazing women I had leaned on and learned from were gone. The emptiness was bottomless.
My yoga practice held a space for me for grief, presence, solace, stillness, and movement. I immersed in yoga as the tears flowed during my teacher training and continued studies.
I found the study of the chakras, the seven main physical, emotional, and spiritual energy centers, met my mourning in a way that opened a passageway for me.
For example, when I felt ungrounded, unsafe, and untrusting I looked into my Root Chakra, my Mudlahara. I found I could put myself on the earth, breathe into my root, and practice gentle yoga that was focused on my feet, legs, and lower spine.
That space was where I could breathe, say affirmations that I was grounded, visualize the color red, hold my hands in a configuration, a mudra, that connected me to the earth, and I was present.
I learned to go through my grief to get to the other side, not around it. Through practicing yoga, I learned how to be still and present, and I felt a bit more comforted from it.
I went through my initial grief and my continued mourning studying and applying the practices of each of the seven main chakras, the rainbow bridge, as it is called.
I joined a local hospice support group of grief writing, where I wrote letters to my beloveds. The others in my group were as deeply grieving as I was. They were also deeply bent over, stiffened by their grief, congested, and unmoving. I spontaneously encouraged the group to gently move in their chairs and breathe with consciousness. They felt better!
Much to my surprise, I was then asked to lead a class of yoga to ‘heal’ grieving. I said that there was no healing to our grief. We needed to learn how to live with our losses. I was then inspired to share what I have, and continue to learn, about the truly never-ending grieving process.
The synergy of my passion for the study and practice of yoga and the chakras, the journey of grief from the passing of my loved ones, life’s many transitions, and my desire (Divine intervention?) to help others led to my creating Yoga for Living with Loss as a style of practice.
Grief is such an emotional, intellectual, and spiritual roller coaster that it can easily become congested in our physical bodies.
Through a variety of breathing practices, gentle yoga movements, a deeper understanding of how our bodies react to grief, an examination of our specific chakras, meditation, and our need for connection to others, Yoga for Living with Loss helps us to navigate our losses without getting lost.
My off-handed agreement to join a friend at a yoga class, has provided me with a way to support whoever I can in their journey of grief, mourning, and resilience. And that has been a surprising life twist indeed!
For more information and to access the Yoga for Living with Loss Video Series, please visit www.GrowingYoungerGracefully.com. and contact me for any comments, questions, or discussion.
Have you heard about the power of yoga for the grieving? What yoga techniques have you tried to help you get through mourning? Who introduced you to gentle yoga? What effect does it have on you?