In this current climate, ‘grief’ seems a common expression and something that many of us battle with on a day to day basis. Loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job, a sense of financial instability, or even change to our regular way of life, we really are living in unpredictable and often volatile times. All of these situations can emit intense feelings of unease in the body and this feeling can show up differently in all of us. Conventionally we focus on the emotional response to grief, but it can also take the form of physical, cognitive, behavioural, spiritual and philosophical dimensions. This is why dealing with grief requires a multidimensional approach.
There is no wrong or right way to deal with grief but it can certainly be an uncomfortable process and one that often feels very overwhelming. I have unquestionably had my fair share of challenges in this lifetime and can relate to many of you. From my own experiences in dealing with grief I know that I have always found some relief in my deeper practice of yoga. I am not just talking about the endorphins I get firing after a powerhouse session on the mat, but about a complete mind, body and spirit journey towards a deeper sense of self-awareness and that ever inspiring feeling of enlightenment.
It might surprise you to know that the practice of yoga has been around for some 5000 years, far surpassing the invention of thigh hugging spandex tights and diving deeper into our psyche than just a physically fantastic workout. The series of postures (or asanas) are only one element of the practice of yoga and there are, in fact, 8 philosophies or ‘limbs’ of yoga. Each limb of yoga teaches us important lessons in life around social ethics, supporting compassion and consideration for others but also around personal empowerment through the profound sense of mindfulness.
One of the limbs of yoga focuses on the breath which is also sometimes called Pranayama. The word ‘Pranayama’ literally translates in Sanskrit to ‘prana’ meaning life energy and ‘Yama’ meaning control. The simple act of breath control when practising conscious breathing techniques calms our sympathetic nervous system and develops our ability to bring awareness inward, creating a connection between our mind and body. When we spend time practising Pranayama we are learning to control our vital energies, growing our awareness of ourselves and learning to listen to our bodies.
For those who are feeling overwhelmed with grief, deepening your practice of yoga to include more than just the physical asanas can allow you to find space in your daily life to still your mind. With the intensity of ‘noise’ in our minds when dealing with grief, I find combining the physical practice of yoga with conscious breathing techniques gives me the opportunity to release those uncomfortable feelings of unease and tension and move away from the state of chaos that attaches to our inner being. Combining this with the lessons I have learnt through the philosophies of yoga I am able to cement a deeper connection with my internal strength and I can often deliberate more clearly on a path forward away from grief.
I invite you to join me on this journey beyond the asanas and through this feeling of grief.