I’d like to start by stressing that in terms of grief I don’t believe there is something to overcome, get over, and go through in a some systemic manner, and there is no right and wrong way to grieve. Grief is a natural response to the loss of something or someone, and while it’s universal, the way it’s felt varies dependent on the individual. We grieve the loss of someone dear to us, a lost job, a family home that has been sold or burned to the ground, a relationship that has changed or ended, the seasons going, our youth and all it holds, our ability to do things for ourselves, the death of a celebrity we admired, and on and on. To live in a human body is to experience loss and grief and it seems no one goes untouched.
After several years of studying death, dying, loss, and grief from various cultural, religious and spiritual perspectives I believe that it’s still one of the most misunderstood human responses even though everyone experiences it to some degree or another. Over the years, I came to understand that while Yoga is not a universally accepted and embraced tradition, it does hold great potential to help us better understand ourselves and how we can befriend the psychological, physical, emotional, spiritual and social responses that we experience in life and especially as we learn to hold more heart-space for loss and grief.
Grief allows us to have the most intimate relationship with ourselves and the world in which we live, and the opportunity for transformation through the process of softening into grief is why I refer to it as the yogic path of grieving. This unique path invites us to gently get into it rather than over it, and on that path we are re-introduced to parts of us we have forgotten about or packed away for a later date. It sometimes also shows us aspects of ourselves we didn’t know existed and that can feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually devastating at times. Through the practice of Yoga we are given the tools to greet the plethora of responses and gently reclaim ourselves so that we can experience ourselves as a loving whole being.
When we look at grief through the various paths of Yoga we can see how each path holds a unique approach for us to experience loss and grief and reconnect to our true nature. Bhakti-Yoga calls us to feel deeply, to listen, to remember, and ultimately reconnect with love and devotion. Karma-Yoga reconnects us to selfless acts as a way to open ourselves to living fully. Jnana-Yoga reconnects us to the ancient wisdom we hold deep within and offers a three-fold path of listening, considering, and contemplation to help us better understand our human responses to loss and grief. Mantra-Yoga reconnects us to our inner heart-song and gifts us the opportunity to find our voice again. Tantra-Yoga reconnects us to ritualism and celebration as a means to feel our deep connection to each other and the world we live in. Raja-Yoga reconnects us to the many facets of our mind to help us experience balance in our day-to-day life. Hatha-Yoga reconnects to our body and helps us understand the deep connection between the body, mind, and spirit in our human form.
As we offer acknowledgment and acceptance to grief we open to the parts of us that are holding painful and joy-filled memories and then we start to understand them as integral parts of ourself. We are called to turn toward grief and get into it as a way of honouring and respecting ourselves and our deeper connection to the world. In time, and through the yogic path of grieving, the body-mind integrates the experiences as part of the whole instead of seeing its separateness. When we allow ourselves to say “yes” in that way, a softening happens in the body and heart-mind and that gives rise to more opportunities. The softening is the embodied response to acceptance or saying yes to feeling grief. Obviously, there are times when “yes” doesn’t make sense such as when the emotions and physical sensations are heightened to the point where we can’t easily respond to them, but when we are able to say “yes” in a healthy manner we see how grief is woven into our inner landscape and we are called to learn to live with the addition not find ways to exclude it from our life experience.
The yogic path of grieving also acknowledges the heart in its totality. It understands how our heart functions as a physical organ, how it responds as an emotional organ, how it listens as a spiritual organ, and how it connects as a social organ. It further acknowledges how the heart communicates with the entire body to give us a unique human experience in every moment, and when given an opportunity to soften it becomes the ultimate Mother as it opens its arms to love in its purest form.
Lastly, yogic path of grieving calls us to return to ourselves to hold sacred space for the various losses we experience in life, and through the yogic practices we have the opportunity for an even deeper experience of living life with inner-freedom.
Copyright 2019 by Brenda L. Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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