One doesn’t come to the yoga mat in order to grieve, but grieving is a whole body experience. So, if grief is what’s happening now, then it’s going to be there in every breath, thought, emotion and movement of your practice. Grief has a way of moving in with you, taking over your inner household in a more permanent way than most other experiences do. As it sidles up next to you, it can be almost comforting while it takes the place of the one that is lost or dead or gone.
So, do not expect that you can show up for your yoga or meditation practice alone when grief is in abundance. But know that you can share the experience. Grief can be the cushion on which you sit or the partner that helps support you in tree pose. Imagine that grief is what fills in the empty space left by the one who is gone; it’s what allows you to take the next step in appreciating and understanding the loss. It’s there when you’re crying or cursing or focusing on your practice.
How would it be then to bring awareness to the changes you notice in your body and breath as you move through your practice? Notice what’s different – where there is heaviness or perhaps unexpected lightness. See how muscles hold on – where there’s grasping so tight that it seems as if there will never be letting go. In the passing thoughts and waves of emotion that move to the foreground and then recede, bring attention to how being in the moment supports the whole of you in your practice . Notice feelings of fullness and shifts into emptiness, and then, bring awareness to the fact that nothing remains the same. Ever.
Know that grief may move through you. Doesn’t it make sense to acknowledge that you bring it with you onto your mat? Your body and your breath are the vehicles for moving grief through your cells, and your practice can be what helps shape your experience of loss. There is something wonderful in accepting that you have choices with grieving as you do in other aspects of life. You may choose to sink under its weight or you may choose to welcome it as the partner it can be in supporting you to move forward. You might even be able to do both at the same time – as in those postures that require the balance of opposing energies…
This post is dedicated to Karen Hasskarl who left her family and friends on April 9, 2011.