By: Rachel Machacek, LCSW
When talking about self care in grief, yoga and meditation are excellent (and research-backed) strategies for grounding and stabilizing, especially when grief feels like a high speed roller coaster, whipping us around with no end of the ride in sight. It’s a whole body-mind-spirit experience that often takes us out of alignment, off course, and in very unfamiliar territory that we can’t get our thinking brains around. And this unexplored emotional terrain can be really sad and sometimes even scary.
Since we can’t think our way out of grief, yoga is an excellent way of accessing this energy and allowing it some freedom to move, release, and transform.
The parts of the physical body most often mentioned in grief are the neck, chest, and stomach. Usually it’s heaviness in the heart, tightness in the throat, or hollowness in the stomach. Maybe you’ve felt your grief somewhere else. Your back, your arms, your head, your shoulders. Maybe it’s a lack of feeling, a numbness. Sometimes this feeling is felt physically and sometimes it’s a notion. Or sometimes you don’t know how you are feeling at all.
If all you can muster is one minute, then do one minute. The ritual of intentionally experiencing your breath and body in one pose for one minute daily can be just as transformative as an hour-long class once a week.
So here are two poses to try. Both are restorative and an antidote to the aforementioned roller coaster analogy. They can be done on the floor or modified to meet your body where it is, in the moment.
To start, take a moment to sit and notice what’s happening in the body. Don’t try to change anything. Try not to judge what you are feeling. Simply experience the breath and physical sensations. Notice the sounds around you. Swallow a few times. Set an intention for this practice. For example: peace, grounding, space, release, compassion.
When you are ready you can shift into one or both of these restorative poses.
On the mat/floor: Kneel on the floor, toes pointing back then fold your body over your knees. Arms can extend in front of you, comfortably settled on the floor, palms face up or face down. Alternatively, bring your arms back alongside your body.
In a chair: Sitting in the chair, drape your body over your knees allowing head and arms to hang to floor, or hold opposite elbows. Option to use a pillow between your body and legs for more support.
Take three to 10 full breaths, expanding into your upper back, right behind the area of your heart center. Be sure to exhale all the way out. Imagine a balloon completely deflating.
On the floor/mat/bed: Lay down on your back on the floor or bed with legs and arms extended. Feet are wider than hip’s width. Feet can flop open. Option to place a pillow below legs for support or bend the knees with feet on the floor. Arms can extend and lay a few inches from the body, palms face up. Option to place one hand on stomach and the other hand on chest.
Take three to 10 full breaths, expanding into your lower belly, rib cage and chest. Remember: complete exhales.