Yoga is practiced by millions of people every year. But can the ancient Indian practice also provide help to those who are grieving?
Many of us are aware of the physical and mental benefits of yoga. So it may not come as a surprise that it can be a useful tool when you are grieving.
Does yoga help with grief?
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that has been practiced in India for thousands of years. In recent times, it has become known for its benefits for strengthening the body and helping relax the mind. But can yoga really help with grief?
Karla Helbert, the author of the book Yoga for Grief and Loss, has spoken of how yoga can allow us to hold opposing thoughts. We can be with our grief and at the same time create a space where we feel connected to the present.
The practice of yoga is also a great form of self-care. By taking time out of your day to do yoga you are choosing to spend time looking after yourself, rather than providing for the needs of others.
But aside from this, if you are someone who regularly practiced yoga before the death of a loved one, you might find that easing yourself back into your yoga practice might help you restore a sense of normality, and cope a little better during what can be a chaotic time.
What are the benefits of yoga for grief?
1. Physical exercise
While you might have some days where you don’t feel like doing anything at all, taking part in physical exercise has often been shown to improve mental health. If you’re returning to exercise after a while, beginner’s yoga can also help to ease you back into physical activity. You can find out more about the benefits of yoga on physical and mental health, and advice on starting out, in this NHS guide.
2. Stress relief
After the death of someone close, many of us are left feeling stressed and anxious. One of the benefits of yoga is that it allows us to guide our mind into the present, a useful tool for relieving stress and anxiety.
After someone dies, it can be particularly hard to remember to look after yourself. Taking just 15 minutes out of your day to do something you enjoy, such as yoga, can make a big difference.
4. Home workout
Even without the current lockdown restrictions, when you’re grieving, leaving the house can sometimes feel overwhelming. Luckily, yoga can easily be practiced from the safety of your living room. Find practices for all levels on YouTube, or if you're just starting out and would like some advice, try to find out if your local yoga studio is offering classes over Zoom.
Grief yoga sequences
A number of online publications offer free sequences to help with grief.
1. Yoga for Grief by Yoga with Adriene
2. Yoga poses to help you ‘close your heart’ after grieving by Sarah Ezrin in the Yoga Journal
3. Guided Savasana for Grief by Kathryn Ashworth in Yoga International
You can also find a number of grief yoga sequences in the book Yoga for Grief and Loss by Karla Helbert.